Multiuser Virtual Environments in Education, Emmanuel Fokides Lecturer, University of the Aegean
1. The terms VR and MUVEs
• 3D virtual environments (VEs) simulate real or imaginary environments that give
users the sense of "being there".
• Virtual environments (VEs) first emerged in the '70s and later on, led to MUDs
(Multi-user domains) and MOOs (Multi-user domains object-oriented).
• The turn of the century saw the emergence of 3D multi-user VEs (MUVEs). The
most popular MUVE is Second Life (SL) which was launched in 2003
(http://secondlife.com/). In SL, the user can create his/her own avatar (virtual
self) and explore unique virtual environments. SL soon grasped the educators'
attention: social exchange, collaboration between avatars, visual and audio
stimuli are but a few of its real-time advantages.
• In 2007, the OpenSimulator project (http://opensimulator.org/) was launched to
take a further step: it is an open source MUVEs server, supporting several clients
while maintaining compatibility with SL.
• The aforementioned applications are only but two out of a large number of
similar or totally different technologies, all trying to exploit the potential of
2. The terms VR and MUVEs
• Constructivism provides the theoretical framework for the educational uses of MUVEs .
• Constructivism supports the notion that learners construct knowledge on the basis of
what they already understand and as they make connections between new and old
information. Learners' prior ideas, experiences, and knowledge, interplay and may even
clash with new experiences and their interpretations of the surrounding environment .
• Inconsistencies between what they already know and new persuasive information bring
their current understanding into question and results in cognitive conflict (Bruner 1973).
When students resolve these inconsistencies, they actually create new ways to reconcile
their prior knowledge with the new information. Thus, the resolution of cognitive conflict
• Four are their key features; immersion, interaction, imagination, and interest, which all
lead to probably the most longstanding and direct benefit of VR for education, that of
• VEs' significance in education lies in the fact that they enable learners to explore the
virtual environment, use and manipulate virtual objects, and so they encourage them to
express their personal thoughts and to construct their knowledge.
• Also, the interactions with the virtual objects or with other users, enable students to
become active learners. VEs attract the interest of students and, in combination with the
in-world activities, the educational process becomes more effective
19. The Open Simulator, Opensim
Second Life is a commercial product with relatively high cost for maintaining a
"property". These two characteristics motivated a number of programmers to develop
an open source alternative, called Open Simulator or Opensim for short. Although it is
still at an early stage (Alpha stage), the platform is fully functional and compatible with
Opensim is under constant development from a growing team of programmers and new
re-leases come out almost every month. The number of users also rapidly increases
though still far from the number of Second Life users. Opensim users can use their own
computers as servers and host a virtual world. The only limit of the size of the virtual
world is the computer's capabilities.
In summer of 2010 Second Life decided to shut down Teen Grid (the part that was used
by teenagers). Later, in autumn of 2010, the pricing policy was changed and there are no
more reduced fees for Universities and educational institutes. As a result, many
institutes turned to Opensim as an alternative platform.