Thursday, January 20, 2011

MU Reconstruction

There are only two virtual structures on the Second Life Oregon State University region that replicate physical ones on the current campus: the clock tower and the Memorial Union (better known as the MU). The MU is the center hub of campus. Every student has been in there either buying textbooks, merchandise, food, coffee, attending an event, or napping on the lounge couches.

I originally built the SL version about 2 years ago. Since my building skills have greatly evolved since then, and the ballroom (not included in the original SL build) has been talked about as a potential in-world event location where real-life events can be streamed, it seemed as good a time as any for an overhaul.

I should have taken some "before" screenshots before demolishing the original, but I didn't think about it until it was too late. I did manage to dredge up a few oldies though, so it should give a pretty good idea of it.

BEFORE:

OSU Memorial Union

MU - Interior

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OSU Bookstore: Beaver Fanshop in the MU


So with the help of the delete button and some texture creation/overhauling in Photoshop, here's a peek at some of the improvements made.

AFTER:

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The couches are menu-driven with 9 different sit/sleep poses. It's more likely to find a snoozing student than a conscious one in the actual MU.

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New coffee shop addition.

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New ballroom addition.

I am still making changes and additions as I have time. Part of the building is still empty. Jon and I have been talking about getting some art from the art department students to showcase around it, so we'll see if we can make that come to fruition.

Visit us in-world at: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Oregon%20State%20University/118/90/30

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Weekly VWER Meeting: Open Forum

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I've been way bad about remembering to turn up my graphics settings before taking SL pictures lately. Oh well.

I've gone all VWER volunteery now and will be sending out the pre-meeting group IMs each week instead of Kali. HERE'S HOPING I DON'T FORGET TO ACTUALLY DO IT. I set a calendar reminder, so hopefully that will help.

The meeting today was an open forum style and a lot of topics got bounced around. There was a pretty high turnout, the avatar count peaking at about 34 attendees. People were pretty goofy at times. I wonder if it had anything to do with the more chill style of the new round table. It's literally laid back.

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Somewhere between hairy hands, kilt, and Linden jokes, I managed to glean a few useful things from the discussion. I still have a hard time keeping up with the chat sometimes, so my contribution level is not as high as I'd like. Sometimes I'll type a response and then realize we've already left that topic for another, haha. Thus is the nature of virtual chat, I suppose. Real life interruptions don't help my reading speed either.

Anyway, onto some of the highlights of the meeting.

Since I haven't mentioned it before and have been hearing about it much lately (mostly from Pathfinder himself), the Hypergrid Adventurers Club sounds both useful and fun for getting to know OpenSim.The group self describes itself as "a group of pioneers interested in discussing and exploring OpenSim based virtual worlds on the Hypergrid." They have a Google Group that you can join if you want to see what they are up to before committing to any exploring.

Iggy (Ignatius Onomatopoeia) mentioned he has some freebies available on his Jokaydia Grid sim called Nevermore. Will have to drop by there and check it out.

Some interest in a Blackboard plugin was raised, leading to mention of the Ball State University Blackboard plugin which I had not heard of before and intend to take a closer look at, as OSU is a Bb user and it so happens that my department provides the support for it as well.

VWBPE was mentioned, and having never actually heard of it before (besides VWER meetings, I tend to be an OSU region hermit, living and building my little world but not venturing out of it nearly enough. VWER keeps me linked to rest of the virtual universe), I googled it and quickly discovered it translates to "Virtual Worlds: Best Practices in Education." It is a community-based conference that provides opportunities for participants in all virtual worlds to share conference presentations that focus on teaching/learning, scholarly work, projects, events, activities and new and innovative tools for virtual education (description pieced together from their own site). Registration is free and they are still accepting submissions for presenters until the end of this month, so hop to it if you have something you think is worth sharing.

One topic that really interested me today was content creators making and selling cross-platform virtual goods via their own websites (using actual currency instead of Linden dollars, etc) so that users could have the content on any virtual grid that supports it (IE: OpenSim AND Second Life, not just one or the other). Being a content creator myself (mostly for OSU, but I have toyed with the idea of starting my own brand/line) I am curious as to how difficult it would be to set up something like that. Maybe some market setup like Linden Labs has but where you choose which virtual world(s) you want it delivered to? I'm not a programmer, just an artsy person, so I'm not sure what the technical ramifications would be, but it certainly caught my interest and I would love to set up something like that to play with if I had any inkling of where to start.

