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Monday, August 17, 2015


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Edu Bob

Hamlet take a very good look at this video:

It is not that Second Life is not suitable to teach. It is Linden Lab who (how to put this gently?) screwed over the educators by pulling their special discounts on tier fees in the middle of their academic year.

When you do that you anger people, and angry people will not be willing to pay you anymore. So teachers packed up and went to opensim. Not because of the money but because they got fleeced by Linden Lab like everybody is getting fleeced by Linden Lab. It is commonly known knowledge Linden runs a scam on many levels.

I do think Second Life is a very decent tool to teach classes, use for prototyping and collaboration. The youtube video posted above clearly demonstrates this.

Linden Lab has been laughing for many years, these days they are feeling how the money drains away from their business. Instead of a Snowcrash effect it is a snowball effect.

Nobody accepts when you take advantage of them, your reputation is damaged forever if you do that. The geniuses in charge at Linden Lab might figure that out one day when standing on the street with a cardboard box in their hand.


Correction: I am NOT paid by Linden Lab to promote Second Life. Linden Lab has the right to use my documentaries that highlight individuals who thrive in SL for marketing purposes.

We have a sponsorship agreement that reflects that and also contains a provision whereby I have complete freedom to choose subject matters as well as a "final cut" assurance which they have honored since we started this in mid 2014.

To spell it out: I decide who I profile and how! Yes, I am biased: I am an advocate but not so much for Linden Lab but for living a creative life!

Thank you for explaining why education failed though...always good to be "educated" on the subject in a balanced and objective manner!

zz bottom

Lol Drax:)
Still i concur with Edu Bob.
LL lack of trust on the past made more damage then any. And open sim took its place.


The education/nonprofit venture that I was involved with in SL died when the rates doubled. It was the excuse, but I don't think it was the problem.

The problems, with my organization, were complicated. Like Linden Lab, my nonprofit wanted SL to give back to them without having to invest in the experience of actually being "in" SL. Everyone had to answer to a network of disconnected directors and managers who thought SL was a silly waste of time. I happened to think that "time" was a very important investment to a successful SL operation.

They also refused to use Lindens as currency. They were always scared of conflicting with their real life nonprofit status. They were scared of the way people dressed and acted in SL. They were scared of everything. And when you could rarely coax a director into SL to show them the operation... they were completely powerless and totally out of their element. Bosses generally don't respond well to that feeling.

I envisioned a living, breathing interactive environment with one-on-one communication, housing, events, and merchandising. They just wanted to throw money at the project and stay as far away as possible from the freaky little toons called residents.

When the people who run the show don't want to be there, nobody else will want to be there either.

Cube Republic

I was involved in building a medical simulator for a well known nursing academy back in the day. It's still there, ironically abandoned with all the remaining prims taken up with a sky build from some strangers. We made a fantastic ward simulation. The only problem was it was so complicated for a none users to initially use. The whole thing (attach a hud, how to move, right click to teleport etc) had to be explained at great length and was very confusing for nooby students.

That being said, I can see how something like this could be useful in cementing knowledge, especially if it's fun and memorable. I just don't think the technology was completely ready at the time and fit for purpose.

Curious George

All that, and then some. Aside from LL making every possible mistake (chasing away the content creators, firing their best and the brightest staff, screwing their customers, never improving their product, etc, etc.), I think that there were a few more reasons:

- There wasn't enough other interesting stuff for the students and the instructors to do in SL, not enough to justify the steep learning curve.

- Poorly designed client software that required a relatively high end machine, which many students (and many instructors as well) could not afford.

- Crappy graphics that was already way behind from what the gaming industry was providing to the digital natives.

- A HUGE resistance by the older generation of colleagues and administrators that never understood the potential and never wanted to try.

Having said all that, I do believe that there was, is, and will be a huge potential for education in all forms of VR, but it will not involve SL, OpenSim, or anything else that LL does. We don't know yet who will be the dominant players, and the technology is changing rapidly.

For example, immersive VR solves the problem of a social interaction component of learning, which is one of the big issues with MOOCs. I experimented with having office hours in SL for a MOOC I was teaching, and the handful of students who attended loved it, but the remaining 99.9% could not be bothered to try, and I don't blame them.

So, the punchline:

- SL was a premature, inadequate, badly managed, and now hopelessly obsolete platform to be really effective in education (or anything else, for that matter), and the adequate successor has not yet emerged.

- The world was not ready for it, but it will be soon.

That my 0.02 L$ worth.


