After my visits to the University of South Florida islands (see previous post), I felt the need to visit another warm place, to see if I could recapture the feel of tropical breezes. So I teleported to the islands of the University of Hawaii Second Life Campus (UHSL) to soak up some virtual sun.
Several months ago, I briefly visited UHSL but couldn’t stay long. It seemed interesting then but not interesting enough to include on my must-revisit-soon list. What I found to be true about UHSL is probably true about many Second Life islands: a casual fly-around does not do it justice. This time I carved out a nice chunk of time to experience the place. I’m glad I did. There’s an impressive amount of good work going on at UHSL.
Since my first UHSL visit, I’ve become more efficient in the ways I explore educational sims – ways that make my visits more engaging and, well, more educational. First I look for a map or sign that includes teleporting options. UHSL has such maps here and there, one near the landmark linked in the first paragraph above.
Then usually, after wandering around a bit, I stumble on a guided-tour vehicle. Tours orient me to a region. I found three UHSL tours, all reasonably short and worth taking: a flying feather tour of the main island; a flying palm frond tour of Aquaculture Island; and a ground-level, tram-like tour of the Aqua Farm on the latter island.
After a tour, I love hiking about and reading most of the signs and notecards that I come across, and typically I’ll try out activities that are new to me. Notecards offer insight on the sim designers’ intentions; taking part in activities, whether designed to instruct or designed to delight (ideally both), more clearly reveals what designers had in mind.
A good example of how notecards and posters can inform and delight is at the Ho`okele Education Center on the UHSL College of Education Island. There Polynesian voyaging history, voyaging vessel construction, and celestial navigation are presented in a large, tube-shaped pavilion. Visitors may accept the gift of a plumeria blossom lei (I accepted) and paddle a vessel that has a history slideshow on its sail – plus learn a great deal more.
Another example of an engaging activity is inside the Music & Internet Technologies building (main island), designed for a music appreciation course. There are six or so presentation rooms, each with a different decor. The notecard asks students to “choose a chair that suits you best” and explains that “each chair was built in a particular historical period (Middle Ages, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Twentieth Century).”
UHSL is made up of four islands, all of which, in some way or the other, include replicas of actual UH buildings or objects. Along with campus buildings, classrooms, and research labs, the main island has a Shinto bath house, the grounds of which currently hold exhibits by students in the Library and Information Sciences Program. A small museum next to one of two UHSL aquaculture hubs has slideshows and posters of previous events and classes, of special builds on a skydeck, and of class excursions to other SL sites.
Across the river from the main island is Honolulu Community College Island. It includes the Native Hawaiian Center and the Transportation and Trades complex, with training areas for auto and boat repairs, aviation, and emergency response. The liberal arts are represented in the University College and Communications & Services building.
The College of Education Island also has campus building replicas (including a dorm), as well as a coffee shop on the water and outdoor classrooms. The highlights for me were the Polynesian Voyaging simulation and the replica of Diamond Head, which has an amphitheater in its crater. On 6 May 2011, the amphitheater was the site of the UH Manoa College of Education’s first virtual graduation ceremony (the news story in this link includes a screen shot of the amphitheater).
Aquaculture Island is among the most unique SL university sites that I’ve visited. Along with an educational tour of aqua farming, it has an off-shore fish farm that you can observe by rezzing a small yellow submarine. Near the fish farm, you can surf Jaws, a model of the monster wave on Maui Island; I chose to body surf – quite the ride! Not far from Jaws is an ahupua’a (an old Hawaiian term for a subdivision of land) that demonstrates an indigenous (and ingenious) irrigation system.
Also on Aquaculture Island is the Institute for Astronomy Amphitheater, which features public talks on astronomy research and monthly programs simulcast from Haleakala Volcano Observatory. And the Institute has a skydome with a replica of a large telescope where live observing sessions, as well as talks and classes, take place. Back on the ground on a rise you can stargaze, viewing images of nebulae, galaxies, and the like.
The University of Hawaii Second Life Campus is active and growing; in fact, a part of Honolulu Community College Island is now under construction. I look forward to seeing what UHSL does next. And I encourage you to take a look for yourself. Enjoy!