Blackboard is constantly experimenting with different educational technologies and methods in an effort to support education everywhere. For the past several years we have operated a small island in Second Life. This place called ANGEL Island has been used by over 100 teachers to deliver instruction and showcase the possibilities of teaching with virtual worlds. Karen Fritch an instructional designer at St. Petersburg Island, has helped us manage this island for the last several years, helping us with the construction and faculty support within the island. I’d like to thank her for tremendous efforts to build a compelling and interesting virtual space.
Since we launched ANGEL Island the “meta-verse” of virtual worlds has changed tremendously. New devices like XBOX Connect are changing how we interact with virtual spaces. Enhanced graphics and bandwidth are also making the worlds richer and more expressive. At the same time we’ve observed that Second Life usage has not kept pace and that efforts to use Virtual Worlds in education are shifting.
Maintaining this Island requires ongoing commitments of staff time and funding. After many conversations with users and colleagues we’ve reached the decision to end this commitment and redirect our energies to other initiatives. As a result while our evaluation of virtual worlds in education continues, we are going to say farewell to ANGEL Island for the time being. We will be closing our Island at the end of July 2012. Karen has worked with current users to ensure their programs can wind down gracefully.
The technology of virtual worlds has continued to progress. The Department of Energy recently launched a new virtual world platform. Gaming engines that power virtual worlds continue to develop. We will continue to investigate partnerships and technologies that allow us to integrate these technologies into learning.