One of the classes I’ve been teaching this spring has been dealing with interpersonal CMC, and as part of this I have of course been talking about avatar-based communication. Based on my experience with bringing newbies into SL, I knew that I had to find another example of a 3D Virtual World to use with this particular class that had 89 students. During the 5th annual Virtual Worlds Best Practice in Education Conference (March 15-17, 2012), I ran into John “Pathfinder “Lester, and I was reminded of the Jibe platform created by ReactionGrid .
Pathfinder is currently Chief Learning Officer at ReactionGrid Inc., but worked for LL/SL for five years where he led the development of education and healthcare, and I’ve actually met Pathfinder a couple of times in RL too – even here in Denmark :-) I’ve been following Pathfinder’s work with alternate Grids/worlds since he left LL, and I consider him a true innovator and visionary within the field of 3D Virtual Worlds.
So on March 19th, I decided to try to bring my class into Pathfinder’s Jibe world. Being used to many technical obstacles with SL, I did not know exactly what to expect. As it turned out only a few of the students had any experience with 3D Virtual Worlds (and only from WoW and The Sims), so I was admittedly a bit worried. However, from a technical point of view things went very well – I was really impressed with just how easy it was for the students to start using Jibe! Some of the students had to install a Unity3d plugin (the player), but that didn’t cause any problems and within minutes from showing the students the url, they were in-world gaining their first experiences with navigating a 3D-avatar. I have rarely heard students laugh this much in class!
All the students on laptops managed to get into Jibe without any problems, but a few of the students use iPads, and sadly Jibe/Unity3d doesn’t work on those yet. I did try to see if I could access Jibe via Chrome in the AlwaysOn PC app, but no ;-) In user forums on Unity3d I’ve read about attempts to jailbreak the iOS and work around the plugin need, but this is not a solution I’m going to pursue or even recommend to my students, so for now we’ll have to settle for using laptops, and that’s ok.
These 2. semester students had a very limited knowledge of 3D Virtual Worlds, and even though I did demonstrate SL, being able to access and play around on their own in such a world really enhanced their understanding. They did find the whole idea of using 3D Virtual Worlds for serious purposes quite exotic, and it will take much more time (and practice) to convince them of the virtues of such communication media. However, based on this very positive (especially from a technical point of view) experience, I will try to learn more about Jibe and consider if I can somehow use it in my future classes. Compared to SL, Jibe has three very important features that makes it an interesting platform in relation to my (often times very large) on-campus classes:
- The platform easily holds 100+ participants
- The platform is browser based
- The platform is very user friendly – at least in terms of initial UX
For demonstration and first hand experience of avatars and 3D virtual environments, this makes Jibe very interesting. Further, Jibe supports industry standard 3D modeling programs and scripting, and that could also make it an interesting tool to use for some of the more advanced classes where our students have to learn this, and perhaps this could mean that more colleagues would take an interest in this type of technology. As much as I love SL, I really think that the future of 3D Virtual Worlds will be browser based, and to further enhance interoperability standards are a must, so Jibe really seems to be heading in the right direction.
Here’s a short introduction by Pathfinder, and be sure to follow his blog, if you want to learn more :-)
On ReactionGrid’s own blog there were some interesting news today;
- An open source version of Jibe is underway officially today. LearnNC & ReactionGrid are partnering to allow teachers and students to qualify for no cost editions of Jibe.
- Jibe-Enterprise is now available for corporate training, meetings, collaboration and more.
- Jibe-Blend is also underway. Jibe-Blend is a real-time shared collaborative building system which allows users to model in Blender and stream their work live into a Jibe/Unity3D world.