We use SL at our University to simulate post-event investigations, such as an aircraft accident scene investigation, and under early development is a fire investigation of a burned down building for safety science (it's too dangerous to walk through a real life burned building with a class of 20+ students in tow). We also use it to simulate a CDC style investigation into a disease outbreak in a small rural town. Yet another class uses SL to simulate age-related vision and mobility loss. We have had modest success using SL once we adopted the concept of recreating events that are too dangerous or too expensive to do in the real world.

virtual observer

Non profits still exist in SL but it is summer and this may have affected seeing any users. But lets face it, 295 or even 195 is still too much for most universities to afford to have sims in SL. Why pay this when they can go to Kitely, Inworldz, or host their own grid via Open sim? SL has much to do to win these people back into the fold.


I do have to say: despite many friends telling me NOT to read this blog for all the right reasons I can't help but check back every once in a while to see the SAME people posting their SAME 20/20 hindsight analysis of past actions [primarily at LL and at LEAST 5 years in the past] instead of [or perhaps at least as an added context type thingie] look at the present and acknowledge the facts that are happening on the ground in SL TODAY!

I can't help but wonder what drives folks to be so incredibly consistent with their postings? Where does the energy come from to try to tell the world that something has miserably failed, something that one has MOVED on from YEARS ago, something that is so worthless that....WAIT A MINUTE = so worthless and meaningless that YOU ARE POSTING ABOUT IT EVERY OTHER WEEK?

Mmmmhhhhhhhh........please explain to me: is it bitterness? Is it frustration that others are successful and having a good time aka envy?

What is it?


I happened to be in the team to decide whether Second Life could be a useful tool in training and education of the staff of one of Germany’s largest nonprofit organizations in disaster management and prevention. The given task was to evaluate scenarios where parts of courses or full classroom settings would be delivered via virtual reality.
The parameters were:
- course duration between 8 and 120 hours
- approximately 500 courses per year
- 15 to 20 participants per course

Here’s some of the aspects we considered in our decision:

+ ROI was actually the easiest factor. At the time of decision yearly travel costs were around 750,000 Euro, the costs for room and board around 600,000 Euro. A lot of other factors had to be considered but as a result, even if only 10 percent of the courses could be delivered online it would significantly lower overall costs.

- The user interface isn't and never has been intuitive. Especially for the short courses the compliance rate associated with learning the software would sink to unbearable. Even with the long courses, teaching users how to walk, dress and adjust the body shape and so on seemed to take way too much time in relation to the duration of the course.

- As a educational provider we need control over where students can go when and what they experience. Clicking on a link and all of a sudden the student is who-knows-where would not work for us - not to mention all the explicit content available.

- The viewer is not compatible with other media used in traditional classroom settings. Yes, for some issues there are workarounds - but to deliver quality education and good service, our educators needed plug-and-play, not “Media on a prim”.

- There is no support available. Even with the Concierge-Level-Support, as a German company, we expect people to speak our language if they want to provide a service to us. We also took a look at the viewer translation in German and it failed basic quality standards.

There were a lot of pluses on the pedagogical side but under no circumstances were they able to overrule all the issues mentioned.

Ahum hum


Maybe the ones who paid Linden Lab 1675 US$ for one sim or several sims had to work for a long time to pay for that. Maybe those educators and schools had to go to special meetings to convince the institution it was well worth to make investment into Second Life at that time. Maybe those educators spent their free time and vacations to build those sims instead of relaxing on the beach during the summer.

So maybe they are still extremely pissed off about the actions of Linden Lab towards them.

And at THIS VERY MOMENT Draxtor "Potato Resident" gets billed 195 US$ for their sim while "Carrot Resident" pays 295 US$ for the very same sim on the very same server.

Comments are relevant, you should make a video about the huge fraud that goes on that people keep "endless bitching" about. I doubt Linden Lab would still sponsor you after that.

When I look at the GROUND on the Mainland it looks rather empty, so there is certainly plenty to talk about.

Do not forget Draxtor that Linden Lab did ask people to come and "Invest" in their virtual world. Linden Lab wanted people to come and "Buy Land" and build "Businesses" and once people did that and bought in Linden Lab did everything they could to devalue people their investments trying to squeeze as much money for themselves as they could.

Seems like a legit enough reason to keep bitching doesn't it? You can be sure people will still be talking in 10 years from now as they are mad enough about it.


Hamlet, I tend to agree with each point in your diagnosis, and when I still blogged about SL, those were also my reasons for the platform's failure in EDU.

One thing you did not mention: the fading support for SL by campus technologists, who moved quickly to the "next shiny," mobile. At one point our educational tech folks all had avatars. No more.

Faculty would have adopted "optimal uses of SL as a 3D creation platform, as a teaching tool for architecture, filmmaking, fashion design/prototyping, and so on" had one not needed to be a programmer to script items with LSL. It's no better in OpenSim, save that costs are lower: one must be a coder AND run a server or find someone to run it!

