Made in SL: education and CNDG in Second Life

The CNDG FutureWork Institute, as 2-region setting within CNDG’s spread of some 42 regions for education, training and showcasing

On Thursday, August 29th, 2019, the Lab launched the first segment of the new Made in SL series of videos. Carrying the  banner name Learning In SL, it would appear to be the first of a series (likely interspersed with segments covering other subject matter, as indicated by the original Made In SL series announcement) looking at the use of Second Life for educational / learning / training opportunities. Specifically for this piece, the work of the international and very successful Chant Newall Development Group, LLC (CNDG) is peviewed.

CNDG is a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) developer. We specialise in creating tailored, user-friendly VLEs, offering a fully supported service on all major virtual reality platforms.

We provide our clients with networked environments where instruction, learning activities, assignments, and synchronous and asynchronous exercises are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

– From the CNDG website

Students on CNDG’s Environmental Studies course (run with Florida State University) take to the water in SL simulating studies in climate change and ocean acidification. Credit: CNDG

CNDG is deserving of being surfaced in this series as their track record is impressive – but perhaps largely unknown to Second Life users. The organisation operates an impressive 42 regions within Second Life, which are split between what might be considered “core” regions, together with sets of “demo” and “live” regions and a series of specialised study regions – including sea / undersea settings. Not all of these are open to the public, being focused on servicing clients and students.

The organisation was founded in 2006, and has grown into one of the most respected providers of VLEs for clients – universities and other educational organisations, working in partnership with Pearson, the largest education company and book publisher in the world. This success also includes working with a number of commercial clients, including the likes of US Department of Veterans Affairs, Honeywell Corporation and Pfizer, the pharmaceutical conglomerate, to provide various specialised environments and facilities in Second Life.

We are not interested in building completely automated, run-on-their-own, no-contact systems: we build environments that help educators communicate their expertise and their knowledge to students in a direct, impactful way … We have the technology needed to create more opportunities for all students at all levels and all over to enter into relationships with mentors and teachers as needed. Virtual Learning Environments which are live and networked give us the ability to break down those barriers, and bring people together across boundaries.

– CNDG CEO and founder, William Prensky

Scotty’s Castle, a recreation of the idiosyncratic villa in Death Valley, was at the time, both CNDG’s first project and most elaborate and realistic buildings in Second Life. With the help of Linden Lab, it brought CNDG to the attention of their first commercial client, America’s Public Broadcast Service. Credit: CNDG LLC

Within SL, CNDG has developed and provided courses in biology, chemistry, economics and environmental science, working particularly with Florida State University and the University of Central Florida, which have seen in excess of 2,000 students participate in activities – with around 25,000 students having participated in programme developed by CNDG as a whole over the past 12 years.

A key part of the courses and units supplied is that students can access the in-world environments through the CNG gateway. This, like SL Community Gateways, provides sign-up, avatar selection and log-in at the main CNDG campus, where tutorial-style guides familiarise them with the viewer and their initial assignments. For clients – universities, collages, and so on – CNDG can provide tailored courses based on a client’s own materials, while Pearson can provide supporting printed material for CNDG’s broader courses (including access codes to sign-in to the CDNG virtual environments), which can be made available to students through the likes of university bookshops.

Within the video itself – running to just under 2.5 minutes, we are introduced to CNDG and its work, touching on some of the successes and partnerships that have arisen from 12+ years of supplying networked educational solutions within Second Life. It’s a fascinating glimpse and well worth taking the time to watch – hence embedding it below for ease of reference.

Given the sheer breadth of educational uses SL is put to, I certainly hope that Learning in SL will  – as seems to be implied by the title itself, as noted at the top of this piece – continue to be a theme within Made in SL as the series continues to evolve.

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