Sunday, 2 September 2007

A Scientific Approach to Orientation

If you are a frequent visitor to the virtual world of Second Life you may have taken in the well-known NOAA island of Meteora and/or NASA's Spaceport Alpha. Both are impressive scientific sims. However, more recently these sites have been subsumed into a whole cluster of scientific sims - 34 of the beggars at the last count. Many of these are still under construction, but are nevertheless open to the gawping public.

Broadly speaking there are 3 principal areas: Space and Spaceflight; Healthcare and a Giant Globe, along with a number of specialist areas, such as Nanotechnology. This cluster is far too big to tackle all in one go, so I won't even attempt it. I already have a mass of pictures of the Healthcare sims, which have been built for the (British) National Health Service, under the umbrella of the Second Health project.. However, I've not been able to assemble all the supporting information on these (Davee: I didn't get your email!) and without this, the prospect of putting a post together is somewhat daunting. Besides, my friend Tish, over at Ugotrade, has already done the definitive post.

Instead, I will return to my recurring theme of recent weeks: orientation. Sitting at the heart of this mega-cluster is the Scilands sim. Its purpose is to provide orientation for new, science-minded residents of Second Life. If it was me, I'd probably have called it Boffinland - but maybe that's too open to misinterpretation. Anyhoo... newcomers can join Second Life at the Scilands registration website and be whisked, courtesy of the Registration API, to the Scilands sim to commence their orientation. This is another "5 and out" (ie: 5 quick lessons and out into the wide virtual world), but with some differences. First, there are several diversions along the way, including insect illustrations and a telescope that will display various celestial objects. You can also acquire a freebie T-shirt, in the lesson dealing with inventory.

Once our newcomer has completed the 5 basic lessons s/he will find a set of information posts - 9 of 'em I think - that provide more detailed information on specific topics. There is also a map and explanation of the Scilands cluster, and teleports to a number of useful locations. This approach seems like a good compromise between the need for brevity (5 basic lessons) and the fact that brevity will inevitably lead to a loss of important content. Oh.... shhhh.. don' t mention it, but there's also a sandbox here - so budding builders can take a crack at object creation and manipulation.

The cluster itself is well worth the trip, even for seasoned SL veterans. Even though it is still far from complete, there is more than enough there to while away a significant amount of time.


P. F. Anderson said...

Interesting! I noticed that you have to create a new avatar to use their registration form as a leapfrog to the SciLands orientation. Any idea how to get to SciLands orientation with an existing av? Thanks!

-- Perplexity Peccable

Aleister Kronos said...

Interesting potential Catch-22! If you go via their portal, all well and good. But there is no separate SLURL on the registration website (or elsewhere) for newcomers who already have an avatar.

That means to use their orientation you need to get a SLURL from elsewhere,(say Slambling) - and that is likely to mean you've been through orientation already. And so don't need it.

Useful feedback.

P. F. Anderson said...

Well, as a teacher I like to see how other folks have designed educational experiences. I have gone through a number of SL orientations to get ideas about how to explain SL to our own students. So I'd like to see this one also, if possible. Not to mention getting the tshirt! (grin)