Best grids for educators

If you’re an educator considering taking advantage of Second Life’s newly-restored educator discount, but wondering about what else is out there, check out some of these OpenSim-based alternatives. You typically get much lower prices, more control and privacy and — best of all — ability to back up entire regions and user inventories.

JokaydiaGrid

JokaydiaGrid is one of the oldest and best-known of the education-focused commercial grids. It started out as a private grid hosted by ReactionGrid, a hosting company that used to be known for serving education customers before leaving the OpenSim hosting business last summer. Today, JokaydiaGrid is hosted by SimHost and supports a large number of projects for all grade levels.

The grid offers a variety of resources to educators and their students, including meeting areas, newbie resources, warm-up areas for playful orientation activities, as well as regular informal meetups for learning how to build and explore. Regions cost AU$25 a month, with a one-time AU$50 setup fee. The grid is hypergrid-enabled, allowing teleports to other grids.

“We also support various projects with premium support, training and content development when required,” grid founder Jo Kay told Hypergrid Business.

Educational institutions with a presence on JokaydiaGrid include Rockcliffe University which has a large campus of 12 regions. The North Coast Institute of TAFE is undertaking a virtual trade fair project with Virtual Enterprise Australia.  The Western Institute of TAFE is undertaking tourism and hospitality projects covering such topics as customer service, kitchen safety and resort management.

Arizona State University is using the grid for its CompuGirls project, which servers adolescent in grades 8 through 12 from under-resourced school districts in the Greater Phoenix area and in Colorado.

Marlboro College Graduate School is using OpenSim to explore various educational uses of virtual worlds. Landscape design students at the North Country School District use the grid to prototype and experiment with landscape design concepts. New Jersey’s Stockton College explored the history of medicine with the Medical Edinburgh project. Southern Cross University‘s Lisa Jacka is using JokaydiaGrid for her Virtual Worlds for Primary School project. And Protect Yourself 1, Inc.‘s Safe2Live social media marketing campaign used JokaydiaGrid to create an engaging platform for teaching youth about HIV prevention.

Animated Hebrew holds sessions in JokaydiaGrid to help people learn to read the Bible in Hebrew. Australia’s Illawarra Grammar School, New Jersey’s Elisabeth Morrow School, New Jersey’s Montclair State University and MyCreativeVision‘s Virtual College, which focuses on vocational education, are all on JokaydiaGrid. The Emerging Horizons Project explores the use of virtual worlds in counseling and community services education. El Salvador’s Academia Britanica Cuscatleca explores science and languages in virtual worlds for PreK-12 students.

Kitely

Kitely is becoming increasingly popular with educators because of its unique pricing model. Kitely regions run in the cloud and are shutdown when not in use, allowing the company to offer ridiculously low prices. All customers get one free region and two hours of use a month — six hours the first month. Additional time costs around 20 cents an hour on metered regions and additional regions are just $1 a month. Unmetered, all-you-can-eat regions start at $40 a month for up to 100,000 prims and 100 simultaneous avatars. A 16-region continent is just $100 a month for unlimited use.

Although a commercial grid, Kitely offers easy region uploads and downloads in the form of OAR files, with protected content automatically filtered out. The grid is about to launch its marketplace, and is expected to enable hypergrid connectivity to other grids soon as well. Content creators and merchants can already specify whether their products are allowed to leave the grid via exports and teleports. Kitely also offers a choice of access controls for region owners, easy avatar creation, and the absolutely most user-friendly interface of any OpenSim grid out there — Kitely will set up your avatar, your first region, your viewer and get you in-world automatically, with just a few clicks on your part.

MNPS Virtual School islands on Kitely. (Image courtesy Kitely Ltd.)

MNPS Virtual School islands on Kitely. (Image courtesy Kitely Ltd.)

Educational users include Tennessee’s online virtual school MNPS Virtual School and the Changchun American International School.  The U.K.’s Learn English Network runs the LEN Campus for ESL language learners and teachers and the Learn English Network Academy, which uses the Linda Kellie Freebie Mall free OAR as the starting point for shopping-based role playing activities. CHARE Village is a virtual coworking space for the Community HIV/AIDS Resource Exchange Project and its community partners, and showcases information, campaigns, and resources related to HIV/AIDS  education.

