These answers were provided by Lori Bell, our very own D4L instructor for the Technologies Module, and Interim Special Projects Coordinator at the South Central Regional Library Council.
For people who aren’t familiar with this community, where should they explore to find out more about it? What are a few of the most interesting features of this community?
Infoquest is an example of an online community which did not work well and we had to give it up after one year. Infoquest is a mix of Jibe, virtual world software, and Unity, a game building software. It is a web-based world. We wanted to try it because with a web-based world, the learning curve for users is less than a virtual world with Second Life which requires its own “viewer” software and has a steep learning curve. A small group of librarians (5-6) committed to working with this project which started in November 2014. The problem was that all of these individuals were very busy with Second Life and other virtual worlds. They did not have the time to learn Jibe and Unity. Although Infoquest was easier for users, it was not easy for developers. There were not as many graphics etc. available as there were for Second Life. After much discussion, our group decided to turn the project over to Dr. John Jamison of Imagilearning who was familiar with the software and who had a project using the software.
What’s it like to participate in this community?
The graphics of Infoquest were outstanding and beautiful. We had several scenes developed by Reaction Grid. (See our website for pictures.) We also found a gentleman in the UK who had already created many scenes for games that he sold us. These are also on our website. We had a welcome scene, a library scene, and a conference center and exhibit area in one world. Other “worlds” that we had planned were Middle East, thirteenth century England, Medieval Marketplace, War of the Roses, Fortress, Urban Decay and Future Now. Our plan was to have a manager of each world, put up seating in the scene for book discussions and programs and to have book displays on that topic. So that every manager did not have to learn Unity and Jibe and pay for a license which was somewhat expensive, we bought what Reaction Grid calls Aces Boards which one can put in a scene then upload a graphic to it. We set up 25-50 Aces boards into each world for this purpose.
What do participants put into it?
Several librarians created beautiful displays using Aces boards in the conference and exhibit area. One graduate student put the website together, put tutorials together and learned how to use Jibe and Unity. Others were going to learn to use this software but just did not have time with other projects they were working on.
What do they get out of it?
We were hoping to get a community of librarians and educators together to enjoy continuing education, programs, and networking. We just did not generate enough interest to form a working community and we had too many challenges and problems in getting the project off the ground.
How did this community get started?
This community started with the group of 4-5 librarians who wanted to investigate a web-based world which was easier for users than the steep learning curve of Second Life.
What kind of steps were involved?
We contracted with Reaction Grid and they built the first world. We bought the other worlds/environments from Arteria 3d.
What do/did you do to maintain this community?
We tried to get interest from librarians and educators, thinking we might get the same interest and collaboration as we did with Second Life. We just did not get that interest and with such projects, you have to have community and collaboration.
What kind of issues do/did you have to troubleshoot?
We had a number of issues to troubleshoot-
What other advice can you offer about online learning communities?
Plan, plan, plan
Start small and make sure you can support your online community
Spend lots of time with the company you are working with to plan and to see what their costs are for training, development, etc.
If possible, get an expert on the community who will help you Know when something is not working and realize it is a learning experience.
Make sure you have several technical people willing to learn the software and provide support.
Make sure you have enough people for a successful community