Regular readers (yes, both of you) will know that I’ve been a little bit sceptical about the concept of virtual worlds in education in previous posts. That’s probably because World of Warcraft, Second Life, and so forth weren’t really designed for educational purposes so we’ve sort of adapted them. That’s not to say there hasn’t been some good stuff done in SL. I like Teeside’s Bayeux Tapestry sim in second life for example. But I was also impressed by Shareville, a virtual town, developed by Birmingham City University.

Shareville is a “virtual town” which was designed to help students prepare for learning in the workplace. You can navigate round the town using a grid based “map”. Clicking on a square will take you to a still 360 degree photograph of a district of the town, and by moving your mouse around the photo the user gets taken into interesting scenarios.  It’s perhaps pushing it a bit to compare it with things like Second Life, because you don’t have an avatar, it’s not a fantasy world – in fact it’s a rather grim view of reality! Technically I suppose it’s just a database. But it is expandable, so different scenarios can be added for different disciplines.  I also liked the way that Shareville was designed to be used in conjunction with other systems – no attempt is made to duplicate resources that might be in Moodle, Wimba or Mahara. Tutors put instructions on how to use Shareville in the VLE and users access that.
Anyway, rather than me going on about it, watch this presentation from the designers. There are also links for visitors to go and have a play with it.
While we’re on the subject of virtual worlds, I couldn’t resist this. I know it’s really just a game, but isn’t Lego about building a virtual world in the first place. So it’s a virtual world within a virtual world. A conundrum for the philosophy dept.