Students taking COM 563: Virtual Worlds at North Carolina’s Elon University used Kitely to recreate the second floor of Elon University’s Powell Building, home of the iMedia program. It can be visited at the Elon University iMedia Tour region.

And these are just the locations open to public visitors. Many schools, especially those with younger children, restrict access to their community members only, and their regions don’t show up in the Kitely directory of public worlds.

3DLES

3D Learning Experience Services is a company based in the Netherlands that specializes in virtual worlds education.

It’s best known for the Chatterdale and Parolay virtual villages, where students can practice conversational English and French with villagers played by teachers and native speakers.

The 3DLES grid is not only home to the two language villages, but is also used by the University of Tilburg, NIFLAR (European project for Networked Interaction in Foreign Language Acquisition and Research), the University of Applied Science of Utrecht, the University of Manchester, Austria’s Next-Tell technology education project, and a language-learning doctoral project of a student at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. The grid also has a Sloodle island and an orientation island. The grid is open to the public, and hypergrid-enabled, and is used to demonstrate the use of OpenSim in education, and for pilot projects.

However, there are no young students on this grid because it is open to the public. For active classrooms, 3DLES sets up private grids.

For example, one private closed grid is home to five universities and five European high schools, funded by the European Community’s Lifelong Learning Programme’s Telecollaboration for Intercultural Language Aquisition project.

Pricing for a private educational grid starts at 100 Euros per month with a 250 Euro setup fee. Additional regions are each 40 Euros a month. , with four additional regions at 160 Euro a month.

3DLES is also a sponsor of a Dutch virtual education community, EDUsim-NL, and the associated Edugrid NL OpenSim grid.

“We promote the use of OpenSim for education at schools, and do hands-on training,” 3DLES founder and CEO Nick Zwart told Hypergrid Business.

Yunis 3D

This is a new grid from the folks behind the German-language Metropolis grid. It’s currently in beta, and will offer a closed, age-appropriate grid with a custom viewer to accredited educational institutions.

Schools can apply for free hosting by contacting project head Maureen Jacob and the rest of the team at the project information page. Schools can also opt for private grids until this same project.

The goal isn’t just to provide virtual land, however, but also to develop appropriate educational content, according to Jacob.

Open non-profit grids

Many educators have their virtual homes on open non-profit grids. Open grids allow people to connect regions that they host on their own computers, or with third-party hosting providers. This allows region owners to pay the lowest possible prices for their land, while also allowing them the ability to make region and inventory backups, or move their regions to other grids, or to their own private grids, anytime they wish.

Educators appreciate the low costs, the ability to hypergrid teleport to other grids, and the ability to make backups. Many also appreciate that the open grids have less of a focus on commerce, and are populated by developers and creators.

OSgrid

The largest of all OpenSim grids, with over 10,000 regions at last count, OSgrid is home to the OSgrid Educational Cooperative, led by Vermont’s Champlain College, and many other educational institutions. OSgrid is hypergrid-enabled, allowing travel to other grids, and hosts many events and communities.

Metropolis

The largest non-commercial European grid, Metropolis is also hypergrid-enabled, and allows both self-hosted regions and those managed by third-party hosting companies. Users can also rent land directly from the grid, at 29 Euro a month. Metropolis is home to many education-related projects, such as the University of Freiburg’s reconstruction of Pompeii, and a multilingual UNESCO project in collaboration with the University of Krakow, Poland.

Craft

An Italian-language open, non-profit grid, with a strong focus on museums, historic recreations, music, art and fashion.

FrancoGrid

A French-language non-profit grid, FrancoGrid is home to the MétaLectures lecture series and other education-related events. Educational institutions on this grid include Ecole National supérieure des Arts Décoratif.

New World Grid

Another non-profit French-language open grid. New World Grid is the virtual home of e-Science Talk and the Lycée Koeberlé high school.

ScienceSim

A non-profit, development-oriented grid sponsored by Intel. The Fashion Research Institute makes its virtual home here.

Other grids renting land to educators

World of Begabungs

A small, 21-region grid, designed for students ages 10 to 16. Schools and teachers can rent regions and use tools such as Moodle, ePortfolios, and Wikis in their virtual classrooms. The grid is owned by the an educational grid by the Bavarian Centre for Gifted and Talented Children.

