Jeremy and I fundamentally disagree about this, but I think this isn’t an entirely bad idea. The gist: IBM and Linden labs have teamed up to create an entirely protected space within Second Life where IBM employees can talk without being interrupted or overheard by other Second Life users. There is an argument in the virtual worlds sphere that holds that Second Life, or virtual worlds in general, are only any good if they’re entirely public. Locking off pieces will reduce creativity and is counterproductive, goes the train of thought.
To me, as long as you can bring objects in and out of locked spaces, I think this is a fantastic development for education. If IBM can lock off a portion of the world, and create new land within in it for their own use, that means educational institutions can do the same thing. I bet IBM will have a public portion (for PR) and a private portion (for work); this would be an excellent example to institutions, who could collaborate on a joint public zone, where all participant institutions could have a storefront (so to speak) for recruitment and public event purposes, and then a private area where their classrooms and sandboxes live, protected for the moment while they’re still in flux. There could also be a space in the public, shared display area to showcase excellent builds and projects created within their private zones. Additionally, in an ideal world, each institutions libraries would take charge of archiving projects and builds that, with permission of course, could be “loaned out” to other students/institutions for academic purposes. So if someone creates an excellent historical build that sits in display for a while and then moves to archives, another instructor could borrow it for a class, and have students from another institution wander through it for a week or two as part of their preparatory reading. Students should absolutely get credit for it, too.
Having a public area and a private area for students allows instructors to keep students in a protected area when required, but would also allow them to use Second Life as a virtual universe to explore at the same time; while many people are concerned about the wild west mentality that pervades some elements of Second Life, a private launch pad would allow students to find their feet before moving into the more diverse parts of the space. It would also put land use in the hands of the institution, which I think is a key part of creating coursework builds.
I just don’t think this kind of structure is possible given the current land organization and administration.
I would never have imagined that IBM enclosing space in a virtual world would ever seem like such a positive step forward for the rest of us, but it seems that way to me!