Monday, 23 July 2007

An Oldie Visits U21 Global Campus

A few days back I posted an entry about Second Life being used as a visualisation and learning tool by DeSalles University, who have made a simulation of Dante's Inferno, replete with teacher and student notes. On a similar theme, I received an IM today from Lem Skall suggesting I check out U21 Global Campus. Ironically, this sim is right next door to the ne that houses my own little plot, New Alville, yet I had never sauntered across for a look, despite taking many long hikes around SL in search of something interesting.

But before looking at the sim, here's a bit of background: U21 Global is a joint venture between Universitas 21 (an international network of leading research-intensive universities) and Thomson Learning (a renowned information and software solutions provider).
Headquartered in Singapore, they deliver a range of management courses through elearning over the internet. They offer an MBA programme that has been awarded the prestigious European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD) accreditation for teChnology-Enhanced Learning (CEL) - or so it tells me on the website - along with a number of other management-oriented courses. Given this background, their interest in Second Life comes as no surprise.

The sim, built by Luna Bliss, is still under construction but looks like it only needs a few bits and bobs before it is completed. Most of the island is taken up with their Metaphorical Garden, which can be explored on foot, or via an automated guided tour. I opted for the latter. I have to say that the hippy-dippy guide to educational method was lost on me - but you might get more from it. Here's a slice from the first of many, many notecards:

"Whenever we learn a psychological process occurs as we absorb new knowledge - a series of phases takes place. For example, there is the phase when learning something new is exciting, and there is a phase when we need to let go of old knowledge and embrace the new. There is also the case where we may have to combine new information with the 'old' to create new knowledge. The gardens on this island are designed to mirror these phases of learning, using metaphors of nature to reflect them (for example, the new knowledge phase is spring, and the letting go or the re-creation of old knowledge makes way for the eruption of new knowledge and is symbolized by a volcano). Constructivist learning (the way U21Global teaches) accesses these processes at a deep level and encourages the student of learning to be free to create their own meaning and knowledge, as opposed to the spoon-fed multiple-choice tests so common in many schools."

Luna has made extensive use of flowing texture scripts and particles to impart some movement and activity to the island. Here are some pictures that hopefully give you an idea:

There's something faintly reminiscent of the classic Svarga sim here, though that may only be due to the guided tour.

As well as the features shown here, there is an Information Area that is still waiting for completion, downloadable podcasts and other information resources, and a number of seating areas. There is a lot happening here, and a lot of neat scripting, but I left feeling a bit disappointed - though I can't quite figure out why. I suspect it is the look and feel, which seemed a tad too vivid for my tastes. Anyway, why not pop along and let me have your views?

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