Curiosity Grid

An even smaller grid, just four regions at last count, run by the folks at 3rd Rock Grid. Access is highly controlled, to protect minors. A Second Life-style 15,000-prim region is $50 a month, with no setup fee, from 3rd Rock Grid, and other price options are also available. The grid’s showcase project is Palmetto Island, a computer skills learning environment created by South Carolina’s Clemson University.

New Genres Grid

Another small grid, 11 regions at last count, accessible via hypergrid teleport. Its best known educational projects are LEA ISEA, a region owned by Turkey’s Sabanci University that includes 3D sculptures and a conference area, and HyperSim, a visually stunning, multi-level educational build by the Zurich University of the Arts.

What about the commercial social grids?

At Hypergrid Business, we urge educators to be wary of closed, commercial social grids like InWorldz and Avination. These grids offer all the disadvantages of Second Life — onerous Terms of Service agreements, inability to make region backups, mature content — without Second Life’s advantage of a large and supportive social community. Educators looking for a community of educators will find many more of them in Second Life, or on education-specific grids like JokaydiaGrid.

If you do plan to rent land on such a grid for educational use, find out ahead of time if you will be able to upload and download OAR region files, create accounts in bulk for your students, and limit student access to the rest of the grid.

Run your own grid

Many educational institutions run their own OpenSim grids. Those that have tech-savvy staffers run it behind the firewall, on their own servers. Others use consultants to set up their grids, or just buy hosted services from Dreamland Metaverse, Zetamex, SimHost or another hosting provider.

Want to see some examples of private grids run by educators? Check out FleepGrid, the Rutgers University grid, the University of Cincinnati grid, Caltech’s grid, the New Zealand Virtual World Grid, the Tokyo University of Information Sciences grid, the Virtual University of Edinburgh grid, the Suranaree University of Technology grid, Drexel University’s math-themed Adrianopolis grid, Quest University Grid, Virginia Tech’s Virtual GLC grid, Madrid Polytechnic University’s EUITOP grid, the Hewitt School’s HewittSim, the Virtual Islands for Biology Education, Australia’s PLANE grid (project information here), the European Commission’s Anti-Bullying Village grid, EnglishGrid, the CSC9N5 grid at the University of Sterling, the 181-region Open Virtual Worlds grid at the University of St. Andrews, the University of the Aegean Grid, the Italian-language Techland grid, the edMondo grid of Italy’s Monti di Cesena high school.

But the best-known project is the district-wide NOBLE grid project at the Forsyth School District in Georgia, which was so successful that the creators of that grid are now attempting to create standalone charter schools run completely in OpenSim grids.

What am I missing?

New grids pop up all the time, so there are probably quite a few that I’m missing here. Plus, I may have overlooked some existing grids. Please let me know in the comments and I’ll add them in or email me at [email protected].

maria@hypergridbusiness.com'

Maria Korolov

Maria Korolov is editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business. She has been a journalist for more than twenty years and has worked for the Chicago Tribune, Reuters, and Computerworld and has reported from over a dozen countries, including Russia and China.

  • KimRuferBach

    This is a great resource. Thanks, Maria!

  • Kitely’s a pretty good place, one of the better one’s, actually.

    Regarding its costs. I have had an account on Kitely for almost exactly 1 and a half years. When I joined, I spent $20 for their Kitely Credits (KC). I take advantage of that free region offer, though I have had more going at the same time, especially when I am transferring builds. Anyone who visits does so for free. That is, I absorb the cost of the time they spend their.

    I tend to build offline and then upload, which is a huge savings against that free 2 hours every month.

    I’m not very active and I don’t get many visitors, though I am hoping to slowly change that. Whether my activity is average, below average or minimal, I don’t know. But, over that year and a half, I’ve spent only about a quarter of the KC I originally bought.

    Its a helluva deal. Free region, free time. Anytime I want to, I can backup everything, or completely replace the whole region. I can add more regions as I need and shut them down when I no longer have any use for them.

    But, one of the best things about Kitely is the personal touch. Ilan and Oren are always ready to talk with you. They are always fast with a response to any questions you might have. They take an active part in things and listen to what the residents want. They explain what their decisions are and why they made them.

    While cost and ease of use are huge factors for educators, the personal touch is also a big one. Educators want to educate, not deal with some talk-over-your-head tech that takes a week to respond.

    • Thank you Sarge 🙂

    • KeithSelmes

      All of that, plus, the ease of making a world public or private, as and when you need, or setting up an access list allowing individuals to enter your private world. Kitely has features like this which make it easier for people to use the system rather than getting bogged down in technical issues at the very beginning.

