Assembling the heterogeneous elements for digital learning

Traditional buildings in Second Life – hassle to navigate

Starting to move around a bit more in Second Life and it hasn’t taken long to hate walls. Traditional buildings with a roof, walls, corridors and small doorways seem to be designed to make navigation a hassle.

The following is an example of a navigation experience this morning where as I walk around inside a building, then turnaround I am (or at least the perspective I have from behind my avatar is) suddenly flung out of the building. Somewhat disconcerting.

Building

I would imagine a seasoned navigator within 3D worlds would take this as a given and work around it. But, at least to me, it raises the question of just how far you should go with re-creating the real-world in Second Life.

I’m sure this is not a new question but as we’re starting our journey into Second Life it is a question that needs to be asked. Already some folk are wanting to re-create physical campus buildings in Second Life. Is that the right thing to do?

This certainly seems to be a common trend amongst many other universities. CQU has some major differences with those other universities which makes this practice somewhat less sensible. These include

  • In 2007 we had over 15 different campuses at which students might be located.
  • The largest grouping of students in 2007 were distance education students (who rarely, if ever, come onto a campus) with 33% of the student population.
  • The largest campus in percentage terms was the Sydney campus with 19.4%. It is one of CQU’s international campuses and is based in a couple of CBD buildings in Sydney.
  • Rockhampton, the first CQU campus and the one at which CQU senior executive is housed, had 12% of the 2007 student population (Sydney 19.4%, Melbourne 13.4% then Rockhampton).
  • The institution has only existed for about 40 years and has only been a full university since the early 1990s (see CQU history).
  • At least from my perspective, none of the buildings are all that memorable or noteworthy.

If we were to re-create some real CQU buildings in Second Life. Which building would we choose? From which campus?

Walls are needed in real life to keep the weather out, the roof up and provide some privacy. the first two of those reasons probably don’t exist in Second Life. Does the third? Do we need to retain walls for privacy? Are there alternate Second Life means to provide privacy?

Retaining a semblance of reality in Second Life can, theoretically, help folk feel familiar and more comfortable. But I wonder if the hassles of navigating within real life buildings in Second Life overwhelms that benefit.

I wonder if you could instead, create spaces that small indicators of real life but don’t go the whole hog. For example, have a meeting space within a small forest clearing that includes a few logs to sit on, a whiteboard and a few other artifacts from a class room. The artifacts provide the familiarity but the open space makes it easy to get around.

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