Coming to the end of SYD 701, and Clare has presented us with our final project. SYD has been an odd class, it is really hard to define what we have learned – but this final assignment gives us the opportunity to gather all the loose thoughts together and present something coherent. I have the feeling that with both SYD and RES finals there is a very real danger of getting sidetracked by the scenarios. It would be easy to get too caught up in the Second Life development (syd) or my potential project idea (res) and find myself straying from the actual assignment at hand. But, it is going to be really important to have a clear concept of the final ‘product’ that we are basing our assignments on. So here I am, ready to tackle syd – and the first step will be too grasp the potential of the Second Life world.
Second Life, a virtual Student Hangout and Support Service
In our scenario, we work for a Wellington-based company who design and build online services for a wide variety of clients. But the latest is a little left of our norm. We have been approached by the Student Association of one of the local tertiary educators to design and build for them a Student Hangout and Support Service within Second Life. The institute currently teach a number of graphic design courses within Second Life and they feel that it is a prime opportunity to engage the student population and increase the social and support service that is already provided by the Student Association. The Association has a modest financial budget, an impressive resource budget within Second Life and a vague concept of what they are after. We are to work alongside the General Manager and Student Representative to help grow and develop their virtual dream.
I am really really fortunate to have studied at 3 tertiary institutes and have had experienced first-hand the fantastic programs and facilities that their various Student Associations provided. This will definitely help me form a clear picture of what might be possible, both from a Student Support and a student ‘culture’ perspective (fair to say that Dunedin Businesses do an incredible job of this alongside the Student Association at University of Otago). It was also really eye-opening to sit in class and get to dip our toes in Second Life, as Clare showed us around Kowhai Island. What an incredibly wonderful world! There is an almost endless potential, you are really only limited by your imagination and creativity – you can even fly!!!!! (so cool!)
So it got me thinking, if I was to describe the ‘perfect’ facilities for a Student Association, what would it look like? Otago and ANU both had incredible Student Associations, both had large facilities with dance halls, small meeting rooms, gymnasiums (both the fitness gyms and stadiums), squash / tennis courts, hockey turfs and football pitches – they were really well setup. ANU’s facilities were modern and incredibly well maintained. Otago’s still looked like they did in the 80’s, but were well looked after and they had a great mutual arrangement with the Dunedin City Council and their sporting facilities. So sporting-wise both excelled.
ANU had an edge over Otago in terms of the campus-community. ANU has a beautiful central avenue with nice trees and lots of grass and seating. At one end of the avenue is a great Community Hub with a bars, cafes, stationery supplier, banks, university bookshop and all the student support services (finances, health etc. etc. etc.). It was a real gathering place and lent a lot to the campus life – this is definitely something that I would want to incorporate into the Second Life environment.
My brain really started to grind into action when Clare showed us NMIT’s hyperdome. What an incredibly powerful and flexible resource! I think from a University’s point of view, the hard capital investment in facilities is entirely necessary, but probably quite daunting. Facilities tend not to provide a tangible service or ROI – but they are critically important to the delivery of your core services. When I was there, Otago’s Student Facilities (gym, courts etc.) were getting quite tired, but still did the job admirably. I also think the facilities usage was quite fixed, it wasn’t immensely flexible which means they probably
missed out on some wider revenue opportunities that a more flexible multi-use environment would generate. This is the power of the hyperdome! Low cost, shared resources and multi-purpose – ideal!
Second Life gives us the opportunity to think incredibly flexibly and generally about our environment. The flexibility of Second Life means we can focus more on the CULTURE and COMMUNITY space we want to create. It struck me that this is really really similar to a very-real problem that Sydney Olympic Park faced post-2000 Olympics. What on earth do you do with a multi-million dollar elite sporting facility on a day-to-day basis??????
I will leave this post here; but in my next post I will carry on with my thoughts about Sydney Olympic Park, the Australian Open, and some of the exciting things that have happened there, that I think will be huge thinking points for our SYD project.