Category Archives: Virtual Worlds


British University to Accept Bitcoin as Payment for Some Courses

The University of Cumbria, a seven-year-old institution in Britain, said on Tuesday it would accept Bitcoin as payment for some courses, the latest in a growing list of companies and organizations around the world that use the virtual currency.

The move is an exercise in learning by doing, university officials said in a written statement. Bitcoin, a decentralized currency exchanged on the Internet without an intermediary such as a bank or broker, will be accepted for two certificate program…


Web-Hosting Project Hopes to Help Students Reclaim Digital Destinies

Jim Groom and Tim Owens believe that college students are not being adequately prepared to be good “digital citizens” of the 21st century. Partly to blame, they say, is the prebuilt and prepackaged software that many use to create digital identities or to curate their interests online. Services like Facebook and Tumblr do not allow for online experimentation or for a true understanding of how the Web works, they argue.

Mr. Groom, director of teaching and learning technologies at the University o…


Professor Says He Was Assaulted Over Wearable Computer Glasses

A Canadian professor says he was attacked at a McDonald’s restaurant in Paris for taking pictures with his “digital eyeglasses.”

Steve Mann, who is in the department of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Toronto, has worn the aluminum-and-glass contraption, which he designed, since the 1980s. It’s similar to Google’s Project Glass, which the company recently introduced. Like the eyeglasses created by Google, Mr. Mann’s can record everything he sees. But Mr. Mann says his de…


Department of Energy Creates Online-Learning Platform for Technical Training

Image from NTER Learning

Washington—The U.S. Department of Energy today unveiled a new open-source online-learning platform designed to facilitate technical training.

The platform, called the National Training and Education Resource, or NTER, is already being used at Duke University Medical School and 17 Illinois community colleges, said John Shockley, senior project manager at SRI International, the company that developed the platform. Developers are also collaborating with the University of Mi…


Interactive Map Traces Slaves’ Path to Emancipation

Image from Visualizing Emancipation

Edward L. Ayers, a historian and president of the University of Richmond, calls the emancipation of slaves during the Civil War “the least-understood social transformation in American history.” A new interactive map he helped build shows that emancipation didn’t occur in one moment, he says, but was “an unfolding,” happening from the very first years of the war to the very last. And, he adds, it happened because of African-Americans, not merely for them, or to…


U.S. Air Force Academy Recruits Cadets With a Dose of Virtual Reality

Prospective students can take an animated 3-D tour of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado as avatars that run, jump, and salute in a virtual online world.

A new virtual campus built by the U.S. Air Force Academy lets students take tours online and gives administrators greater control over those visits than previous virtual environments have.

It is one of a new generation of online virtual tours that attempts to replicate the look and feel of a video game, but without requiring special softwar…


QuickWire: New Low? Video Game Lets Users Mimic School Shooters

In the new video game School Shooter: North American Tour 2012, players are encouraged to kill unarmed students and teachers using the same weapons used in several actual school shootings, including the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech. The lead developer of School Shooter, which is based on another game called Half-Life 2, tells The Escapist that “we hope there will be a ‘preventive quality’ in the game, which will satisfy those with the idea to commit spree killings in their head enough to keep…


Online, People Learn Best from Virtual ‘Helpers’ That Resemble Them

Courtesy of Lori Foster Thompson

Turns out looks and personality still count in online learning.

That’s the finding of a study on how people’s perception and performance in online training is affected by the appearance and communication style of online learning “helpers,” or virtual agents that pop up on a screen and guide people through a program.

Some of the earliest uses of such programs have been with younger students. One program used an online helper named Herman to help students identify …


Microsoft Expands Web-Based Services for Its College E-Mail System

Here’s the latest in the battle over student in boxes: Microsoft announced today that it is expanding what it offers as part of its free e-mail service for colleges. The features it is adding resemble some of those included in Google’s Apps for Education service.

Microsoft’s new features, to be released during the second half of 2011, will include expanded document sharing, messaging, and conferencing capabilities, says Cameron Evans, U.S. chief technology officer for Microsoft Education.



Academics Discuss Mass Migration From Second Life

Anaheim, Calif.—Officials at one discussion session here at the Educause conference yesterday spent an hour debating whether or not they should relocate their campuses—taking all the buildings, quads, and people and carefully moving them elsewhere.

The focus of the session was virtual worlds, and the academics were discussing whether to take their virtual campuses out of Second Life in protest, after the company that runs the online environment announced the end of a generous education discount.