NMSU Buys an Island!

ACANS News & Information Center

NMSU Buys an Island!

You won’t find Jimmy Buffett singing on this island, nor will you have to keep a layer of SPF 35 that seems to attract half a pound of gritty beach sand.  What you will find on this island is a “very popular 3D virtual environment that really must be explored and experienced to be understood;” a world where each can build a life rooted in learning and exploration.

Image of ...Bethany Bovard, from the College of Extended Learning, enthusiastically talks about the new NMSU Aggie Island.

Recently, Bethany Bovard and Julia Parra, from the College of Extended Learning (CEL), teamed up with Teresa Burgin, from Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), to make the NMSU Aggie Island (a temporary name until more people can be involved in coming up with a permanent one) a reality.  With the funding and support of Michael Hites (ICT), and Carmen Gonzales (CEL), NMSU Aggie Island has begun accepting residents to thrive and interact amongst each other. 

Aggie Island was birthed from a company called Second Life, who began creating islands for the public in 2003.  Since 2003, the company has created islands and other landforms with nearly 5.7 million people from around the world interacting and inhabiting these virtual lands.   According to Second Life, these virtual worlds are “teeming with people, entertainment, experiences and opportunity;” a whole world of “digital continent” and an atmosphere that supports digital creativity and collaboration.  Bovard asserts these positive aspects and adds that this new Aggie Island is a way to keep NMSU on the “cutting edge of technology.”

NMSU is not the first university to introduce Second Life into their curriculum.  So far, Ohio University, Yale, Oxford, Penn State and Harvard have already begun conducting classes in their own virtual worlds.  Within these worlds, classes from all fields can be represented.  Students are reporting a feeling of connectedness in being able to explore freely in their Avatar bodies (an Avatar is a person you create to represent you in the virtual world), create ideas, and communicate with other’s whom they normally may not have a chance to.

Image of ...65,000km 2 of virtual space to explore and interact in.

Along with conducting classes, Ohio University has created a welcoming video within their world to show potential students what their university has to offer.  NMSU wants to break out into this venue of marketing as well, “another way to put ourselves out there,” Bovard states.  Originally Second Life was thought of mainly as an asset to the College of Extended Learning, since their students were often unable to interact with the NMSU community.  But since the original thinking, Bovard, Parra, and Burgin’s continued research in the idea of a virtual educational world, it was realized that this Aggie Island could be beneficial for students, staff, and faculty.

Though the Aggie Island is still relatively new, Bovard has already received positive feedback from students working on learning projects on the island, as well as a few faculty members already contacting her about teaching and research in Second Life.  Faculty members have already begun uploading presentations, slides, and notes on the island.  As the island continues to grow, ICT and CEL hope that this 65,000km2 piece of virtual land will aid in recruitment/marketing, retention, and an overall increase in education growth and satisfaction.  To read more about Aggie Island and/or to add your own thoughts to the wiki board , visit the elearning@NMSU site, or email Bethany Bovard at bbovard@nmsu.edu. 

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