Educators wary of latest Linden offer

Linden Lab has restored the 50 percent discount for educators and non-profits last month, but some educators are wary of taking the company up on its offer.

“Our IT [information technology] folks, like many who once supported experiments in Second Life, have moved on,” said Joe Essid, who directs the Writing Center at the University of Richmond. “They have their hands full supporting other educational software and frankly, don’t trust the Lindens enough to be cheerleaders for Second Life as they were in 2006 to 2007, when they all had avatars themselves.”

Linden Lab suspended the discount in January of 2011, in the middle of the academic year, without insufficient warning to educational institutions.

Joe Essid

Joe Essid

“In my 22 years at Richmond, no other software vendor raised prices in the midst of a fiscal or academic year,” Essid told Hypergrid Business. “Linden Lab kicked us in the teeth.”

There might be other educational institutions willing to give Second Life another chance, he said. “But it’s too late for many of us. Linden Lab blew it.”

One positive sign is that this time, Linden Lab got the timing right, with the announcement coming before the start of the academic year.

In fact, the announcement coincided with this year’s Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education conference.

One of the presenters at this year's VWBPE conference. (Image courtesy mrsdurff via Flickr.)

One of the presenters at this year’s VWBPE conference. (Image courtesy mrsdurff via Flickr.)

“While the budgets may have already been approved for a number of institutions, I think the timing couldn’t have been better from the standpoint that they aren’t changing things in the middle of a school term which was the big complaint when the discount was removed,” said Kevin Feenan, who is also known as Phelan Corrimal in Second Life. Feenan is the chairman and CEO of the Rockcliffe University Consortium and a member of the executive committee for this years’s VWBPE conference.

Kevin Feenan

Kevin Feenan

“I think it’s about time that Linden Lab started trying to get educators and non-profits back on board,” Feenan told Hypergrid Business. “I’m a little concerned however that it may be too little too late. People have looked at other platforms and started to make commitments to those platforms. So its likely that it will take one or two years before the full impact of this policy change is actually felt.”

For example, some educators have moved to OpenSim, which uses the same viewers as Second Life and is thus a familiar environment for educators. Many schools and universities host their own private grids for their students, some use commercial OpenSim hosting providers like Dreamland Metaverse to run their grids, and others rent land on educator-friendly grids like Jokaydia Grid and Kitely.

Some educators have moved even farther afield, exploring new platforms such as Minecraft and Cloud Party, which was one of the venues for this year’s VWBPE conference.

“The bottom line – good move by Linden Lab,” Feenan said. “We just now need to see whether the impact of this change will be met as a positive move by the community or whether a more holistic approach should have been applied instead.”

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.

  • Lani Global

    Wow. Linden Labs has actually offered a lower sim price to someone …other than a land baron!

    But, “Burning the Non-Profit Community” is a really difficult PR event for Second Life to live down. Even with glad-handing and discounts. The internet has a long memory.

    Cue famous quote:
    “There’s an old saying in Tennessee. I know it’s in Texas? Probably in Tennessee, yeah.
    Fool me once, shame on, shame on you.
    Ya fooled me, – uh — ya can’t get fooled again.” -W

    After LL shafted them, non-profits moved in droves to OpenSim. Most of them had fixed budgets, and not deep pockets.

    If you take a look around OSGrid, you will see hundreds of sims run by educational and non-profit organizations. Too numerous to count. Some wonderful student designs, and lots of architectural projects with huge blueprints laid out on the terrain.

    They usually have their IT person running the sim on their school server, and they take advantage of the large OSGrid infrastructure or free content via HyperGrid.

    There are tons of classrooms using Sim-On-A-Stick, the wonderful OpenSim software that gives each student their own sim on their laptop.

    I see visitors from “.edu” domains & educational domain IPs pop in from all over the world to my store in OSGrid. They pick up goods for their projects and TP back to their OpenSim campuses.

    Linden Labs has a really tough road ahead, to win back all those educators and students from the comfort of their new campus in OpenSim… free open source, full ownership of all data, security, and of course FREEDOM. When SL can match those key parameters, they might have a shot.

    • being a native Texan…I have often heard, and used…

      Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me….

      Personally I try to keep being fooled to a minimum, though I often fail…I blame excellent Snake Oil Salesmen!!!

      I know a guy who is recreating the Dealey Plaza on a region in Metropolis. He laid out the entire blueprint of the area over the region…pretty cool to stop by there and see his progress.

      btw, I popped into your region recently from the newly opened gates from Metropolis and snagged some more goodies-)) Thx Lani…

      • Lani Global

        to Minethere.

