Virtual Worlds

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Multi-User Virtual Environments (MUVE)

Author: Jane Wilde

prepared by Jane Wilde Fall 08 for ETAP 687

Definition: MUVEs (Multi-User Virtual Environments)are network based (usually internet)computer mediated communication platforms. Multi User refers to the ability of many people to use the space at one time. Virtual environment refers to the object oriented 2- or 3-D space in which users navigate using avatars to represent themselves.

River City

What it is

A view of the interface

River City,, is an educational 3-D MUVE designed for students in the middle grades 6-9. Students and teachers explore River City to uncover the cause of the trouble that has befallen the community. From the website, "Three diseases simultaneously affect health in River City, based on historical, social, and geographical content." Each student has an avatar (3D representation of themselves. Using the text based chat interface student avatars talk to citizens who provided increasing amounts of detail. In the photo to the right a student is talking to a resident.

Mary talks to a resident of River City.

The curriculum is primarily science (epidemiology, ecology, scientific method and inquiry), social studies and math are involved to make this a multidisciplinary study. The goals of the curriculum are tied to state, national and 21st century standards and are well documented on the website.

This is a collaborative project of

  • Arizona State University's Educational Technology Graduate Program
  • Harvard School of Education
  • The (US) National Science Foundation
  • The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History

Take a video tour at

Listen to what students say at

Unique features Its unique features include:

  • free - this is a research project, funded by the (US) National Science Foundation
  • it is designed for education - clear goals and objectives, teachers receive training at the outset.
  • inquiry based - students discover that there are many ways to look at and solve problems.
  • engaging multimedia - students use avatars and a 3D game like environment.
  • safe environment - though it is a muve, the environment is controlled.


  • must commit to participate in full program teacher training and 17 hour time on task curriculum.
  • requires PCs (not macs)

images from and

Second Life

What it is

Esme and Sal at Marlboro College

Second Life a commercial 3-D MUVE that was created for social networking and entertainment. It has come to be by business, education, government... for a wide range of purposes. More than 200 universities from dozens of countries have a presence in Second Life. This means they own virtual land and have built virtual buildings or meeting spaces. Many hold courses, academic workshops, alumni events and student recruitment activities within Second Life.

Princeton, Harvard, Stanford are present in SL.

Businesses use second life to gather geographically spread employees for meetings and conferences, to conduct product research and to sell wares. Second Life's main grid is for adults. You must be 18 years of older to create an account.

Teen Second Life, also called the teen grid, was created for youth ages 13-17. Though it is also primarily for social networking and entertainment, education has also found a home here. In order to protect teens for internet predators adults who want an account on the teen grid must pass a background check and have a specific educational project in mind. While youth have free access throughout the teen grid, adult access is limited to the locale of the educational project in which they are registered.

The unique aspect of SL is that the world is built by its users. It is ever changing. This aspect lends itself to serve as an environment in which constructivist teaching and learning may occur.

Unique features Its unique features include:

  • 50,000-60,000 people on-line at any given time
  • world is created by its users and is ever changing
  • has a strong educational community with lots of professional development and networking opportunities
  • medical simulations to visit
  • interesting art installations and historical recreations
  • access to professionals from all over the world in almost any field you can imagine
  • opportunity to combine the anonymity quality and "anywhere" nature of distance learning with a realtime presence and synchronous communication. Get to meet your class but still be in your pjs.
  • supports windows, mac and linux computers
  • whatever you are interested in is likely to be present in SL (It is a whole world.)


  • steep learning curve
  • demands a broadband internet connection
  • demands better than average computer (RAM and Graphics Card)
  • whatever you are interested in is likely to be present in SL (It is a whole world.)

Other Virtual Worlds/Resources

Club Penguin -

Webkinz -

Active Worlds -

There -

Virtual Worlds Review - - get links and information about twenty-eight virtual worlds.

ISTE video on Teachertube -