Thursday, 23 August 2007

DePaul CTI

Today, following a tip from a friend, I pootled along to DePaul CTI, the sim belonging to the School of Computer Science, Telecommunications and Information Systems (no wonder they abbreviated it) of DePaul University. Named after Saint Vincent De Paul, the university's main campus was founded in Chicago in 1898 by the Vincentians, but now offers courses around the world. The CTI offers a wide range of courses, including options for online and distance learning.

For reasons best known to the build team, the island is loosely themed on Venice. A number of canals serve to carve up the island, but transportation is not a problem as you can take gondola rides between the various parts of the sim. Thinks: "I wonder if this idea came from the New Media Consortium build?" In any case, gondolas won't get you everywhere (like to the top of a hill, for example) - so there are various "stools of destination", teleports that will whisk you to your destination. The overall build quality is high. There are many excellent, detailed textures, the buildings are well thought-out and there are some nice ideas at play - such as using animated critters from Second Wildlife.

I am told there are all manner of caves and other hidden gems to discover - but to be blunt, I couldn't be bothered looking. Nice looking place, though:

I'm not too sure who this site is aimed at. I found only limited information about the university, while there are many (many!) meeting places of varying sizes. This suggests to me that the site has a couple of functions, both aimed at their own student body, rather than a channel for attracting potential students and sponsors. First, it provides a great example of what can be built in Second Life by experienced builders, and should serve to encourage some students to give it a go. Second, it provides an environment for students and faculty to meet informally - particularly useful for those who are on distance learning courses. I may have this hopelessly wrong - but that's what it looks like to me.

1 comment:

Andre said...

Thank you Aleister for featuring us in your blog! The island was built by myself, Andre Kleene (in RL, Andre Berthiaume, associate prof at DePaul CTI) and Dutchy Flaman. The island’s purpose is exactly as you surmised: create plenty of meeting places and pleasant environments to make people want to hang out. Our target is to attract both the SL population to showcase our distance learning degree as well as allowing our existing students and faculty members to come in-world and use the space for discussions and course work.

As you pointed out, information about our programs and our university is quite thin at the moment, but the PR material will soon be up, including sample classes streamed in-world. In the near future, we hope to integrate some of our Distance Learning systems with SL. The island offers one amphitheater for various presentations as well as a dual function sandbox/event area. Currently, we have fireworks every week-end and more events will come. Beyond the sites one can see by doing a fly-by, the island also offers a number of more secluded areas: caves, underground gardens and passages, along with some freebies scattered around. Visitors to the island can pick up a ‘hint giving’ badge at the landing point which, when worn, will prompt visitors as they walk around to explore more carefully specific elements in their surroundings.

I honestly lost count of the number of places a small group of people could just sit and chat: We just wanted a lot of them. Some are by a campfires, others overlooking the sea. Some at the top of the mountains, others below the waves. Some in the middle of high traffic areas, other secluded in caves and or underground. Random visitors are always welcome of course, but we’re also happy to be host to regular groups that are in need of a meeting place. (send an in-world IM to Andre Kleene.)

Some of the projects in the pipeline: since we already record and stream on the web over 200 sections of our classes every quarter for our regular Distance Learning operations, we want to see how well we can integrate SL with our Course On-Line system. Live classes in SL are also a possibility, at least for certain specific courses. Three of our degrees, Gaming, Computer Graphics and motion Technology, and Digital Cinema, are particularly well suited to have in-world classroom activities, so stay tuned! And of course, as our presence in SL increases, we want to offer live SL advising sessions, recruitment-type activities (such as open house, etc).

This island is only the beginning! 