        To get that “Fool me once” joke, you must really watch the video of your fellowTexan, President, Dubya Bush.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Ux3DKxxFoM

        go to 00:40 to see the joke.

        • yea, he fooled me once, but not twice, too!! but by then I realized he had way to many fooled for my one little non-vote to make any difference….sighs

  • glenalec

    Much like this educator learned his lesson re: closed platforms with the Apple Newton (and subsequently found Linux), a lot of people of the next generation have already learned that closed platforms are dangerous places to invest, be it money or, usually more significantly, time. For me, as for many, open isn’t about the money anyway, it is about the control – and the security of intellectual investment that provides.

  • Padi Phillips

    Any educational facility considering this offer by Linden Labs had better hope that their trustees aren’t aware of Open Simulator’s existence!

    Even with a 50% discount Second Life is horrendously expensive, and whilst there may be the ‘security’ of having hosting taken care of by a specialist company, this, if needs must, would be better served by an independent Open Simulator hosting company such as Zetamex or Dreamland Universe, though to my mind the actual setting up, and administration of a grid forms a valuable educational excercise in itself.

    There is also the factor than Second Life has it’s own perils as far as the educational sector is concerned, with seemingly little control over access to age inappropriate content, especially since the demise of the teen grid. Using Open Simulator allows educators far more control over access, and indeed the flexibility to connect to the outside metaverse, or not as the case may be.

    And what about content retention? More or less anything created inside Second Life stays in Second Life as there is no mechanism to export regions or inventory and basically in practice all you put on Second Life becomes the property of Linden Labs, much like any pictures uploaded to Facebook become the property of Facebook.

    Whilst even in the Open Simulator world content theft is possible, there is at least the possibility of maintaining a more complete control of what you have personally created through the use of .oar and .iar files, which already puts Open Simulator streets ahead of Second Life. It would be true to say that until relatively recently Open Simulator wasn’t as technically smooth in terms of operation, (however much further ahead in terms of technical concepts and abilities) but that in itself was part of the whole Open Simulator project: it wasn’t and isn’t even beta software. However, as time has moved on, Open Simulator is now in many, if not most ways, not only the equal of the Linden Lab offering, but superior, (the ability to archive regions and inventory is but one case in point).

    The cynic in me suspects that this apparent U turn by Linden Labs is a rather lame attempt to lure back the many hundreds, if not thousands of former educational users who have wisely fled to Open Simulator with huge benefits to both education and their pockets!

    • The saving of OARs and IARs is really such a foreign thing to many in closed grids, most in them do not have any clue what the questions are, much less how it frees them in so many regards.

      Though I am primarily a proponent of free opensim, Kitely, as a commercial grid, offers tons of eye-opening and transparent information on the subject, and offers some excellent web-based tools for using them easily.

      Their forums are a very good resource and one of the owners is a core OS code contributor-))

      http://www.kitely.com/forums/index.php

      Not to mention the pricing is more in line with current trends in such matters and everyone gets a free limited use region to use to “get their feet wet”.

  • Cloud Party user

    The ‘island’ pricing in Cloud Party is more reasonable. The comparison is available here: http://forums.cloudparty.com/discussion/1540/cloud-party-as-a-venue-for-educators

  • Joe Builder

    I’m still baffled why SL and Opensims are used in the same sentence, Two completely different worlds with two different approaches to virtual world experience.
    I’m just curious about the funding if any with these Educators, Where does it end up at the end of the day?

    • I guess you’re still missing the idea that education is THE use case for OpenSim.

      Say you’ve got a class of 20 students and you spend a few hours a week on a region, doing math simulations or a biology simulation or whatever.

      With the discount, Second Life would cost $500 to setup and $150 a month to run. Plus, once you built everything up, you wouldn’t be able to save it.

      You wouldn’t be able to have young kids on the region, and older students would have their own avatars, and be able to go anywhere they wanted to in Second Life.

      After you and your students — or the developers you hired — build your simulation, you wouldn’t be able to make a backup of it and share it with other educators in your district or outside of it.

      And Second Life’s large user base is of no benefit to your students. In fact, that user base is more of a potential threat.

      Now consider OpenSim. You could rent the same region for around $50 from a professional hosting provider, a lot less from Kitely, and zero if you run a mini-grid on a classroom computer and local network using something like Sim-on-a-Stick or New World Studio. Plus, with a local network — no connectivity-related lag!

