Virtual classrooms, such as those in Second Life, probably aren’t going away any time soon, but colleges that use Second Life are increasingly hosting their own rival environments, according to recent news from The Chronicle of Higher Education. Instructors want more control than Second Life allows as well as fewer problems with clumsy avatars, inconvenient obstacles, vandalism, and random inappropriate activities.
Led by researchers at Duke University, Open Cobalt plans an initial release of its teacher-friendly virtual world in April. Open Cobalt will store data on your computer, reducing worry about a host going out of business. View Open Cobalt in action.
OpenSimulator provides another alternative, although similar to Second Life. Colleges can host their own world, rent access from an intermediary, or score free “land” from the non-profit Immersive Education Initiative. OpenSimulator allows in instructors to limit access to students.
In response to these challengers, Second Life’s owner, Linden Lab, is designing a virtual world that will better meet teacher’s requirements.
But are virtual classrooms even here to stay? How might they be improved to provide value? Are there better ways to harness the power of the Web for education? Take the poll and leave your comments below.