      The forum is looking very healthy as well.

    • I especially highly regard transparency with commercial grid owners. Ilan and Oren give this and as well, they have no problem talking about opensim in general [and even contribute core code back for free].

      imho, pricing in line with opensim trending towards much lower and more reasonable dollar amounts, OAR ability [a major factor for me], tech and layman help, no drama, allowing adults to make informed adult decisions, solid stability with mesh and physics very stable, and more, makes Kitely the goto commercial grid.

      None others offer all they do. Yes, sl offers some things, important to some folx for 300 per region, or 150 or so, other commercial grids now average around 60 or so for single regions, but with Kitely everyone gets a free limited use region to “get their feet wet” while figuring out how unique they are, and going up to 16 regions for 100 usd….flat out, there is nobody else, no matter what they say, that can offer what Kitely offers.

      • hack13

        Yes, I think kitely is a nice resource. But I do not really like the concept of the regions being offline when not in use. I mean I guess I am old fashion in the sense that I prefer to keep my head wrapped around having a grid like layout and so forth.

        However, when it comes to education and certain concepts, I think that is where Kitely can shine. The ability to have your region isolated from other regions, and so forth, but then if you are going to do that I really think they should just use a standalone service. Because then you can them locked down everything about what users can do and see, especially in terms of educators.

        • Yes, but the on-demand concept they have is how they keep costs down. It also works into how they are able to offer up to [and more in the case of at least one region I went to] 100k prims and 100 avatars. Their load balancing idea is pretty cool.

          I just like innovative ideas, personally…and transparency, something which is lacking to non-existent in most commercial grids, if not all, but Kitely.

          • hack13

            I can agree with the transparency issue, also I feel I am really the ONLY provider to offer an actual number for people to call. Now even offering the phone support free of charge.

            Most these providers are only tickets, skype, but I feel having a physical number adds a lot of credibility.

          • I so agree Hack, your Zetamex Service is excellent and only keeps getting better.

  • Zetamex has recently updated their information http://metropolis.zetamex.com/

    Concerning my favorite free opensim grid and server provider-))

    Options are such a nice thing to have…

    • Heavy Hitter

      Good deal they have plus great prices nothing beats running your own grid for same cost as renting a region elsewhere
      Be a grid god or goddess today so I hear

  • hack13

    I would like to point out, that a popular choose and recommended choice for educators who come to me is to use a Standalone. Which you can go http://standalones.zetamex.com/ as standalones give the educator 100% control over all their students, and allows them to have it completely locked down. All just starting at 25/month which is a great price for just about anyone.

    We have been considering offering education discounts, however we do have a larger focus on hobbyists and commercial grids than educational grids. But we still love to work with them, and have in the past.

  • let’s also remember that a “grid” isn’t the only educational way OpenSim is used (or as an alternative to SL)

    with 20,000 SoaS downloads and Diva D2 at 22,000 and 100s of teachers touching base with me, there might actually be more student work being done on standalone instances than grids!

    that would be an interesting metric – student hours in-world!

  • Mareta Dagostino

    As a chapter focuses on protected grids for minors, it may be interesting that also Metropolis offers protected areas (using a special viewer) for projects with children and young people. The main grid is for RL adults only. Also research and educational project may apply for sponsored pricing.
    http://www.hypergrid.org/metropolis/wiki/en/index.php/Sponsoring

  • Joe Builder

    I myself base my choice on Ping alone, Numbers there don’t lie. Better the Ping numbers better the experience.

    • Shadow Werefang

      I think basing purely off of ping is not a great idea. I mean ping has multiple factors. it is also based off your geographical location vs the server location. The ping could be high for you, but then low for someone I. Alaska. Now in theory you could load balance, but then that would just be very costly.

      I judge based on ping, uptime, pipe speed, and hops. average it all together. that is how to figure it out for you a single person. but you still have to remember all the people who are going to visit your regions.

      • Joe Builder

        That’s correct so being I’m in the USA best bet is a server in the US. simple math at the end of the day. So if schools are located in USA than a US server is best for them.

        • ok, actually, you made me have to remember some old stuffs, Joe…lol…so I did some quick research.

          tracert actually gives more information than a simple ping but so much goes into what your ping is to a particular destination, anyways, it is best to look at averages.

