Traditional buildings in Second Life – hassle to navigate

Starting to move around a bit more in Second Life and it hasn’t taken long to hate walls. Traditional buildings with a roof, walls, corridors and small doorways seem to be designed to make navigation a hassle.

The following is an example of a navigation experience this morning where as I walk around inside a building, then turnaround I am (or at least the perspective I have from behind my avatar is) suddenly flung out of the building. Somewhat disconcerting.


I would imagine a seasoned navigator within 3D worlds would take this as a given and work around it. But, at least to me, it raises the question of just how far you should go with re-creating the real-world in Second Life.

I’m sure this is not a new question but as we’re starting our journey into Second Life it is a question that needs to be asked. Already some folk are wanting to re-create physical campus buildings in Second Life. Is that the right thing to do?

This certainly seems to be a common trend amongst many other universities. CQU has some major differences with those other universities which makes this practice somewhat less sensible. These include

  • In 2007 we had over 15 different campuses at which students might be located.
  • The largest grouping of students in 2007 were distance education students (who rarely, if ever, come onto a campus) with 33% of the student population.
  • The largest campus in percentage terms was the Sydney campus with 19.4%. It is one of CQU’s international campuses and is based in a couple of CBD buildings in Sydney.
  • Rockhampton, the first CQU campus and the one at which CQU senior executive is housed, had 12% of the 2007 student population (Sydney 19.4%, Melbourne 13.4% then Rockhampton).
  • The institution has only existed for about 40 years and has only been a full university since the early 1990s (see CQU history).
  • At least from my perspective, none of the buildings are all that memorable or noteworthy.

If we were to re-create some real CQU buildings in Second Life. Which building would we choose? From which campus?

Walls are needed in real life to keep the weather out, the roof up and provide some privacy. the first two of those reasons probably don’t exist in Second Life. Does the third? Do we need to retain walls for privacy? Are there alternate Second Life means to provide privacy?

Retaining a semblance of reality in Second Life can, theoretically, help folk feel familiar and more comfortable. But I wonder if the hassles of navigating within real life buildings in Second Life overwhelms that benefit.

I wonder if you could instead, create spaces that small indicators of real life but don’t go the whole hog. For example, have a meeting space within a small forest clearing that includes a few logs to sit on, a whiteboard and a few other artifacts from a class room. The artifacts provide the familiarity but the open space makes it easy to get around.

3 thoughts on “Traditional buildings in Second Life – hassle to navigate

  1. Dr Kenneth Strang

    To share info, there are some interesting applications developed which compare with SL.

    Some educators have suggested the “2D” aspect of online virtual teaching (eLearning) can be most effective. Proponents of this approach (such as myself), recommend products such as Adobe Acrobat Connect and ElluminateLive. Here is one of many online presentations about this Elluminate product, that is given using that product –

    An interesting contemporary trend is the “3D” Second Life (SL) approach. Advocates of this technology suggest the life-like interaction improves the learning experience. A very interesting and powerful alternative to Second Life is CROQUET – a commercial product called “QUAK” has been developed which is similar to SL. Here is a neat presentation that discussed QUAK and the extensions that allow more intereaction (including integration to ElluminateLive and other 2D as well as 3D spaces):

    I would appreciate feedback on above.


  2. G’day Ken,

    Thanks for the comment.

    I’m a great fan of the concept of a “wicked problem” ( as applied to learning and teaching, especially when technology is involved. And as can be seen in other posts in my blog I have an on-going interest in how complexity theory might help inform what we do.

    That’s a round about way of saying that I don’t think there is a universally unique solution the suits every learning situation or even every course at CQU, or even course within a particular program. And I certainly do not have the unique answer.

    I’m just trying some things, sharing my thoughts and experiences.

    My experience (as a participant) with products like ElluminateLive have not been all that great so that probably biases me against them. I’m not a fan of most synchronous teaching methods as I prefer time to reflect and consider. Another bias on my part.

    In addition, my teaching experience has been predominantly in courses with large cohorts of distance education students for whom synchronous communication approaches are not all that appropriate. Again something that probably colours my bias. As does the fact that synchronous sessions at CQU are either done face-to-face or using existing institutional infrastructure.

    So within the CQU context, I’ve yet to see a huge need for such products. Which is very different from saying that there isn’t a need. I’ve just not seen it.

    I’m aware of Croquet and have played around with it. It’s underlying technology appears to be much more powerful but it is also somewhat less friendly than Second Life, at least initially.

    Certainly it’s much easier to get on, experience Second Life and visit a lot of different, cool applications than it is with Croquet.

    Second Life’s major advantage is numbers. I don’t have figures, but it is my belief, that Second Life has many more members and companies building and using it. There are tools and approaches that can re-create the Elluminate like functionality within Second Life.

    Second Life also has more people sharing their knowledge, experience and outcomes. Especially other university academics. For educators gettings started in a new environment this cannot be under-estimated. Second Life lets academics get “in world” easily, see lots of other folk doing interesting stuff, learn from them and start creating things themselves.

    This is not something that’s possible with other similar 3D technologies.

    While a major use of Second Life is sychronous communication. It can also be used for an awful lot more than that. It and other 3D platforms allow a great range of applications than Elluminate does.

    Some examples, and there are many more,


  3. kstrang

    I’m only about 3 years late in my reply. Nonetheless I would agree with David’s ideology to continue exploring with next-generation e-learning tools. Being a multidisciplinary professor – (I teach diverse subjects such Human Resource Management, Quantitative Analysis Models, Business Strategy, Advanced Statistics, Marketing Consumer Behavior, Multicultural Organizational Leadership) – I sincerely advocate the concept of allowing students to animate themselves as a mode of communicating (if it helps their learning). Also, 3D type of products should appease the active and visual learning styles (from my research typically 80% of students prefer visual over textual learning input dimensions). Good ideas and keep the ideas going!

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