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Arts Metaverse


© 2008 Ulrich Rauch, Tim Wang, Marvin Cohodas, and Negin Mirriahi.

The text of this article is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/).

EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 43, no. 5 (September/October 2008)

Arts Metaverse

Ulrich Rauch, Tim Wang, Marvin Cohodas, and Negin Mirriahi

Ulrich Rauch is with the School of Cognition, Learning, and Education, at the University of Trinidad and Tobago. Tim Wang is Manager for Instructional Support and Development with the Arts Instructional Support and Information Technology department, Marvin Cohodas is Professor of Art History, and Negin Mirriahi is Course Designer/Developer with the Arts Instructional Support and Information Technology department and the Office of Learning Technologies, all at the University of British Columbia. Comments on this article can be sent to <arts_metaverse@mail.arts.ubc.ca> and/or can be posted to the web via the link at the bottom of this page.

Figure 1

Have you always wanted to travel across your country or the world to tour an archaeological excavation site but never had the opportunity to do so? Have you dreamed about venturing into the past and seeing an ancient site as it stood centuries ago? Have you wanted to be able to sit in a virtual café, talk with a colleague, browse a web page, and view a video clip, all in the same virtual environment? Then step into the Arts Metaverse (http://artsmetaverse.arts.ubc.ca/), a 3D virtual learning environment (3D VLE), and visit places that you thought were impossible, or maybe just inconvenient, to reach.

Purpose and Goals of the Project

Figure 2

For years, students have learned about faraway places or ancient cultures from books, images, and videos. They have had to imagine how it would feel to be in a particular city, country, or community. Taking a class field-trip to distant places has been a dream for many teachers and students—for centuries. The Arts Metaverse strives to provide students with the authentic and meaningful learning experience of visiting virtual and digital 3D buildings, communities, and cultures without leaving their home or school. Wandering and virtually exploring an environment while digitally interacting with peers or teachers should help students achieve a better sense and understanding of the architecture, culture, or society they are virtually exploring and studying. Students walk on streets they never could before and go inside buildings that they could only dream of visiting. The ability to collaboratively explore a 3D virtual learning space increases students’ interest and curiosity in a particular subject area, leading to a more engaged and effective academic discourse and resulting in a richer learning experience.

About the Platform

Figure 3

The Arts Metaverse was developed by the University of British Columbia’s Arts Instructional Support and Information Technology unit. It is an immersive 3D VLE that provides an opportunity for scholars, teachers, students, and interested individuals to create and share a virtual space in collaboration. The Arts Metaverse enables high-quality, scholarly, and academically accurate 3D content creation for teaching and research purposes. Through the process of mapping, sketching, data-collecting, and subsequent modeling, scholars achieve a better understanding of the research subject or learning objective. In a next step, this new content is distributed widely through the 3D VLE to learners as well as to other researchers or the community at large. Scholarly responses for each project are collected, archived, and processed to improve the knowledge base of the subject matter. The Arts Metaverse is based on the open-source Croquet platform (http://www.opencroquet.org/index.php/Main_Page). It runs identically on Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems. This platform allows users to integrate high-end graphics with sound, simulations, collaborative technologies, and social networking tools, enhancing virtual interactions and communication with each other.

Ulrich Rauch

Like many working in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector, Ulrich does not come from a computing science background but moved sideways into the field of integrated technologies. His education is in Sociology, and it is his interest in teaching, learning and research into digital learning technologies that got him interested in instructional support, e-learning and all aspects of Information Technology. He also admits to have a weakness for tinkering with computer hardware, a skill that has helped him as a graduate student to make a living and has prepared him for an understanding of computer technology in general.

Prior to his appointment at the University of Trinidad & Tobago, Ulrich has been the Director for Instructional Support and Information Technology in the Faculty of Arts, at UBC, and he participated in a number of exciting international open source developments on learning technologies, such as Pachyderm, a web-based media authoring system, the Sakai project, a collaborative platform for teaching and learning, and most recently the development of virtual and immersive 3D learning environments, such as Ancient Spaces or the Arts Metaverse (based on Croquet).

Ulrich's responsibilities at UTT include the administration and management of the newly founded Learning Centre. The Centre is in part virtual and extends to multiple campuses, providing instructional support and promoting information literacy to students, staff and instructors. Ulrich graduated with a Ph.D in Sociology from UBC in 1996. In 2005 he was the first Canadian to become a fellow of the Frye Leadership Institute.


Tim Wang

Tim is a manager and a technology developer at Arts ISIT. He is dedicated to experimenting with new media while creating innovative online teaching and learning applications. With a programming background, Tim combines digital media development with interactive software design. He is currently building asynchronous learning object authoring tools using Macromedia Flash in combination with server side technologies. Tim is also a WebCT Trainer and delivers workshops on effective use of technology for e-Learning.


Marvin Cohodas

The University of British Columbia


Negin Mirriahi

The University of British Columbia


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