A constant complaint regarding virtual worlds – especially by educators, who are busy enough already! – is the steep learning curve required to get anything worthwhile up and running. Various companies are addressing this (vastpark, justleapin, et al), so it will be interesting to see what emerges. A strong candidate for frontrunner, at least as far as education goes, is ‘Thinking Worlds‘, from Caspian Learning.
Their authoring system [download it here] uses libraries of templates so that 3d worlds can quickly be put together. Then, especially attractive to educators, they have another whole suite of tools to rapidly embed learning objects, formative assessments, scripts (in the sense of things people say, for easy NPC creation), and so on:
Rapidly create challenges and tests using simple templates for MCQ, Options, Checklists, Image drag and many others.
Build non linear scenarios and branching dialogue using wizards and templates.
Develop entirely new learning interactions by selecting controls and customising the GUI.
Build a library of learning interactions to reuse and share.
Setup 3D Scenes
Add different worlds, characters and objects from libraries – templates, wizards and icons using simple drag and drop.
Place new cameras, triggers and paths with the click of a button.
Use animations, particles and sounds for context.
Scene Flow canvas uses visual action nodes and wires to intuitively build interactivity.
Vast array of simple action nodes giving designers the power to create complex scenarios and performance measurement.
Easily test, change, amend and extend your design.
Very flexible yet simple to use – drop down lists, check boxes and simple English.
These worlds can be embedded into websites, or they can be stand-alone applications on your computer. Both of these options are attractive – also is the fact that it is a ‘walled-garden’ approach, keeping out the stranger, more dangerous inhabitants of online worlds (a concern for primary and secondary teachers). Indeed, worlds published with Thinking Worlds are also SCORM compliant, and can be embedded in LMS’s. This is, strategically, a master stroke- you’ve got your LMS set up, why not use Thinking Worlds for your immersive component?
One of the demo worlds is called ‘Rome In Danger‘, and seems to be a jump-back-in-time to save the Romans kind of world.
A tag line on the Thinking Worlds website says ‘build a game in a week’. We shall see…