Problem with using Opensim for education

Using virtual worlds for education
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Justin Smith
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Problem with using Opensim for education

Post by Justin Smith » Tue Feb 25, 2014 2:42 pm

I had the bright idea of conducting a class in Kitely. Given the number of snow-days we've had, this would have made perfect sense.

Out of 30 students, only one had a gaming rig capable of running any OpenSim viewer. The other students used laptops and netbooks except for one who sole computing resource was his cell phone (he even did word processing on it!).

Someone at my school suggested setting up a virtual reality lab with adequate computers. I pointed out that that defeats the whole purpose of using virtual reality at all --- having students sit side by side and going inworld. Like using a cell-phone to talk to someone sitting next to you!
I wound up teaching the class in First Life, the old-fashioned way :D
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Re: Problem with using Opensim for education

Post by Constance Peregrine » Tue Feb 25, 2014 3:11 pm

Justin Smith wrote:I wound up teaching the class in First Life, the old-fashioned way :D
omg!! they still do that????? :o
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Re: Problem with using Opensim for education

Post by Graham Mills » Tue Feb 25, 2014 4:54 pm

Might be worth trying the Radegast viewer on low-end hardware. On Android there's Lumiya. Neither is ideal but you probably knew that.

I occasionally teach using OpenSim without taking students inworld. I use Twine to make stories from a first person perspective with inworld snapshots as accompanying illustrations. Ultimately I want to make better use of Twine as a game engine and it would probably be better if the students wrote the stories -- I guess I'm working towards that.
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Keith Selmes
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Re: Problem with using Opensim for education

Post by Keith Selmes » Tue Feb 25, 2014 6:55 pm

Someone at my school suggested setting up a virtual reality lab with adequate computers. I pointed out that that defeats the whole purpose of using virtual reality at all --- having students sit side by side and going inworld
A lab won't work for the snow day, but for education generally, I could think of several methods that should work in the lab, and I probably could find some evidence to that effect. In addition, before trying off site use, I would suggest an initial on site introductory session in a lab with suitable computers would be highly desirable, if that were possible. For a snow day, there are 2d teaching and conferencing systems of course.
a gaming rig capable of running any OpenSim viewer
Just to clarify, you don't really need an actual gaming rig. True, many desktop and laptop computers can't handle a standard viewer, or they need horribly low res graphic settings. However I have been able to run OpenSim on computers which would now be 6 years old and had very poor 3D performance. My usual "mobile" (sort of) OpenSim device is an old laptop, again about 6 years old. However it does have an Nvidia chipset. That's why I bought it. So whilst many computers will be difficult, It doesn't actually take a gaming computer, or anything near what a gamer would expect. It does need a person to be thinking "3D graphics" when they decide what to buy, and hardly anyone does.

Having said all that, distance learning, tutorials and meetings were partly what hooked me in to VW, and this general problem of not knowing whether a home PC will be suitable is a killer. I even established that the firewall was not a problem for our users. If the server was on our intranet, anyone with an account could VPN in securely. But the computers aren't built for this. There's no demand. And as long people can't run the viewers, there won't be. :evil:

A few days ago I tried some viewers on a several years old office PC I have, which ought to be fine, but barely can load a viewer. I'm sure I've seen SL running on an early model netbook, so I have a small personal challenge now to see of I can get that PC sorted out.
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Keith Selmes
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Re: Problem with using Opensim for education

Post by Keith Selmes » Tue Feb 25, 2014 8:15 pm

Quick update, that old PC I mentioned that won't run viewers, is working now with CoolVl.
Not great but running, either in a Kitely 2x2 megaregion, or on a single local region.
Thumbs up for CoolVl.

A couple of thoughts occurred whilst doing this.

1) All the viewers give me the standard message that my hardware is no good, and am I sure I want to continue.
A lot of people would give up at that point, but it often is possible to get some graphic settings that will work for you.
It's a point emphasised by a presenter at one of the VWBPE conferences in SL.
He gave his students a tutorial session showing how to do this, before they tried from home.

2) I'm using much more content heavy worlds than I used to do.
When testing similar computers for university use, I would have a single region lightly loaded and designed not to have any far reaching views.
i.e. no huge image files, few scripts, and short viewing distances.
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Re: Problem with using Opensim for education

Post by onyxty delta » Tue Feb 25, 2014 9:26 pm

I have a region setup in Kitley for one of my online classes at teach for a university. Out of generally 35 students per session, I might have 1 or 2 (4 was my max) join me in my VW. The funny thing to me is the first week when everybody is introducing themselves, 90%+ claim they're into gaming. Yet, nobody joins me. I realize for some it's schedule conflict, but ultimately I think many are using mobile devices and would prefer a solution that caters to such a platform.

My "live sessions" are not required for my students either, so that is likely another reason so few attend.
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Re: Problem with using Opensim for education

Post by Graham Mills » Tue Feb 25, 2014 10:34 pm

I don't teach online much, mostly f2f in computer centres, so it's hard for me to comment. However, I would have to ask what the "added value" of your online component might be compared to, say, whatever (asynchronous?) mobile platform you are using. My experience is that people will understandably gravitate towards the simplest, most convenient solution unless there's a good reason not to.

I came across this analysis of educational use of virtual worlds via a discussion on the SLED list: http://blogs.nvcc.edu/gperrier/2014/01/ ... ctivities/ -- I thought it worth sharing. It says that only 3% of their students appreciated the game-like aspects of SL which may equate with your own experience. I have to say that most educational activities I have seen in virtual worlds give little of the positive feedback normally associated with gaming (again, I'm not a gamer so YMMV).
Doc Phair wrote:I have a region setup in Kitley for one of my online classes at teach for a university. Out of generally 35 students per session, I might have 1 or 2 (4 was my max) join me in my VW. The funny thing to me is the first week when everybody is introducing themselves, 90%+ claim they're into gaming. Yet, nobody joins me. I realize for some it's schedule conflict, but ultimately I think many are using mobile devices and would prefer a solution that caters to such a platform.

My "live sessions" are not required for my students either, so that is likely another reason so few attend.
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Keith Selmes
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Re: Problem with using Opensim for education

Post by Keith Selmes » Tue Feb 25, 2014 11:44 pm

90%+ claim they're into gaming
Possibly depends what is meant by gaming. A lot of games are on mobile devices, and a lot are on specialised game consoles, and either of those two can be the primary internet device.
using mobile devices and would prefer a solution that caters to such a platform.
That's the trend alright. Twitter for example, the course code being used as hashtag for posting relevant items for students. We were able to set up live Twitter feeds to the course web pages as well, using the hashtag.
You can use it anywhere anytime, I think that's the popularity, and there's a sense of immediacy and personal connection.
Example #FHECPU https://twitter.com/search?q=%23FHECPU&src=hash

I think mainly of using VW where nothing else is feasible, and it fills the need, solves the problem.
There needs to be a motivation.
There was a drama course that had trouble getting all the RL space they needed for their students, so they tried booking in SL instead. I think it was nearly as difficult to sort out the admin, but it worked. http://blog.jasontruscott.co.uk/2009/02 ... -life.html
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