Survey: Slow erosion of educators from Second Life to OpenSim

In March, I asked educators on the SLED and EDUCAUSE Virtual Worlds lists to tell me how their ownership of land in virtual worlds compares to their holdings a year ago.

Here are the results.

Analysis: No Mass Exodus

I had expected a larger exodus from Second Life, but the survey design made it hard, without biasing its design, to factor in the two-year pricing Linden Lab offered nonprofits and educational institutions.

The two-year reduced tier may have swayed many colleagues with ongoing projects that are hard to transplant to stay in Second Life.

With 15.4 percent noting that they would own more land in Second Life, and 23.1 percent noting that they would own less, there’s hardly a mass migration out of Second Life to OpenSim or anywhere else. There may be a slow erosion of the user base among educators, but more data are needed for such a claim.

A difference of 8 percent between contraction and expansion might sound alarming to a company in other contexts. I could imagine executives losing sleep if their aggregate sales figures showed a similar change: more companies in the prior calendar year expanding their trucking fleets with more Chevy trucks than Fords, or more firms supplying their employees with Windows 7 rather than Blackberry smart phones.

For virtual-world users, however, the choices are not either-or: it is quite possible to rent server space from several providers to enable different projects. The survey respondents could, for example, have cut land holdings a little in SL, while renting server space for an OpenSim installation (or hosting it on campus). My own response would include “own less land in Second Life” (our campus presence has gone from a full island to my office, on a 512m mainland plot for which I pay no tier) and “own more land in non-SL grids” (I rent a sim in Jokaydia Grid).

With 27.9 percent noting more ownership of non-SL real estate than a had been the case a year ago, versus 1.9 percent saying less, educators are clearly trying other grids, perhaps as secondary experiments alongside work done in Second Life.

Faculty may simply be hedging their bets in case further changes from Linden Lab prove unsuitable to their needs, or they may be staking an early claim if OpenSim grids evolve in ways that make them match or exceed Second Life’s stability and quality of content.

One telling statistic: nearly a third of respondents pay out of pocket for their work in virtual worlds. That makes any further increases to tier difficult. For those paying the non-discounted tier in Second Life, it will be interesting to look again in a year, to see how many educators have changed their plans or stayed with Linden Lab’s grid.

Public knowledge of OpenSim has certainly grown; a year ago at the VWER meetings, we had to explain when OpenSim is. Now folks know, even if they have not spent much time on a non-SL grid. In time, more will travel, and their experiences with grids not quite as evolved as Second Life’s may influence future survey results.

Room for more data

A different survey might ask respondents if they pay more, less, or the same tier as a year ago, or the size of their Second Life and other holdings.

Moreover, another survey might break out the sorts of non-Second Life worlds that educators frequent. InWorldz, for instance, offers stability and the presence of many content creators; it is very different from smaller OpenSim grids with hypergrid access and mostly DIY content.

I hope, however, to administer the same survey a year from now. These numbers could be very different, and one survey cannot reveal a trend.

(This article first appeared on In a Strange Land and is reprinted with permission.)'

Joe Essid

Joe Essid directs the Writing Center at the University of Richmond, where he teaches courses in the departments of English as well as Rhetoric & Communication Studies. He holds a PhD in American Literature, with a specialization in the History of Technology, from Indiana University. As Ignatius, Joe can be found wandering Second Life or, as Iggy Strangeland, in Open Sim grids. He writes for Prim Perfect about grids beyond SL. He has published several articles about pedagogically effective ways to teach with technology in writing-intensive classrooms. He also publishes short work about gardening, history of technology, and sustainability. Ever a geek, Joe designs and plays old paper-and-dice roleplaying games. His at-times snarky blog, "In a Strange Land," combines these interests from Joe's perspective as neo-luddite who rides a bike, refuses to use a cell phone, works on a farm, yet thinks avatars provide an ecologically sustainable way of communicating and building immersive simulations.

