In my last post, I focused on the in-world features of an educator-built virtual world. Next week we'll debate that as well as this second big aspect of design: technical requirements. My suggestions for a virtual world that would please students and not hurt faculty evaluations:
- Laptop + Wireless: Desktops are as dead in dorms here as are land-line phones. If an application cannot at least run on a laptop untethered from any cables (power cables too: students travel light) the application may as well not exist. Students will seek out a desktop work station for projects requiring high-end apps, but the don't and won't own such. Try requiring students to visit a lab a few hours weekly, outside of class, to log into a virtual world many would find "creepy" anyhow. I'm glad I'm not you when evaluations are given.
- Fast, Easy Start: the world must be drop-dead easy to install. No tweaking the viewer, no need to upgrade video cards. It must work right away to retain the attention of students and protect the course evaluations of their faculty.
- Cross Platform: The Mac OS has jumped on my campus from 5% in the mid 90s to at least 40% two years ago. I now hear, but don't quite believe, it's at 70%. Clearly, any virtual world for students in higher education must work on a variety of operating systems and types of hardware, thus:
- Browser Based: Cloud Party's use of WebGL as its basis trumps Second Life, which in its current form is nigh impossible to run in a browser. Making the world browser-friendly eases the leap to tablet computing, if this part of the market does replace the laptop for many users.