Do you use any virtual worlds platforms with your students outside of Second Life? I'm researching the following platforms:

Open Cobalt
Open Sim
Vastpark
Project Wonderland

The criteria I'm using is divided up based on the level of participation/interaction with the platform - user, publisher and administrator.

I already have the information I need regarding Second Life, although if you use Second Life, I'd be interested in your reasons why you chose it over other platforms.


The criteria I am using to compare these platforms are as follows:
• User experience
o Technical infrastructure requirements
 Required hardware
 Required software
 Required network speed
 Cashing/local information storage
 Firewall issues
 Accessibility
o Technical skills requirements
o Level of customisation of digital representative
o Communications options (voice, text chat)
o Fluidity of motion - each environment recorded on video where possible. Fluidity of motion refers to smoothness and organic feel of movement, a gaming rating that will be somewhat subjective but still important to evaluation of environments.
o Level of and variety of interaction with environment (what the affordances of the environment provide to end users – i.e. scripts that allow for submission of homework assignments, ability to watch videos, link to web sites, ability to create within the environment itself, etc)
o Visual appeal – relates to the level of sophistication of the graphics and their aesthetic appeal. photos taken of each environment.
o Cost – subscription fee to participate?
• Publisher experience
o Technical infrastructure requirements
 Required hardware
 Required software
 Required network speed
 Cashing/local information storage
 Firewall issues
 Accessibility
o Ability to import or export from outside into environment
o Amount of existing materials available
o Uptake/use by education community – in Australia and elsewhere
o Technical skills requirements
o Ease of object creation
o Level of object customisation
o Object storage and sharing
o Cost
o Affordances
 Technical (features)
 Pedagogical (benefits)
• Administrator experience
o Technical infrastructure requirements
o Technical skills requirements
o Number of concurrent users per region/area/server
o Cost
o Number of concurrent users per simulation/region
o Security
o Identity management (ie ability to integrate with other systems eg LDAP, OpenID or AAF/Shibboleth
o Platform hosting models
o Control/support of communications options (can we turn voice chat on/off at any level?)
o Metadata standards capabilities
o Development roadmap summary
o Is it built with open tech standards? If so, what are they?
o Is the API(s) open – examples of where the API is being used
o Developer community
o Licensing arrangements eg open source, GPL, proprietary
o Is it a VW only or include gaming capabilities?
o Scorm (or some kind of LO packaging compliance?) or capacity for that to be built.
o Integration or potential for integration with LMSs such as Moodle, Sakai, Blackboard

Thanks if you can aid me with this research!

Cheers

KerryJ
aka Pandora Kurrajong in SL
kerryank on Twitter

Tags: Wonderland, opencobalt, opensim, project, research, survey, vastpark

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I am currently working with and looking into SmallWorlds - (http://smallworlds.com)

I will answer your points here:

The criteria I am using to compare these platforms are as follows:
• User experience
o Technical infrastructure requirements
 Required hardware - works on pc, apple, mac, must be flash and java enabled, have had it running fine on an eeepc 701
 Required software adobe flash plugin for browser
 Required network speed works on dialup, there are settings for performance over graphics in the account settings
 Cashing/local information storage requires 100kb of flash cookie storage
 Firewall issues none
 Accessibility
o Technical skills requirements none needed
o Level of customisation of digital representative basic avatars have set clothing and hair options, and face shapes can be tweeked
o Communications options (voice, text chat) text chat, group chat, in world messaging
o Fluidity of motion - each environment recorded on video where possible. Fluidity of motion refers to smoothness and organic feel of movement, a gaming rating that will be somewhat subjective but still important to evaluation of environments. clips of smallworlds available on youtube, this world does not aim to be real life representative per se
o Level of and variety of interaction with environment (what the affordances of the environment provide to end users – i.e. scripts that allow for submission of homework assignments, ability to watch videos, link to web sites, ability to create within the environment itself, etc) many embeddable world widgets include flickr, twitter, youtube, soundcloud and the potential for more.
o Visual appeal – relates to the level of sophistication of the graphics and their aesthetic appeal. photos taken of each environment. internal spaces and external spaces, again many references available online of screencaptures in their words "Like SmallWorlds, most existing web-based virtual worlds run on top of the Flash player. Where SmallWorlds breaks new ground is in its powerful world rendering engine which delivers a class-leading 3D-isometric experience well beyond the capabilities of the existing web-based virtual worlds. This means that unlike its web-based competitors, SmallWorlds is able to deliver a high definition, widescreen, multi-camera-angle virtual world that leaves its competitors feeling flat and pixelated."
o Cost – subscription fee to participate? free to sign up, costs for gold to purchase larger spaces (although gold can be earnt) main currency tokens which can be earnt also
• Publisher experience
o Ability to import or export from outside into environment as mentioned, twitter, youtube, flickr, soundcloud
o Amount of existing materials available items can be puchased, several shops
o Uptake/use by education community – in Australia and elsewhere New Zealand are using the framework from the company behind SW to launch the first virtual school there.
o Technical skills requirements
o Ease of object creation objects can not at this point be created
o Level of object customisation objects can be renamed, given a description and can be scripted very easily
o Object storage and sharing items in a space can be set for different security settings, owner, contributor, member, anyone. spaces can be locked also. inventory stores unlimited items
o Cost free to as much as someone wishes to spend to buy the items
o Affordances
 Technical (features) SmallWorlds is developed using Adobe Flex and Flash, and runs on top of the ubiquitous Adobe Flash Player 9. The world servers are running Java and are deployed on Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2).
 Pedagogical (benefits) I believe that certainly with the 13-19 age group this is a useful medium, allowing teaching without the restrictions or distractions of SL

o Number of concurrent users per simulation/region instances an be enabled that copy the space allowing 20 users max in a space at a time, but unlimited copies of the room. this would allow breakout groups to do an activity seperately wih the tutor moving between them. the lower limit for avatars in a space is 1.

o Security spaces can be locked with password, member list or other criteria. other users can not remove your items from your posession

o Is it a VW only or include gaming capabilities? very much both, games can be embedded in widgets, be the PvP type, or be missions.

o Integration or potential for integration with LMSs such as Moodle, Sakai, Blackboard there is potential for embeddable tech, this would need ot be discussed with Outsmart


Roadmap for SW:
What's in your product roadmap?

* Embeddable Everywhere - Users and groups can embed SmallWorlds into their web page or site, allowing them to run their own virtual world for their friends and colleagues.
* Widget and Game API - Allowing third party developers to extend the functionality and entertainment options within SmallWorlds, with mechanisms to allow them to monetize their efforts.
* Parallel Worlds - Extending the features of SmallWorlds to support MMOG-type parallel worlds that will be accessible to SmallWorlds users.
* Community support - Supporting online groups and communities, allowing them to customize and extend SmallWorlds for their own specific purposes. Using SmallWorlds to support their communities through embeddable components such as chat, presence, avatar creations and the full virtual world player.
* Beyond 3D-isometric to 3D, 2D & 0D - The SmallWorlds platform is built to be "client agnostic", and we will be extending the reach of SmallWorlds from lightweight mobile modules, to a rich and immersive 3D client.

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