10 Responses

  1. A Tool Seeks a Use Case vrs How to Pick a Virtual Platform

    Building CERN Style Grid Computing enabled cluster in the Amazon Cloud for Opensim Global Scaleability

    Second Life & Opensim Migration > Understanding Opportunity Costs in the context of Opensim Use Case Approach > Standalone, Cloud Computing & Global Server Scaleability

  2. The basic assumption in your question design was flawed and biased, namely Either/Or…
    Thus you suggest false conclusions…

    Your statistic results actually reflect a Mixed use case approach, namely using one AND using the other. Your question design missed asking about Mixed use cases explicitly.

  3. 27.9% own, or will own, more land on non-SL grids than they did a year ago…

    This statement still compounds too many options from a discretely designed

    statistical question. But anyway, a pointer to a handsome market share…

  4.' Joe Essid says:

    Perhaps it would help to explain that multiple responses were possible for respondents. That avoids the “either / or” you mention, Eurominuteman.

    Since respondents could state they had expanded holding in SL as well as outside it, why would the survey, as posed, reveal bias?

    The conclusion reflects that of 104 respondents, and whether or not that is representative merits further study. For this group, they expanded their work more outside SL than inside it.

    I’m not comfortable with Maria’s title for this article, btw. It was not the one I chose at my blog. It will take more data to see if a trend develops and an “erosion” is taking place–note how I said that in the text.

    Perhaps you could suggest better methodology for measuring usage. I’ve already noted that surveying the amount paid in tier paid in SL and to other grid-owners might provide a better indicator for how educators are investing time and money in virtual worlds.

  5. > Perhaps it would help to explain that multiple responses were possible for respondents.
    > That avoids the “either / or” you mention, Eurominuteman.

    That is again a false conclusion… Explicit mixed use case questions are the statistical requirement.
    You cannot fabricate implicit conclusions from raw data, whose question design have a suggestive background, and lead to preconceived results…

  6. 1. Education Outreach / Education Metrics > Role Gap

    Recently, I was told from two long-year participants of SL Teen that, in 6 years, the maximum number of concurrent users was 200 – ON A GOOD DAY…

    So no wonder TSL went down… that’s peanuts, and I don’t see how those Outreach Metrics are going to improve since 01-2011. Education Outreach and Outreach Metrics was never an issue for SL residents… on the contrary, the blame game was practiced to point to SL for lack of newbie entry.

    Well, in the open source domain Opensim, there is no proprietory firm to blame. The Grid Operator merely has the Utility Provider Role… Thus, the Opensim resident burdens the role for his Education Outreach and his Outreach Metrics results…

    So in reverse, this Role Gap in proprietory SL becomes evident in comparison with the open source domain Opensim.

    ERIC Database provides 7,524 hits for “Outreach”

    Check Immersive World Education Outreach in Facebook for more…

    2. Opensim Opportunity Costs > Use Case Approach > Standalone, Cloud Computing, Global Server Scaleability

    2.1 The next step is understanding the Opportunity Costs of an Either/Or and/or Mixed decision:

    Check Opportunity Costs in

    2.2 Next, since Aristotle, the Use Case approach (causa finalis) ranks higher than the Tool-Based approach (causa efficiens)

    2.2 Then relating those Opportunity Costs to a range of Use Cases and Technology Options, e.g.:

    – Second Life (land rate US$295 per month)
    – Opensim Standalone (free, e.g. for offline repository backup)
    – Opensim Cloud Computing (hourly rate per user)
    – Opensim Global Server Scaleability (land rate contingent to prim count/concurrent avatar metrics, server performance scaleability)

    I really don’t see grounds or diligent reasoning for any singularity or monopoly approach using SL…

    Mixed use case growth and innovation diffusion with technology adoption of Opensim is significantly under way.

  7. Next to proper statistical question discretion between (1) actual land assets and forecasted land assets, (2) mixed use cases, SL and Opensim, you would also need to encompass the options (3) full immersion, mixed reality, and augmented reality…

    iED Conference 2011-05-13 features full immersion, mixed (MXR) & augmented reality (AR) sessions

  8. How to design a statistical question

  9. Sobering Venture Capital Financial Analysis of Second Life

  10. iED Education Grid > Requirements Management