This blog is not going to become a VWER-only blog - really! I have a few other things I've been meaning to get around to (the regional virtual consortium I'm part of pioneering and my OSU building projects, for example). I will make sure to get to it before the next VWER meeting comes along next week.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

VWER: 1st Meeting of the Year

The first VWER meeting of the year consisted of a really great panel of people who discussed and answered questions in voice (as opposed to the usual text chat).

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The panelists from left to right are: AJ Brooks, Buddy Sprocket, Anthony Chevalier, Fleep Tuque, Wainbrave Bernal, and Kenny Hubble.

There were lots of great questions and opinions given about the future of virtual education in general and in regards to Second Life. The group is real passionate and fun to be a part of. I was nice to see Wainbrave in particular - I don't get the opportunity to run into him a whole lot. Seeing his virtual self twice in one week is like whoa. Spoiled much?

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I'm not even going to attempt to recap everything that was said. Fortunately there are transcripts for that! Yes, it was in voice, but people were paraphrasing what the panelists were saying for the sake of having a record to go back to.

All VWER meeting records can be found in the Library page of the VWER website.

There were very mixed opinions on what role Linden Labs Second Life will have to play in the future of education. Some consider it time to completely abandon it for new opportunities, and others find the wealth of existing knowledge, content, and community here too valuable to pass up for the currently short-supplied OpenSim (and other newer worlds) content. Not everyone has the skill or the time to commit to starting from the ground up. Understandable.

With the expanding of virtual environments, the Linden Labs price changes forcing some less funded people out, and the rapid growth of smart devices with higher and higher processing power - it will be super interesting to see where things progress from here. There's been many predictions, some more grand than others, some more optimistic, some less. Maybe I'm dreaming, but I'd love to have a cross-platform browser-based virtual world experience that is not limited to just OpenSim or just Second Life or just whatever. A client that handles virtual worlds the way Internet browsers handle websites.

Time will tell. Technology keeps evolving faster and faster. It's rather mind-blowing.

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After the meeting Disneyland was brought up (and naturally Second Life's equivalent "Mouse World" - which unfortunately appears to no longer exist) and Kenny took the opportunity to turn mouse on us.

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We all had a good laugh and then the room filtered out fairly quickly after that, as other responsibilities and tasks (like sleep for some) pulled people away. Soon it was down to Pathfinder Lester and Anthony Chevalier on voice chat, with me eavesdropping along with another post-meeting lingerer.

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I just love this picture because of how elevated Pathfinder looks on the stairs. Like we are all in awe of his stature or something. It made me giggle. That, and the fact that his foot is going straight through this coat.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

VWERGrid: Beginnings

VWER has it's own OpenSim grid that is just in its beginnings. AJ just recently finished giving away the last of the available freebie parcels (I was lucky enough to snag one for OSU) and already there's been some interesting building activity.

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I spent a bit of time there myself and happened to be there at the same time as Ann (aka Olivia Hotshot in SL)and Jonathon (aka Wainbrave Bernal in SL) today. Contact notifications told me that AJ popped in and out a bit as well, but I didn't actually SEE him. (Technically I didn't actually interact with Ann either, I just creepily spied on her building activity for a few moments.) Jon and I goofed off a bit and then I bounced (or tottled, rather... really need to make myself a custom AO) off to my own parcel to play with scripting.

Only got as far as a scripted bench complete with (two measly) custom animations, but hey, it's a start. The holiday stuff I threw together before Christmas as filler so I could stake out my claim as well as make it easy to find my parcel when I logged back in.

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Haven't decided whether I want to replace that wood texture (it's one of the defaults) with a custom one or not yet. I also need to test whether it works properly with multiple avatars (it should allow 3) or not. Hard to test that by myself (everyone else had logged by the time I finished it). Maybe next time I drop in...

Threw together something resembling a skin too so that I am not a clone of most the other OpenSim residents, but I only spent a short time on it and since I'm no Redgrave or Curio (or any of those other fabulously talented SL skin designers) my avi is not looking quite as gorgeous as I'm used to, but hey, maybe we'll get there eventually. The shirt is something I created sometime last year in SL for fun.

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Maybe I should dabble around in attempting to create some custom prim hair...