      You would create the accounts for your students, and you could close the accounts for your students once they’re out of your class, so they can’t come back next year and annoy people.

      Once you build everything, you can save it as an OAR file and share it with all the other teachers in your district, email it to friends, post it online. Or just keep it as a backup for next year.

      You can have multiple setups that you save as OAR files, and just swap them in. Or make backups at different stages of your build, so you can go back easily if you mess something up.

      If you turn on hypergrid connectivity, you could travel out to other grids to network with other educators, or to get content, or do do field trips to virtual museums. Or you could turn off hypergrid and keep your minigrid completely private and your students totally safe.

      The reason that I’m comparing SL and OpenSim here is specifically because for educators, the advantages of SL (community) are moot, and the advantages of OpenSim (backups, privacy and control) are vital.

      And the fact that they use the same viewers, the same building tools, and can use the same content if it’s exported correctly — that’s a big plus, as well.

      • Joe Builder

        Well there you go, Not a difficult choice if technology in a virtual class for educators is not needed than a opensim platform is all they need. Use a empty plot, place some chairs turn the voice on and done. 🙂 I agree than Opensims is the best choice. No need to be hosted by any one Grid, I’m sure any School professor can host there own for FREE set up is so simple, Even in a large Grid like Osgrid would work nicely.

        • or. even better, in Metropolis Grid, and hosted by Zetamex.com [not so shameless plugs for folx I like]-))))

          • Joe Builder

            Depends on what part of the world you live in, Metropolis for Europeans (Servers in Europe) Osgrid for Americans, Canadians, and South Americans (Servers in Texas) That’s only for better connectivity

          • not really…I live in Texas and Metropolis works fine for me. I use Zetamex whose servers are based in Canada and my simulator is connected in Metro…works just fine as a nice glass of wine-))

          • Joe Builder

            Well Miney we all know your the special exception 🙂 Zetamex is ok for single regions with not many assets, Speaking for myself I need massive asset servers being I use a couple hundred regions. I have tried Metro long ago, Just a bit to far for my needs. I’m in South Florida and connection to Metro is not as fast as it is in Osgrid, That’s simple math if one knows how the Internet works 🙂

          • hmmm…”special goofball”..that’s about all the specialness I gotz-))

            I do, actually, know how the net works, having been using it for several decades now…..was it 200 or 300 baud modems? I forget….using DOS to do command line stuffs and stuffs.

            In any case, you say tomato, I say tomatoe, you say potato, I say potatoe-))))

            time to log out to sleep time-))

          • that was a reference to this, for those one or 2 interested-))

            seems appropriate, would you agree, Joe???

            http://youtu.be/zZ3fjQa5Hls

          • Joe Builder

            Yes Yes :)~

      • From where I sit (image below; a small, premium account parcel), SecondLife™ will always be the “Manhattan” of the metaverse with inspiring spaces to explore and a creative and diverse community of users. Still, I agree: OpenSimulator IS the future of education.

  • Guest

    Once burned twice shy, screwing over the non profits and educators in 2011 as they did I doubt any of those burned then will ever return now, especially since the sims on SL they built usually by multiple creators were not saveable as an OAR, so all that work and content gone. They aren’t going to pay people to build a new sim and take a chance LL will suddenly switch gears again.
    The fact LL can offer these sims for half price tells us they make money on them even @ $150 tier!

  • and let’s not forget, for the education argument, that SL has an age limit on it – so for K-12 use, it’s rather limiting

  • Steve Mashburn

    Good articles and good comments.

    However, “One positive sign is that this time, Linden Lab got the timing right, with the announcement coming before the start of the academic year” is not quite true for K-12.

    LL is too late. Our school budgets, at least in my area of the country, are set around April (sometimes extending into May). Once the budget is set, there is seldom any “free” money floating around (well, maybe at the end of the fiscal year when departments are trying to use up their monies). I think the universities may have a little more flexibility because of their multiple income streams.

    At any rate (no pun intended), the NOBLE Virtual World n Forsyth County GA, has 12 multi-regions hosted at Dreamland Metaverse. To replicate our builds in Second Life, I would need 48 regions — even if some would fit on a homestead sim, there is no way we could afford that.

    If my NOBLE Virtual School of S.C. is approved (the final hearing has been moved to September 12), I cannot even consider SL because my budget has already been set.