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.
“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.
“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.
“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.”