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Press release


  • 7 March 2008

University of Sussex launches Second Life campus


screenshots from the University of Sussex virtual campus in Second Life

Screenshots from the University of Sussex virtual campus in Second Life

University of Sussex students, staff and visitors have been taking test "flights" around a computerised version of the campus where they can study, work, share information and socialise.

The 3D internet "island", developed by Sussex graduate members of the University's web team, which has now opened to visitors, looks like the real University of Sussex core campus. It can be visited by people who are signed up to the internet-based virtual world Second Life.

Every user (called a resident) creates a virtual version of themselves (called an avatar) in Second Life, which they can transport to different locations, such as the Sussex campus. Once they've arrived, they can literally fly around the University's main square to visit the library, attend online seminars, call into the Students' Union, the Meeting House or just admire the campus views.

Staff and students have been trying out the virtual campus to test its potential, and initial responses have been very positive.

Developers see the campus as a new platform for developing teaching, learning and communication tools that encourage interaction and collaboration between users. Potential uses for the virtual campus, still in its developmental stages include:

  • Teaching and learning - providing online resources, lectures and seminars in an engaging, interactive format that would appeal to students and distance learners;
  • Recruitment - offering a chance for potential students to "visit" , explore the University and get a feel for the place. This would be particularly useful for those who live abroad and cannot visit easily. The University's School of Science and Technology is already thinking of staging a virtual Open Day;
  • Enhancing the University's online presence;
  • As an effective communication tool, keeping people up to date with study information and University news;
  • A means of showcasing student work, including student films, exhibitions, engineering and product design work and science or arts projects. Students on the product Design course, for example, already have a display up and running, while Human Computer Interaction students are working on developing online resources that can be used in Second Life.

Tom Shaw, a graduate intern with the University's web team, developed the virtual campus with fellow Sussex graduate and Web Project Developer Beth Granter.

Tom says: "The online campus allows University members and visitors to get more out of being part of a real community. It's been a great opportunity for me to learn new skills. It'll be interesting to see how it develops as users sign up and get involved. We'll now be working with academics and the University's Creativity Zone [part of InQbate, the Centre of Excellence in Teaching and Learning in Creativity at the University] to improve learning and teaching opportunities online, as well as developing the social networking side of things."

He adds: "We really wanted to make it look like Sussex, so instead of going for some fantasy look, we've recreated the centre of campus, including its distinctive Basil Spence architecture."

Dr Judith Good, a Senior Lecturer in the department of Informatics at Sussex, is currently teaching a course where students are creating educational experiences in Second Life for other institutions, such as FE colleges. She says: "We are still exploring the potential usefulness of Second Life for teaching and learning, but we really wanted to push the boundaries with this project and get our students doing something exciting and innovative. It's great that these projects might then find a home on the Sussex virtual campus."

Notes for editors

  • The University of Sussex virtual campus is now open. If you would like to find out more about the University of Sussex project, or if you would like high-resolution downloadable images, see: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/webteam/secondlife/images.php and join Second Life at http://secondlife.com/community/downloads.php to visit the campus.
  • Second Life is a 3-D internet-based virtual world built and run by its residents. It is not a video game, but a platform for global business and entertainment. Users can rent and develop islands from Second Life. For more information about Second Life, contact Will Sturgeon, of Lewis PR. Tel: 020 7802 2626 or email secondlifeuk@lewispr.com
  • The cost of establishing the virtual campus is £1,300 per annum. The project took two months for the Web Team's graduate intern, Tom Shaw, to develop.
  • The virtual campus was developed by the University's in-house web team. The project was driven by the team's graduate intern, and was a product of regular workshop sessions run by the Web Team.

University of Sussex Press office contacts: Maggie Clune and Jacqui Bealing. Tel: 01273 678 888 or email press@sussex.ac.uk

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