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Related to the Need to: Integrate a 3D Viewer into Canvas

Last February I posted an item on the Higher Education group discussion board (see Integrating a 3D Virtual World Viewer Into Canvas).  As further follow-up to this post, I wanted to focus the [Canvas] community's attention on an upcoming virtual event -- see the blog post Opportunity to Learn About Virtual World Use in Education

3D virtual world platforms like the OpenSimulator platform provide an inexpensive and effective way for faculty and institutions to stage engaging educational simulations.  Still, the ability of educators/institutions to optimize their use of OpenSimulator-based learning simulations is limited by the lack of a viewer (like the Firestorm and Singularity viewers) that can be integrated into Canvas (as an external app).

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10 Replies
Learner II

After seeing Firestorm again, I'd like to see two very distinct viewers. The first one should  absolutely be a baby version with training wheels. It should be nothing except bare bones navigation. I think if someone can get into a virtual space and just be able to chat, move around, and know how to turn their mic on and off really easily, they'll get hooked enough to invest the time in all the rest of it. 

But the viewers are crazy overwhelming. Especially considering most faculty I work with have little to zero experience with gaming and whatnot. 

Just my two cents. 

If and when someone is helping develop such a viewer for Canvas, I would be VERY interested in doing beta testing and giving feedback on user interface stuff.

0 Kudos

Well if you can get past the initial hurdle, exploring Second Life or OpenSim is pretty amazing because ordinary people create amazing things and share with the community. As Kay mentioned already, however, OpenSim is better because it's open source so you retain ownership of your content and simulations. 

Now that I'm getting back into this (I have a lot of faculty who are interested in exploring this and willing to invest their time), I'm really hopeful to find a community of educators who will pool resources to share content they create. But you're right, it's the money spent in the consumer world creating Assassin's Creed and whatnot that's all pretty that sets the bar really high. But the power of just getting people together in a virtual space is a start.

I think the people who get started in on this invest so much of their time because it really can be a lot of fun. But no mistake, it's a ton of time invested to do stuff!


I agree, Bethany!

Its effectiveness as a training tool has been proven, and especially by the military, but they have all the resources they can convince Congress to give them. Us poor community and technical colleges don't.

But I still follow the advances hoping for all of that to change. I have been greatly encourage by all the home VR systems coming onto the market, but lots of dollars when into the development of their canned virtual experiences.


Hi Kelley,

Thanks for your insights. I totally understand. It really is a huge learning curve. One of the things I'd like to see with a viewer is a beginner version. When I logged in I remembered how totally overwhelming it was. I still don't know how to do a lot of things. 

I do hope to see VR get easier to use and apply to the masses!




It is highly unlikely that you will see me there. With the current state of the technology, I am not a fan. The investment of time, money and resources is just way too much for the average school/teacher; and the process for the students is horrendous.  Just the set up directions for joining this webinar seem to be about 8 pages long. That is too much! Learning technology should be almost transparent to the student, and the learning curve should be very small for the faculty.

I am a huge learning/teaching tech fan, and I clearly recognize the potential potential of VR for teaching and learning; but the tech is just not ready for mass consumption. If you are a large school with lots of staff and money available to make the magic happen, then there are possibilities. But at my school, my faculty would just laugh at me, and rightfully so - we lack the resources to support it.


0 Kudos

Thanks Kelley,

I've registered and am looking forward to it. Hope to see you there!



Hi Kay,

Thanks again for all your replies and details. I'm so glad they are recorded here for anyone else in the future.

I agree having a viewer seamlessly integrated with Canvas will be one more way to make the experience better for everyone. I'm glad to hear you report that you find students are eager for this, and I do think that will help drive adoption of VR in education.

And thank you for the important detail about the ability to save simulation files and pre-create student avatars. That's a critical element. For the sake of simplicity I'm going to focus on OpenSim. 

I finally got my account info and just logged in to the conference space. I look forward to hearing you speak this weekend!


0 Kudos

Bethany (and Everyone),

I see your point [re:  why commit to one virtual world platform when there are so many different platforms under development (?)].  In turn (and like you), I am keeping an eye on Sansar, Sinespace, and High Fidelity.  Still, out of these three platforms, only High Fidelity is open source (and frankly, I am not even sure if High Fidelity is open source in the same way the OpenSimulator platform is open source [since the idea behind High Fidelity is for it to run as a "background program" on all the residents computers simultaneously]).  [Again, if a platform is not open source, faculty/institutions will not be able to save their simulation files and not be able to keep their grids completely private (and be FERPA compliant) and not be able to pre-create avatars for students).]  Also, the OpenSimulator platform is current well developed (while the other platforms listed above are in beta testing).

Further, my previous article is NOT about replacing the Firestorm viewer or the Singularity viewer.  Rather, my plea is to make either or both viewers integrate-able into Canvas (or if the creators of the Firestorm viewer or Singularity viewer are unwilling to make their viewer work as an "add on" to Canvas, perhaps another viewer creator will fill the void).  Canvas has quietly changed the LMS landscape by making external tools and other APIs easily mesh within the platform.  In turn, think how easy it would be for students to use a completely private grid IF the viewer could be accessed via a Canvas course site (?).

