Sunday 23 September 2007

Al Goes North of the Border

While cruising around the ever-growing number of university islands clusted around the New Media Consortium, I spotted two new UK universities: Sunderland and Edinburgh. The former seemed, from the map, to be very new, with little or no work done on it as yet. However, the University of Edinbugh not only looked to be more advanced, but also consisted of not 1 but 6 sims - a hefty investment. What is more, it was open to casual visitors, so I popped in for a look.

The build is very much in its infancy, as you can see from the pictures below. The most advanced building I found was the Informatics hall, but the School of Management is well on its way, too. There is also preliminary work on some famous Edinburgh landmarks such as the Scott Monument and the Nelson Monument.

Unlike many university builds in Second Life, which have been the work of a single department or faculty, the scale and breadth of this build encompasses many departments. The purpose of the build is difficult to ascertain due to its incomplete state and the variety of departments it is planned to feature. Certainly one aspect will be promotional, to provide information about the university and the city. However, given the size of the site, I would assume they are also planning to host educational events, perhaps even hosting regular seminars and lecture here.

I was talking recently to a friend who is struggling to hack through the politics and apathy at his own university. Having built an interesting site, with plenty of scope for informal meetings and networking, and sandboxes for those who'd like to try their hand at building, he's having real difficulties getting both staff and students to take an interest. I would therefore like to understand what has happened in Edinburgh's case. A 6-sim site is rather over-the-top for a "Field of Dreams": "build it and they will come."

So have staff and students bought into it? And if so, how was this achieved? If you know, then it would be great to hear from you.

UPDATE 24-9-07: Please check out the comments - two detailed replies from Edinburgh. Thanks for the enlightenment!


Austin Tate said...

Glad you found Vue Aleister. More details of the work on the Virtual University of Edinburgh is at

Vue is a virtual educational and research institute bringing together all those interested in the use of virtual worlds for teaching, research and outreach related to the University of Edinburgh and its associates.

As background, there are 2 core regions - "Vue" which will have more experimental central and shared facilities on it, and "Edinburgh University" which will feature buildings reminiscent of real landmarks in the University and the city.

A further 4 regions have been provided as "open spaces" to improve landscaping opportunities, and allow for some experimentation and technical work that does not need a lot of primitives.

There is strong central University support and funding for Vue and its activities in virtual worlds (generally) and Second Life (initially). A coordinating group looks at Vue region coordination and meets regularly to encourage developments. Internal and public talks have been given about the work by everyone from the Principal down. There are also a large number of groups, institutes, schools and offices involved.

Beyond that a number of Schools who have already been in Second Life for some time. Some have been using mainland plots initially, and some were given Linden Labs Campus areas to develop their ideas. 3 such groups have now bought regions and more will follow.

The development of Vue is expected to take a considerable time. The initial regions have been planned to be developed over a 3 year period. Work is underway to look at content management and ways to ensure developments can use multiple virtual world infrastructures in future.

Those of us involved see Vue - the Virtual University of Edinburgh - as a potential long term part of how universities will operate.

Austin Tate
Ai Austin (in Second Life)

Unknown said...

Hi, Aleister, I just read your blog article on the University of Edinburgh's development in Second Life (VUE). I'm part of the team.

In my particular programme, one of many planned at the University, our "subteam" are indeed developing a learning facility and will be hosting a series of entrepreneurship courses in Second Life, these will be in both Technology Entrepreneurship and Creative Entrepreneurship. My subteam is really excited about the possibilities of simulated learning in Second Life as well as the fact that our students can build virtual businesses in this virtual world that could support them in the real world and perhaps even make them wealthy someday.

We have a lot of anecdotal interest already from students, potential students, staff and external entrepreneurs who are interested in our plans. Most certainly.


Michael R. Clouser
Research Associate
Edinburgh-Stanford Link
School of Informatics
University of Edinburgh
Room 811
Appleton Tower
11 Crichton Street
Edinburgh, Scotland EH8 9LE

Landline: +0131.650.4436
Mobile (UK) 0793 235 2513
Vonage (US) +1.607.330.2576
Fax (US) +1.650.618.0321




Ph.D. Candidate
Centre for Entrepreneurship Research
School of Management and Economics
16 Buccleuch Place
University of Edinburgh
Edinburgh, Scotland, UK EH8 9LW