The University of New Orleans Enters Second Life

The University of New Orleans recently joined the ranks of higher education institutions that have established virtual campuses in Second Life. Unlike most participating universities, which primarily use their Second Life islands to recruit new students, promote their school, and experiment with virtual worlds, UNO’s purpose is more essential: to maintain classes in the event of another Hurricane Katrina-like disaster. If students, faculty, and administrators are forced to evacuate during a storm, they can reconnect with each other through Second Life.

Although the university uses Blackboard to manage its online courses, UNO administrators believe that the “presence” created by avatars in a 3D space raises the level of online class interaction. The university will offer two courses at its virtual campus starting in the fall.

Currently, the New Orleans Island campus is closed to the public.

5 thoughts on “The University of New Orleans Enters Second Life

  1. I hope they open up their island soon. Can’t wait to be nosy and snap some photos of what they’ve done.

    Honestly, though — I don’t understand when educational sims are set to private. I can see restricting sections of an island for classroom use so that only students can enter. And I can see having a sim closed until it’s completely developed. However, it seems strange to completely shut out the outside world. It seems more beneficial to everyone if you have open access — you get to share ideas and generate buzz about your virtual presence. I’m thinking specifically about a couple of academic institutions in particular who have fully developed sims but are only open to their students.

    That being said, if anything ever happens and NOU needs to use their sim for the purpose you mentioned, they’ll have to close their sim so that students are able to access the island. (Hopefully, that will never happen.)

    Very nice first post, by the way! :)

  2. Thanks, Katrina :)I agree with you — it is unfortunate when educational islands are set to private. I can understand that restricting access reduces the likelihood of griefing and vandalism, and also makes it easier to keep course content secure. But there are measures you can take to protect public islands, as well, and still get the promotional benefits of an open space. It is also regrettable that other educators have no access to the private islands, because of the lost networking and collaboration opportunities. I would hope that, even though their islands may be private, the developers and educators involved would still participate in the various educational groups and forums in Second Life.

  3. Ditto – and welcome to the EduGeek’s!

    I think I can see why some islands are set to private. When you take a look at the overall picture – privacy laws are still pretty hazy when it comes to things like Virtual Worlds. But schools get sued over minor, pointless stuff all the time. I think until lawmakers get caught up with things like Second Life, I think you are going to see a lot more of this ‘throwing out the baby with the bath water deal.’ Just today, I got an email from some office here, telling me that my ID with them had been switched to take out anything that resembled my Social Security number. My original ID didn’t have any part of my school security number in it, but they still changed it. Just to make sure they weren’t in any kind of trouble.

    They also might not have the staff to run a public area and a private area.

    They may be conducting some type of social research, and the conditions of their proposal or grant stipulate that the entire project be restricted access.

    They just don’t care about having visitors. Some colleges have big gates and no visitor centers still, after all.

    Anyway, I personally don’t care if they are set to private or not. It’s just like when I come across a link to a really cool EdTech idea, and the link leads to a password protected area of a University site. It’s their stuff, and therefore the choice is theirs. The educational community will survive if a few people don’t share their ideas. Just don’t expect me to share back with them :)

  4. Welcome Erin! I am not a big fan of the whole private island thing. As I have said before, I am a major proponent of sharing as much as possible as often as possible. To reference Gestalt theory, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I think the Borg were (was?) on to something.

  5. A new article appeared in the Campus Technology newsletter today about the UNO Second Life project. It gives a little more information about the courses that the university will be offering within SL in the fall, and also claims (though I haven’t tried it yet) that visitors can now access the campus on New Orleans Island.

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