When you suggest, "...I wonder if the bigger problem is that it's so overwhelming to even know where to start," I believe your statement is true for many faculty members [re:  faculty members that are interested in creating educational simulations (with a steep learning curve associated with the creation of virtual world learning simulations)].  Still, student users do not face the same steep learning curve as faculty-developers -- so I have had a lot of success bringing larger and larger groups of students into a virtual world.  At the same time I found students to be more receptive to the use of virtual world learning simulations than other faculty members, students are eager for even more ready access (like embedding the needed viewer into the Canvas platform).

-- Kay McLennan



I got this great offer that you might be interested in. The email was about 7 pages long, but here are the important goodies...............

Opportunity to Learn About Virtual World Use in Education

The 2017 OpenSimulator Community Conference will be held in the OpenSimulator Community Conference Grid (or OSCC Grid) virtual world AND streamed live (@ on December 9th and 10th. In turn, even if you have never been in a virtual world, attending the OSCC event will enable you to gain first-hand experience attending a virtual world event as well as will introduce you numerous examples of how virtual world simulations are used in education. To learn more about how to register for the [no cost] event and move around within the conference grid, follow the step-by-step guide below.

If you still need to be convinced virtual world simulations and events are beneficial to educators, here are just a few of the highlights from the upcoming OSCC program (at…

  • The Liverpool & Manchester Railway circa 1830 (Graham Mills) - Presentation will detail how (in the absence of a photographic record of the railway) OpenSim is being used to model parts of the railway and adjacent areas.
  • 40 Virtual Cities Online (Christer Lindstrom) - Learn how public and private stakeholders are working together – using the OpenSimulator platform – to visualize, simulate, and plan future urban landscapes.
  • Spanish Language Learning (Martha Eugenia Lino and James Abraham) - Presentation will detail how students interact with learning objects and chatbots while strolling through a plaza or pyramid (to practice their Spanish language skills).
  • Case Study Simulations for In- and Out-of-World Use (Kay McLennan) - Learn how to create case study simulations (with NPC and chatbots) in an OpenSimulator grid and how the same simulations can be used for in-world tours and out-of-world instructional materials.
  • SLurtles Research (Carina Girvan) – Presentation profiles the research conducted on [the constructionist learning possible through] the use of shareable artifacts in virtual world learning simulations.
  • Bringing Literature to Life in OpenSim (Mary Howard and Andrew Wheelock) – A discussion of the Understanding the Holocaust Project (that correlates with the Diary of a Young Girl: Anne Frank) and the Westing Mansion Project (that correlates with the fictional story The Westing Game).
  • Developing Usable Prototypes for Serious Games in OpenSim (Rachel Umoren and Evalyn Gossett) - An overview of the development process for serious games, including prototyping, usability testing, and more.
  • Virtual Worlds Database (Alyse Dunavant-Jones, Valerie Hill, and Marie Vans) – Learn how the Virtual Worlds Database is promoting the best educational content virtual worlds have to offer, including the Digital Citizenship Museum.

Again, see the complete conference program at

Register for the OSCC17 event on the web site at Note: While the conference will be hypergrid-enabled, please be sure to request an OSCC Grid avatar. That is, when trying to login (at the same time a lot of other attendees are trying to login), it is easier to gain access to the grid through a “native” avatar.

Also, if you are too shy to use your real name when you register, you can always use a nom de plume (for your avatar’s name)!

I hope you find this helpful,


Learner II

Pardon my ignorance here Kay, but I wonder if the bigger problem is that it's so overwhelming to even know where to start. I became interested in OpenSim essentially because I realized I couldn't afford to own a region in Second Life, which is what I immediately wanted.  I just wanted my own VR sandbox where I could learn to build on a big scale. (I'm also passionate about open source and freely sharing information and resources, and not getting trapped by proprietary content if at all possible.)

But now I see multiple social spaces beyond SL, and I wouldn't know why or how to pick one over the other vs going with OpenSim. VR chat and HighFidelity are free sandbox virtual spaces, are they not? Are there functional limitations that make those places more or less attractive than OpenSim? Like SL I expect they would get expensive depending on what someone wanted to build in there, but what's the easiest one to use?  I think a lot of my faculty wouldn't even know where to start if they want to get started with virtual reality. I've dabbled with this a bit and I'm not sure where to start!! I'm just not clear why the lack of a viewer is the issue, unless there's major functionality I'm just completely ignorant of. Why not just use Firestorm?  

 I'm clear that you favor OpenSim, but I'm thinking of people who express interest but would say "Oh OpenSim is for developers, that's way beyond my ability. What platform should I use in terms of ease of use?". I know it totally depends on what someone wants to do, but if you had any insights on understanding the differences between all these different platforms, and why one versus the other is better for education that would be helpful.

By the way, thanks for all the information you are sharing with this community! Your expertise in this area is really valuable and appreciated!