Scratch 4SL was a really promising venture for non-coders like me, but it was never completed. It let me make 3D objects do things interesting in our builds. But it was only a start.

I've moved on as well, for all the reasons listed. October 2010, when LL ended the discount, was the coffin nail for many colleagues. They did not come back when the discount returned. One teeth-kicking was enough.

The same folks who were the biggest utopians about SL in education now trumpet Occulus and VR in various venues, including SL-based meetings.

Yeah, right. Good luck with support and content creation. I'm done with all that.


Lolz... as someone who's had a run in with the LL legal dept over a wiki, and was one of the very early group of educators who got grumpy with Linden Lab and went off to explore OpenSim, it's kinda amusing to be called out as biased! ;)

All of the criticism you have noted is totally relevant Hamlet, and I agree there are lots of challenges for educators trying to use SL. And yes LL made some HORROR mistakes in how they engage with and support the educational community in SL, and many of us will never really trust them ever again. HOWEVER, I commented on that article because it is frustrating to see dismissive, lazy journalism around virtual worlds education.

I think one of the things to consider is that some educators have learnt alot about the use of virtual worlds in education over the last 10 years or so, and the 'let's build a big fancy campus' approach is disappearing because it isnt the most effective way to create learning experiences for students, nor is it cost effective. Instead, I see savvy educators working on shared spaces like ISTE on EduIslands, or renting smaller areas of land for a specific period of time (eg. for the semester). The idea that we need to replicate real world learning spaces in a virtual world is questionable from a pedagogical and an engagement perspective, and its a good thing that we're slowly moving on from that approach. BUT, the disappearance or 'ghost town' status of those campuses doesnt negate fantastic work still being done by talented educators in Second Life, and a quick google and a scan thru the VWBPE presentations video archive demonstrates that SL is still being used effectively. The early days hype of SLeducation has faded (for lots of good reasons), but there's still plenty of great stuff that deserves recognition. ... and I still say dude needs to do some research. ;)

David Richardson

I'm just about to start the 16th semester in a row of teaching English in Second Life at a Swedish university. One reason why I think it works for us is that our Second Life courses function administratively in exactly the same way as all our other courses and they work to the same budget as the other courses. Another factor is that the courses have been designed specifically around the features of Second Life, so that it feels 'natural' to work that way.

Sweden is also very advanced when it comes to online education and the use of ICT, so there's a well-developed set of concepts about what online education is among potential students and technical issues are kept to the minimum.

The island we use most of the time was paid for by a Norwegian government grant. I'm not sure what the basis for the use of the island is now, but it still seems to be working and the Norwegians are very happy about it. It's an island that's open for European universities to use and we've had all sorts of courses running there (one of the weirdest was technical Chinese for electrical engineers …).

Shockwave Yareach

It is very simple, and is also the reasons that business left SL earlier.

Nobody does business with a company they cannot trust. And since the lab went out of its way to screw over the businesses (the whole homestead mess as one example) and the schools (unilaterally changing contract terms in the middle of a contract period) they are now learning that trust is the life blood of business. If the trust is destroyed, money becomes irrelevant because you won't have customers. And a lost customer rarely returns to do business with you again. Moreover, word spreads about crooked companies, and companies who would consider a SL experiment don't even bother.

This is without getting into the fact that a whole sim is barely able to support a 50 person class to begin with.

LL turned on its own people, it's own product, and its customers. Who in their right mind would choose to do business with a ADHD crippled and ethically weak company like Linden Labs?


"This is without getting into the fact that a whole sim is barely able to support a 50 person class to begin with."

That is why we concentrate on asynchronous activities within SL - a 25 student class will, at it's peak, have 5 student avatars inworld at any given time.

zz bottom

I start to have the feeling that despite all, SL has a good chance of grabbing users yet, all over the world but usa.
As i said lots of times, linden Lab should not be an american company.


Shockwave brings up some good points.

I love the SL product, but I detest the company that runs it. Linden Lab has incredible product loyalty, but there's only handful of people who are truly loyal to the company and it's mostly a self-serving type of loyalty.

The future will be interesting with all of the new development happening out there. I just can't see how Linden Lab has any competitive advantage on the present course they are taking. They've plowed over thousands of people in the past while they always seem to be chasing fool's gold.

If they would only cultivate what they have now... it would grow. But we all know in our hearts what is inevitable... they will destroy everything. They always do.

