Northern Kentucky Univ. Gets a $6 Million Virtual Worlds Mecca


Northern Kentucky University is joining South Dakota State University and St. Paul College in Minnesota as a pioneer in the virtual world revolution.

According to an article in Scientific Computing, Northern Kentucky University just received a $6 million grant to construct a virtual world informatics center complete with the academic-sounding CAVE: computer assisted virtual environment.

Read on to find out how NKU is poised to change the model of how virtual worlds research is conducted, and why the Midwest will soon be in the driver's seat of academic research into virtual worlds.

Continue reading Northern Kentucky Univ. Gets a $6 Million Virtual Worlds Mecca

South Dakota State University Adopts Second Life

Continuing on in our Education Week, The SDSU Collegian reports that South Dakota State University is tilling the ground in preparation for using Second Life as a classroom enhancement tool. The administration at SDSU is taking a deep look at the myriad uses for Second Life's adaptability and interactivity:

"Examples of simulations that would be used are medical simulations in which students can take the position in a virtual world as a medical professional…They would do things like checking on patients and routine things like the avatar always washing their hands before seeing a patient."

Other examples of possible simulation include mental health simulation in which students would practice doing counseling consultations. [Vice President for IT Mike] Adelaine said Second Life provides various systems unavailable in a classroom.

SDSU would join over 500 institutes of higher education and a pitifully small percentage of America's public schools that have adopted Second Life as either a tool to augment classroom teaching or as a vehicle for completely replacing the physical classroom.


He suffers from dead pixels

It appears to me – and I could be wrong – that the greater leeway provided to higher education practitioners is a huge incentive for the addition of virtual worlds to the curriculum.

As we reported yesterday, the tighter bureaucratic restrictions on public schools may act as a damper on innovations that jeopardize local political careers.

The Collegian notes previous problems with adapting Second Life to the SDSU campus atmosphere:

Previously, SDSU tried a pilot program of Second Life in one of the nursing courses, but they came across a few problems.

"The class was completely wireless, and it really needs hard wire in order to work fast enough…When you have all those students trying to use it with wireless, it just doesn't work properly."

If the only problems are connectivity issues easily solved through in-dorm wired connections, the forward-thinking scholars at SDSU have a relatively small hurdle to leap in order to get expansive virtual education up and running.

What I find especially interesting about the rise of Second Life and virtual worlds in higher education is where these innovations tend to take place. Take a peek at our reporting earlier in the week about Minnesota's Saint Paul College and its new certificate program in Second Life studies. Look at SDSU. These aren't Ivy League institutions, and that may be the reason for their innovation.

A school like Saint Paul College faces less national scrutiny for adopting a forward-thinking program, and stands to gain much more if the program succeeds. With more high school students graduating than ever before, colleges are in the position of providing courses that give students an edge in the job market as well as teaching novel and emerging skills.

If Princeton Review ever makes a listing of the Top Virtual Campuses, SDSU will certainly make an appearance. That could make all the difference.

Minnesota College Offers a Degree in Second Life

Little Saint Paul College in frosty Minnesota is about to go global. The liberal arts school in Minnesota recently launched a program to teach the essential Metaverse programming and scripting skills to students via virtual classrooms. A just-released article in Finance and Commerce sheds light on Saint Paul's plan to immerse its students in the skills of the future.

The college is offering two new two-year degree programs. The Metaverse Application Design program provides training in graphic design, animation and art for the 3-D realm. The other program, Metaverse Application Development, is based on the college’s computer science curriculum and features courses in 3–D computer graphics and Java programming, among others.

Because the technology renders geographical distance irrelevant, the college has been able to form virtual learning collaborations with universities in Germany, Switzerland, England and Australia, along with the University of Oregon.

Talk about a cheap way to expand your college into something groundbreaking. Now, for the cost of a few dedicated computers, Saint Paul College can connect with universities across the country and across the planet in educating young Metaverse consultants-to-be on the ins and outs of the business.

This isn't SPU's first venture into the virtual world. They already offer a course in Second Life fundamentals, and SPU recently funded a program to create a virtual library that serves as a hub for virtual worlds and technology discussion.

I know I belabor the term by using it so often, but this really is nothing short of shrewd business. As Metaverse entrepreneur like Aimee Weber shows in her recent partnership with big-time automaker Peugeot, there is big money in virtual worlds for those who can create quality content. A college that provides a formal education in scripting and content creation will produce graduates with a competitive advantage over humble liberal arts grads like myself.

Visiting and writing about a world like Second Life is one thing. Having content creation skills is another, greater thing, as it allows the avatar (and the player) to physically alter the universe around them. Content creation is an entirely new level of immersion, a level to which unskilled visitors like myself are not privvy.

Will these graduates be the ones responsible for a boom in virtual worlds? Could Saint Paul serve as the Mountain View or Silicon Valley of the content creation world? One can hope.