          I, personally, get a 104 ping to this site, 216 to Metropolis grid, 18 to osgrid and 173 to yahoo.com [ remember those funny commercials they used to have? here is one http://youtu.be/TRAl48Ucgmw ]

          It is generally considered that around 200 or less is ok and since this is in milliseconds, small number changes are not all that critical anyways. As well, there are several other factors to consider.

          More info here:

          http://www.webhostingtalk.com/showthread.php?t=48270

          http://www.webhostingtalk.com/showthread.php?t=212689

          I found an old proggie I used to use and maybe should again but it does not seem relevant enough to bother. Ping times are not all that critical anymore, imo, unless it is some ridiculously high number over 400 or so…but even then, not especially critical.

          Some people place a lot of value in simple ping times when though they do have “some” value, in reality, not so much anymore.

          When I had a dial-up it was VERY important-))

          http://www.speedguide.net/downloads.php and ymmv

  • There is more to virtual worlds than just having a persistent grid. For those interested in using virtual worlds for education, I recommend viewing the presentation I gave to the international Society for Technology in Education about using Kitely’s unique virtual worlds on demand service as a tool for immersive courseware: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDvJp9vZlno

  • Alicia Stone

    I find it interesting that SpotOn3D is not mentioned in the listing of commercial education grids. They have consistently been offering low-cost solutions for education and business for a while now, and have quite a bit of experience with the needs of business. But then again, its probably the old bias against spot on that remains in people’s heads of a certain investor they used to have.

    • Alicia —

      I haven’t been able to find any educators using SpotOn3D. And the grid owners haven’t responded to my requests for updates for quite a while.

      In addition, SpotOn3D’s lack of OAR imports and exports is a problem – their scene switching technology isn’t a good alternative.

      Do you know of any educators using this grid?

      Thanks,
      — Maria

      • disabilityawarenessadvocate

        I must agree with you on this as well 🙁 I think maybe they just need a bit of reorganizing.

    • Are they still running OpenSim? If so, have they been contributing code back to OpenSim? Could it be the lack of news/info/advertising?

      That’s the first I have heard of that “certain investor” not being there. Got any links that I can read about that? If the “attitude” he brought to SpotOn3D has changed, I’m certainly willing to give it another go.

    • disabilityawarenessadvocate

      I just actually got back from spoton3d and it’s been pretty dead there. Also the website is a bit confusing. I went from sim to sim trying to find items to buy found prims you click to go to website but then the website says the item is no longer available (spoton3d marketplace). To make matters worse their viewer causes massive stability problems and your unable to use another viewer to login there. I think the biggest problem with their viewer is the forced web browsing option because if you go to parts of their site that have a lot of images and movement it causes the viewer to run out of memory and crash. It’s a pity. The other big problem I saw was all their classified ads are all out of date not being cleaned up regions not existing any more etc. It was hard to find any active sims. Would be nice to see if they would do a big reorganizing I think it could be a really nice place the people that are there do seem very nice and friendly.

  • Lady S

    Maria, I dont see you mentioning that IW is a 18+ grid only. For them to have any kind of educational stuff going on they would need to have some seperat grid to place the kids / under 18 students. It would not be logical to only cater to the 18+ students only or ?

    • She likely did not mention that as it is not relevant…most closed commercial grids are over 18 EXCEPT Kitely…which is very innovative in this regard, actually, as they are in other regards.

      And since it is a known thing that there are many closed educational grids allowing their students and such….there is no need to point out every single grid who does what most other closed commercial grids do.

    • You’re right — this is another disadvantage of many commercial grids when it comes to educators working with younger age groups, and I should have mentioned that to the story.

      Some commercial grids are willing to set up a private, white-label, grid for customers, however. So if you’re an educator and you have a good relationship with the owners of a particular commercial grid, and you like the way they have things set up and running, it never hurts to ask. (This goes for other kinds of customers, of course, not just educators.)

  • 3DGrid

    Maria, just to round this up: 3DGrid (www.3dgrid.de) a german grid, hosting projects for a German University. The Grid and all Services are just on the way to enhance the scope – therefore the web is in maintanance mode right now (think for about 2 to 4 weeks). More will follow on the web once it is released. Only for reference: Users (last 30 days): 162, Regions 14 (permanent) and 6 on demand). Hosted Projects of the University: > 25