Abstract – The increased demand for the use of virtual worlds in higher education has led many educators and researchers in in-depth analysis and evaluation of a number of different virtual environments, aiming to highlight their potentials. Until recently, Second Life was one of the most widely used virtual worlds for educational purposes. However, the decision of Linden Lab to stop offering the educational discount, the rumours around its future and the emergence of a novel technology called OpenSim challenged institutions’ decisions to keep using Second Life. In a try to identify the way institutions make their decision to use a virtual world, 34 interviews have been conducted with university educators. The results of this study reveal that both the cost and the persistence of a virtual world play an important role on this decision. However, there are still some unique benefits offered by each world affecting to a great extent the educators’ decision. We conclude the paper by advocating the use of a cross-institutional hypergrid.
Christopoulos, A., Conrad, M. (2014). “Investing in Ephemeral Virtual Worlds: An Educational Perspective”. In: 6th International Conference on Computer Supported Education (CSEDU 2014). 1-3 April, 2014,Barcelona, Spain.
Abstract – Educational activities previously performed in Second Life are now more and more move moving to other alternatives. This study concentrates on the features of Second Life and its open-source alternative, OpenSim that affect the results of the in-world educational activities. The need for educators to take these features into account is another focus of this study which also aims to highlight the similarities and differences between the contexts of Second Life and OpenSim worlds, whether internally or externally hosted, as well as their potentials and weaknesses. The findings suggest that each one of these alternatives gathers different positive and negative features and their suitability greatly depends on the academics’ educational needs.
Christopoulos, A. & Conrad, M. (2013). “Maintaining Context in a Changing (Virtual) World – Educators’ Perspectives for OpenSim and Second Life”. To appear in: 5th International Conference on Computer Supported Education (CSEDU 2013). 6-8 May, 2013, Aachen, Germany.
Abstract – Whilst until recently Second Life was the most popular and widely used virtual world, the OpenSimulator (OpenSim), a new technology for the implementation of virtual worlds, has the potential to replace Second Life, given its similarity with the underlying technology. In this study we investigate and compare the immersion developed within Second Life and OpenSim based applications taking into account the different ways with which the OpenSim implementation is attained by the educators (hosted by the institution / externally). In doing so, 34 structured interviews have been conducted with university educators who expressed their opinion regarding the conditions under which immersion can be further enhanced. The results of this study demonstrate a clear trend and reveal that the orientation process, the educational activities that take place within the context of a virtual world, the technical issues that may downgrade them, the students themselves, and the network of interactions that occur in-world, affect the level of immersion encountered when used for educational purposes. Second Life meets these conditions best, but that does not mean that the OpenSim worlds are not or cannot become immersive and that they do not or cannot engage students with the educational activities.
Christopoulos, A., & Conrad, M. (2012). “Views of Educators on Immersion in Virtual Worlds from Second Life to OpenSim”. In: M Gardner, F Garnier & CD Kloos (eds), Proceedings of the 2nd European Immersive Education Summit: EiED 2012. E-iED, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Departamento de IngenierÃa TelemÃitica, Madrid, Spain, pp. 48-59, 2nd European Immersive Education Summit, Paris, France, 26-27 November, 2012.
Abstract — Previous attempts to quantify immersion have been pursued within the context of game virtual worlds where there is a clear outline of a goal. This paper seeks to investigate the problem of immersion measurement in an online based virtual world (ReactionGrid) where there is no distinct in-world goal and environmental context is less immersive as in a game environment. The experiment investigates participants’ feelings towards their immersion experience while being in a virtual world. Our findings suggest that immersion mostly depends on co-presence and communication of users.
Kanamgotov, A., Christopoulos, A., Conrad, M., Prakoonwit S. (2012). “Immersion in Virtual Worlds – but not Second Life!”. In: Proceedings of Cyberworlds 2012 International Conference. 25-27 September, 2012, Darmstadt, Germany.