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Teaching in Virtual Worlds: OAR files, Sim-on-a-Stick, and Kitely

This post was written for SL MOOC 2016


Resources for Teachers:
OAR files, Sim-on-a-Stick, and Kitely


OAR

I love OAR files! They're the perfect way to save and share an entire SIM.
The OpenSimulator Archive (OAR) function has existed since OpenSimulator 0.5.9. The facility does a similar job to load-xml2/save-xml2 in that it saves prims so that they can be later reloaded. However, OpenSimulator archives (OAR) go a step further in that they can save all the necessary asset data so that you may fully restore the terrain, region parcel data, the textures of objects and their inventories when loaded onto a completely different system using a different asset database.http://opensimulator.org/wiki/OpenSim_Archives
There's a considerable collection of ready-to-use islands in OAR format available for free. The ones created by Linda Kellie can currently be downloaded from Zadaroo. There are also free OAR files created by Ener Hax available at http://enerhax.com/

SoaS

Right now you might be wanting to ask me: "I don't have any virtual land. How, and where, will I be able to try these ready-to-use-islands?" And my answer would be: "No problem. You can use Sim-on-a-Stick."



Sim-on-a-stick (SoaS) is a virtual world developed by Ener Hax that works on your computer and its not connected to the Web. You can download it for free at http://simonastick.com/ 
2. what's Sim-on-a-Stick? A standalone, single user Windows package of OpenSim that runs on a USB flash drive or other convenient location. In addition to the OpenSimulator server, it contains the Apache web server, MySQL, and PHP in order to create a "portable" server.http://simonastick.com/faqs08.html
Using SoaS will allow you to experiment building your own virtual learning environments for free - i.e. without having to rent an entire SIM in order to do it. You will also be able to save multiple versions of your work as it evolves, as easily as you would with any simple presentation. Furthermore, collaboration with others is possible: all you need to do is to save your OAR file and then send it to the person you're collaborating with, using Dropbox or a similar service.

The collage below illustrates the very first virtual learning environment I developed from scratch using SoaS, several years ago.

Collage of a SIM I created using SOAS. The textures for the granaries (picture in the middle on the right column) were obtained by photographing real-life traditional granaries at the villages of Soajo and Lindoso, in the Minho region, Northwestern Portugal.  

And here's a video tutorial I made a few years ago, explaining how to (legally) turn prim items into mesh objects, using Singularity. The first part of the tutorial takes place on that same virtual environment I created using SoaS.




A little final note about SoaS: although it is called Sim-on-a-Stick (aka Flash drive aka USB drive), in my experience, SoaS works much better/faster when you run it on a computer's hard disk.

Kitely

Kitely backup options
Working offline on your virtual learning environment for as many hours as you wish is a great thing, but there might come a time when you feel like sharing your final work with the World... or just your students.
When it comes to connecting your virtual world to the Web, there are several options within public and private grids that support OpenSimulator. One my favorite grids is Kitely. It's not free, but it's not very expensive either, and it makes uploading and saving a SIM in OAR format quite simple.

Hope this post has helped you expand your virtual learning environments builder's toolbox. Feel free to ask me any questions about these resources.





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