Graham Mills

I'm a bit late to the game here but where is the peer-reviewed publication showing that Minecraft has "far more impressive pedagogical results than Second Life"? The literature on SL is mixed but there is at least a 2014 (paywalled) meta-analysis co-authored by Dr Keeney-Kennicutt in Computer & Education that showed virtual worlds (as well as games and simulations) were "effective in improving learning outcome gains". AFAIK very little has yet been published regarding Minecraft but it's early, I know.

I appreciate that doesn't translate directly into ROI but while I'm cheer-leading let's note that virtual worlds are now on Gartner's Slope of Enlightenment, that the US military continues to invest in OpenSim development and that NASA uses it for outreach.

It's probably also worth mentioning from a prototyping/training perspective that Pharmatopia consortium (now part of PharmAcademy) started in SL and migrated to Unity as did the UK OU with their award-winning field trip. I don't think one should see that as negative but as successful examples of one possible evolutionary pathway.

Also, is Berkman the Harvard sim you cite? If so, it's still on the grid though I've no idea what it's used for (I'm in OpenSim these days).

Graham Mills

Oops, I should clarify that the OU had extensive experience of SL, not that they prototyped their field-trip there.

CronoCloud Creeggan

I'm of the opinion that LL should never have offered a discount to universities in the first place. I consider universities to be "for profit" institutions even if some claim NFP status. Why should everyone else subsidize universities bringing in students for Web 3.0 classes who PAY for those classes. Why should everyone else subsidize universities in SL when said universities didn't give back to SL residents by doing things FOR SL residents.

At least IBM had their sandboxes. What did universities have? A few professors getting a sim and basically using it as a personal sandbox for themselves and their grad students while justifying it to admin as a "distance learning" experiment or something?

Graham Mills

You're entitled to your opinion. At the time the presence of educational institutions may have had a halo effect. Anyway, I think the main grievance is that the Lab removed the discount after budgets had been set.

More generally, my university employed an SL-based contractor and bought educational and generic content from inworld stores. I call that participating in the SL economy.


Graham is correct. The removal of the discount in the middle of a budgeting cycle is pretty much unheard-of in higher education. No software provider in my 20+ years in higher education has done that. Ever.

Those with grants were kicked in the teeth. They could not go back to a granting agency and ask for more, nor could many of those using university budgets.

It's less the fairness of a discount--SL was too high for everyone--than the way in which it was taken away. It shows that the lab did not understand how those "halo" customers budget. It did not help that on "the Day of the Long Knives" they fired all their employees who did work with education.

Many of us will never trust LL again, as a result. What can you say about a company that whipsaws policy, while slowly losing customers, and changes direction with every CEO from utopian surfer-man to business dude to gamer-god to...?

The answer is "not much good."


It's telling that the only positive educational comment comes from Sweden.

Why? Because countries like Sweden value education culturally. They don't mind "experimenting" with things like SL because money is there.

America? As a culture, America can give a rat's ass about education and that sentiment runs through all industries. Therefore, the complete stupidity of LL is just one small symptom of a larger problem that educators have to deal with.

Eventually, the country will produce folks just too stupid to turn on a computer.

virtual observer

Well another issue is the disparity in discounts, some nonprofits can get a discount, example is that Relay For Life only pays 3,000 lindens per sim per day for leasing sims, now this is a charity and they do a great job, but what about other charities and non profits, like universities? And for the record I bet the lab will not even comment about this special discount to Relay For Life.

Wagner James Au

"As a culture, America can give a rat's ass about education"

A somewhat arguable point for elementary and high school levels, but this post is talking about US universities and colleges, which dominate the world rankings, including Harvard and Princeton, which are ranked #1 and #4 (last time I checked).

"virtual worlds are now on Gartner's Slope of Enlightenment, that the US military continues to invest in OpenSim development and that NASA uses it for outreach."

Virtual *reality* is on the Slope, but that's different from virtual worlds, and ROI for NASA's usage is pretty low. (Go visit NASA's SL sim and count the visitors if you don't believe me.) As for the US military, as any US taxpayer can tell you, they end up spending a lot of money on a lot of projects that go nowhere. Or to paraphrase Thomas Barnett, explain a complicated technology to a Congressperson, and their eyes glaze over and they ask, "Can you build it in my district?"

Graham Mills

@hamlet: sources: https://www.gartner.com/doc/3090218/hype-cycle-education- and https://opensource.com/life/15/7/open-source-us-air-force-vr-labs

Graham Mills

Just to close the loop, the original post now has a comment to the effect that at least two of the "abandoned" regions are in use but not, as expected, in August.

I'm bound to say that I used to close my region when I was using it for teaching to avoid interlopers -- another reason why a region being used might appear abandoned.


Next week: Fusion reports on the sad state of primary school education after visiting classrooms at midnight.



jejejejjee (:

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