I’d heard good things, from time to time, about Texas A&M’s Second Life Campus and finally made a visit. The campus blends replicated structures, recreated historic landmarks, and interactive virtual locations – an attractive package, both educational and fun (see its homepage for a short machinima tour). This post, then, is a kind of virtual tour of a virtual space, a Second Life (SL) site open to the public.
The Cushing Memorial Library, which opened in 1930, was the first TAMU building to serve solely as a library. When a new library took its place in 1968, it was used for offices and archives. Recently remodeled, the Cushing Library now holds special research collections, rare books and documents, and the TAMU archives.
Like the Cushing Library, the Memorial Student Center building and parts of its interior are replicated in SL. The Center is both a memorial to the Aggies who died in World Wars I and II and a student union. The Flag Room is the student lounge and study space.
Long ago, the founders of TAMC chose to locate the college near a railroad track. From about 1876 to 1959, the train would stop to let students and staff on and off the train. Depots were built, which gave the surrounding community its name: College Station, Texas. The College Station Railroad Depots no longer exist, but there is a historical marker that the SL campus has replicated near its recreated depot.
Typically SL campuses have areas dedicated to student exhibits. TAMU has a circular poster park with student work that covers an impressive range of disciplines. Most of the posters include web links or SL landmarks for learning more about the topics. I always enjoy such displays and tend to spend more time at exhibits than intended.
One of the wonderful things about virtual campuses is that students, personnel, and visitors can learn and play in imaginative ways not possible in real life. For example, next to the poster park is Dr. K’s Chemistry Place, a delightful space for learning aspects of freshman chemistry while having fun. If you are planning to teach in SL or thinking about using SL to supplement a course, I highly recommend checking out Dr. K’s blog, “A Chemist in Second Life”; it links to a machinima this chemist made for educators and to an informative PowerPoint she presented at a professional conference.
Finally, for sheer fun, check out Aggie Beach. You can dance with dolphins, roll logs (be prepared to fall off), water slide, or just relax by a fire pit and watch the dolphins play.
*My apologies to the TAMU Campus in Second life for playing with the environmental settings for the starred screenshots :^).