Virtual World Environments (VWE) Working Group
In the Spring of 2008 a university-wide working group was convened to study the potential uses of Virtual World Environments (VWEs) in research and education at the University of Florida. Active participants came from nearly three-quarters of UF’s sixteen colleges and affiliated units. The group met three times over the course of the Spring semester at the Digital Worlds Institute’s Research, Education and Visualization Environment.
Each of the Academic Deans was asked to recommend one person from their College to serve as their representative on the VWE Working Group. Additionally, Directors from a number of UF entities that showed an early interest in these technologies were also invited to send a representative. College representatives were given demonstrations of two existing VWE technologies: Linden Labs’ Second Life (SL) and Forterra Systems’ On-Line Interactive Virtual Environment (OLIVE).
Many of the participants were not familiar with both of these VWEs, so both were demonstrated to afford all participants an equal opportunity to evaluate aspects of the various platforms. The participants were asked to speak with their colleagues across the departments of their respective colleges to ascertain levels of potential interest in the use of VWEs in their programs.
The initial reports of each of these representatives has been gathered and formatted herein. All of the images were captured from the two existing Second Life islands (referred to as the "UF Islands") constructed and currently maintained by the Digital Worlds Institute.
Additionally, the Spring 2008 section of the Interdisciplinary Research Seminar was asked to provide feedback on the use of VWEs from the student perspective. This diverse class consisted of nearly three dozen graduate students from across the UF campus, and a brief overview of their work and final projects for the semester is included herein. While we are at a relatively nascent stage in the awareness, acceptance and application of VWEs, numerous federal agencies, international corporations and universities are already exploiting the potential of this emergent suite of technologies.
The fact that so many of UF’s diverse colleges and units sent representatives to substantively participate in this effort is encouraging, and bodes well for UF’s potential adoption and implementation of these early 21st century opportunities. As a result, the VWE Working Group moved forward with a Phase 2 in the 2008/09 academic year to further explore the potential for creative and collaborative use of these technologies at the University of Florida.