The university has secured “49 pieces of land” in the Second Life virtual world at a cost of just under $35,000 USD along with about $150/month in maintenance fees. While this may seem ridiculous at first (“Paying thousands of dollars for virtual land!?!”), the cost is on par with other software licensing and contracts that universities spend money on with little question.
The article suggests that the university plans on making the land available to its community (i.e. students, faculty, staff, etc) as a place for them to interact, build things, etc. Although I’m not a big fan of Second Life, I think this experimental approach is the right one, and is in keeping with the mandate of the university to provide learning environments for its community.
It will be interesting to see what they do, if anything, to protect their land and their environment. How will they keep advertisers and other trouble-makers off campus? Also, what policies will govern behaviour in this space? School policies are often laid over whatever government laws and regulations are in place where they are. How does that translate in a virtual space like Second Life? Hopefully this experimentation will provide useful insights into how we blend our virtual and physical worlds together.