Virtual Communications and the 3D Web


In this assignment designed by J.M. Grenier, Students will be able to explain what is meant by a "virtual world" and the 3D web, as well as discuss the potential for the use of these tools and their impact to existing methods of communication on the web.

Background: Students should already have had a chance to learn more about the use of traditional media, interactive social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, and Instant Messengers), and other web-communication tools such as e-mail, list servers, and/or podcasts.

Introduction: Virtual Worlds, Web-hosted Multi-User Gaming Environments and other 3D communications technologies have been steadily increasing in use since about 1993, with the advent of some of the first text-based MUDs (Multi-User Dimensions). In the following exercise, we will show one of the worlds to students to get them to begin asking questions about the potential impact these tools may have on existing communications toolers and on internet based communications, in general. This video shows Second Life being used for business and other group communications: click!


  • Computer and overhead projector for the instructor
  • Paper and pens, tables


  1. Students should do a think/pair/share exercise in which they ask themselves the following questions:
    1. Does this platform look like a good way to communicate with others?
    2. What tools might be the best available on the platform, for group communication? Is it the built in group text chat? Etc.?
    3. What might be some of the disadvantages for using one of these platforms?
    4. Of the chosen, why is that the best feature for the platform for this task?
    5. Skype has live video chat. Are there advantages to using a 3D virtual environment that are apparently not available within Skype, Google, or other video conferencing systems?
    6. Given the information in the video about the use of these media by children 3-9, does it make sense that businesses, schools, and other organizations should start ramping up the use of these tools for the next generation of students and workers? Why or why not?
    7. What might the use of these tools do to the usage of other popular social communications media, such as Facebook and LinkedIn? Will there be a major impact or is it a small trend that will pass, leasing the other huge social media present now as the dominant players in the field?
  2. Next, is the Think/Pair/Share exercise: let students have five minutes to Think about and write down their answers to these questions
  3. After students have had time to work through the questions on their own, ask them to Pair up. Alternatively, you may ask them to work in small groups of three or four, depending on the size of the class.
  4. Lastly, students should be able to Share their ideas with the larger group. A good way to break the ice here is to ask students if they found that they and their partners had very similar ideas, or very different ideas about the subject. After that question, you can ask them to share their thoughts.

Assessment: Students can write a fictional account of what the world will be like in ten years, with this technological shift, or ask them to write a longer, formal research paper on the subject. Alternatively, students can just discuss as an assessment.