Virtual Environments are plentiful and increasing. With dozens of Grids on Opensim such as Franco Grid, Jokadia Grid, Reaction Grid, and ScienceSim, and a rising number of additional stand-alone virtual worlds there are hundreds of engaging environments, many of which are used for teaching and learning directly and indirectly. It’s exciting to see the evolution and increased collaboration among educators. I read occasionally that a virtual world Sim has been deleted, has moved to another grid, is moving to a different location, or is merging with another, of a similar focus. The reason is often reported as financial but includes issues associated with interest, time, abilities, and access. Whatever the reason, the deletion/change/move is part of the evolution of the use of virtual environments.
Since I have been exploring Virtual Environments (not an early user, only since 2009) I’ve seen the ebb and flow and noticed every educational entity that had any curiosity or interest (a good thing) bought/rented virtual property, built some buildings, classrooms, office spaces and of course an auditorium. Initial interest filled the spaces, then the changes cited above caused these existing spaces to receive less use. With the increase in Virtual worlds available and the emergence of private worlds, some of the original, early environments may have become redundant and/or underused, so it makes perfect sense to change with the times, to collaborate in shared space.
Shared spaces make for shared ideas, shared effort, and shared funding. One of the often cited benefits of educators in virtual worlds is the collaboration among and between educators globally, I know that I have grown professionally from interactions with educators from every continent. What is impossible in the physical world is often quite simple in a Virtual world, a conversation, and an agreement with someone miles away in the physical world could result in developing a mutually beneficial space at a reduced cost and expanded idea and work force.
The most recent example of merging of virtual spaces is that of ISTE’s Second Life Island. Funding was the external motivator for the change but the result is a streamlined plan with educators contributing and supporting each other in this form of teaching and learning. On February 29th, 2012 ISTE’s Second Life Island will disappear into the pixel sea, or be repurposed by the next owner. ISTE events will continue to take place at the Eduislands Sim on Second Life while facilities will be constructed on space allocated on Eduislands in Second Life and on some space in Jokadia Grid in Opensim. ISTE is accepting ideas for a the new builds and providing a prize to the selected idea. Though it initially appears like a downsize, it is really an expansion and holds promise for cross-pollination of educational ideas to bring some growth between and among participants.