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 Korolov

Maria Korolov is a science fiction writer who covers cybersecurity, AI and extended reality as a tech journalist at her day job.
Check out her author page on Amazon or follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. Her first virtual world novella, Krim Times, made the Amazon best-seller list in its category. Her second novella, The Lost King of Krim, is out now.