Monday, January 3, 2011

VWER Christmas Party

I have neglected this blog for far too long. I will make an effort to keep up with it better, starting with a recap of a fun event: the VWER Christmas Party. I apologize in advance for the less-than-stellar image quality. My laptop can't handle high-populous locations at full graphics settings, and was having some glitchy issues with textures that day to boot. Onto the fun...

The Thursday VWER meeting prior to Christmas started off with arriving to discover that our usual meeting space had been transformed from standard auditorium with round table to winter wonderland.

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Everyone was dressed for the season and happily chatting. Through the back door was a dance area with refreshments - even a little bubbly - and the talented Kevinblue Oh helping everyone get their groove on with his live performance.

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I got all elfied up for the occasion, ears and all, danced my way through the crowd and spent some time grooving near Olivia Hotshot, a lovely woman who I recently had the pleasure of acquainting myself with in the physical world at the OiED conference (which - shame on me - I never blogged about).

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There was quite a good turnout.

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And after the dancing, some of us made our way over to the skate rink to feel out the ice. I had the pleasure of partnering up with Ashy Viper for a pleasant glide. If only I were so graceful on ice in actuality! (I can't even stand up on my own in ice skates when on actual ice.)

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And look - Olivia managed to sneak into another of my shots! :)

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While I love our weekly virtual education-oriented discussions, it was fun to see everyone goofing off, chatting, dancing, and skating together. Hope everyone had a fabulous holiday.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Heritage Key

Came across a virtual environment called Heritage Key, an education-focused virtual environment that appears to have utilized the open source version of the Second Life viewer (OpenSim) for their own purposes. It's called Heritage Key and focuses on historical exploration. I only hopped on for a few minutes, but the virtual Stonehenge experience they has available was fairly impressive. They have static AI's positioned in scenes that you can talk to/interact with and tasks to perform that help to educate the user about the time period and location, all staged in a beautifully constructed virtual environment. I intend to spend some more time there checking it out. The world does not allow users to upload or build anything themselves, but the existing environment is visually rich and contains useful information about the cultures represented. Here's an instrumental overview video of a few of the locations.


The welcome center where you first enter Heritage Key also provides access to an orientation area and an avatar customization area with freebies to personalize your avatar with. Will have to spend a little more time checking it out.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Working with Larger Classes in Second Life

Went to a VWER meeting yesterday and the topic was "Managing Large Classes in Second Life." I thought I'd share some of the useful ideas brought up by the group, especially since a new class is being designed by my department at OSU that will involve using Second Life.

Make a Group. Having a group for your students makes it easier to send out class-wide notices, give students particular roles and privileges. To cut group forming costs, students can be removed from the group after the term ends and it can be reused for the next term.

Have a Backup Plan. Lag and connection problems can be an issue in Second Life, especially in larger groups. Having a backup alternative to communicate, such as an alternate instant messaging system (AIM, Google Chat, Skype, etc) or conference calling will create a nice cushion in case of disaster. Someone mentioned Adobe Connect Pro on a prim. Haven't checked out that idea yet.

Home Base. Creating a home base specific to a class will create a sense of ownership and belonging for the students. It will also give them a familiar destination to log in to whenever they enter Second Life, making the vast world perhaps a little less intimidating.

Anti-Lag Building. Building an amphitheater at the corner or apex of a sim will spread the sim load among servers. Also, Relay for Life has a note card filled with tips for anti-lag building. If you want a look at it, I can send it to you in-world. My simplest word of advice is this: the less prims you build with, the less lag you will encounter.

In-World Support. Have scripted help poles/signs that when touched send an email/IM/SMS directly to you (or whoever should be helping the students). Provide a list of helpful in-world avatars that are frequently online and can assist newer users. The New Citizens Group was suggested as being a good resource.

Chatbridge. The InterSection Unlimited product called Chatbridge was mentioned as a way to make sure that everyone can hear/read whatever is going on in the class lecture or activity that is occurring in Second Life. They have a variety of versions to meet different needs.

Lesson Path. One of the attendees who has instructed in Second Life before makes a lesson path for her students. Assignment instructions are located in note cards placed in order along a path and the students can complete them at their own pace (as long as they meet their due dates for each one).

I'm sure there were probably other ideas thrown about, but those are the ones that stuck with me and I made note of. I'll add a direct link to the transcript once it's posted on the VWER website.

Edit: Here's a link to the transcript. http://virtualworldsedu.info/vwer/100525.html