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Education in New Zealand goes Virtual


Boys and Computers An experimental virtual world has been created for students and staff across New Zealand to investigate its potential in education and research. The possibility of new and innovative educational opportunities is the major research focus, rather than simply the enhancement of current e-learning activities.

Many educational institutions have in-world land and buildings which they utilise to teach courses and hold meetings. In the virtual world the user is represented by an ‘avatar' in a simulated three-dimensional environment where they interact with other users in a different way than in chat rooms or social networking sites. The educational experience available to distance learning students is likely to be substantially enriched by the social aspect of in-world persona, both their own and that of other students and staff, along with multimedia content. One major advantage which may result from this is an enhanced level of engagement by students.

The grid architecture of the ONGENS OpenSim Virtual World Grid uses different servers, in different locations, to handle different processes, providing scalability and improved performance. The virtual world is currently hosted on servers at the University of Otago and the University of Canterbury, and is connected over the Kiwi Advanced Research and Education Network (KAREN) providing high-capacity, high speed internet to the researchers.

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