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The future of the Metaverse: If there has been a failure, it is ours

The future of the Metaverse: If there has been a failure, it is ours | Metaverse News |

Fleep Tuque posted a fascinating essay yesterday with the provocative title, "Why Anyone Who Cares About the Metaverse Needs to Move Beyond Second Life; Now, Not Later." It was a lucid and heartfelt account of Linden Lab's transition from an ideal-driven group of Metaverse enthusists, to a market-driven corporation going after the gaming market. She also did a great job describing the impact that the corporate changes had on the Second Life community, of which she has been a long-term leader.

I was one of the Metaverse idealists she described so well. I thought that there would eventually be a seamless integration between Second Life and OpenSim that would eventually be extended to other platforms via open standards. I also believed that virtual worlds would soon move into the mainstream and be commonly used in people's business and personal lives. I was wrong.

Linden Lab is now actively working to distance Second Life from OpenSim. One of the leading OpenSim grids recently announced that they're abandoning the platform to focus on its own Unity-based product. Although there seems to be some growth in hypergrid compatible OpenSim participation, proprietary 3D chat room and social gaming platforms like IMVU to have a lot more momentum.

Unlike Fleep, I'm not convinced that Linden Lab is the main cause of the virtual world's failure to actualize our idealistic vision. Sure, they would have been more successful if they hadn't wasted so much time and resources on their ill-conceived forays into chasing the corporate market; if they had communicated well and reached out positively to the Second Life community over the years; if they had not pulled the rug out from under us so many times, such as the OpenSpace fiasco and the elimination of educational discounts. But even if they had done everything right, I don't think the Metaverse ideal would have been embraced now outside of the current small niche.

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The Secret World: A Review

The Secret World: A Review | Metaverse News |

FunCom's new MMORPG The Secret World is a universe full of magic, deception, and darkness. You play as a member of one of three secret societies - the Illuminati, the Templars, or the Dragon. Regardless of which society you choose, you're probably still the bad guy, sent all over the world to guard your secrets and fight rival factions. A lot of the time, you won't even know why you go where you do - you're not the boss.

But it's not a different world to the one we live in. Not really. Instead, it's an underground version of the modern world. Granted, the real world is probably not infested with monsters, but in The Secret World, parts of it are. Those parts have been cut off from the rest of the world, their infections and invasions covered up by governments. You roam these areas, supporting your society and trying to help people along the way.

Because the game is based in reality, The Secret World is low fantasy. There's a little bit of magic, but most of the weapons are guns, swords and hammers. Buildings and environments are modern, and there are no elves or orcs to be seen. It's a refreshing change, and something entirely new in the MMO space.

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Krafties - Fantasy Pet MMORPG Based In Second Life

Krafties - Fantasy Pet MMORPG Based In Second Life | Metaverse News |
Krafties is brand new Second Life fantasy petRPG. With intergrated crafting and battles, you can craft new creations to resell or train up your Krafties creatures to dominate the battle world!
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Sydney Fashion Week in Second Life

Sydney Fashion Week in Second Life | Metaverse News |

C'est la vie, Countdown, Solidea, Boudoir, Kunglers, Vero Modero and more designers all in one week? Wow! Seems to me that Second Life's Sydney Fashion Week will surely rock!

Thanks to IMA Owner and CEO, Ananya Mai, for giving me a preview of the stage where the action is to happen. I reaaally loved how the ramp, inspired by the Sydney Opera House, looks like; and to describe it in a word, I choose GENIUS! :)

SFW is a welcome development to fashion lovers from the Asia-Pacific region; as most of the great fashion shows and activities are usually scheduled based on the US timezone. I'm really excited about it and can't wait to see what the designers will come up with.

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The University of Western Australia in Second Life: Audience Participation Events: UWA Centenary 3D Art & MachinimUWA V

The University of Western Australia in Second Life: Audience Participation Events: UWA Centenary 3D Art & MachinimUWA V | Metaverse News |

Running through the end of July are Audience Participation Events for the UWA Centenary 3D Art Challenge, with 90 artworks from around the globe and MachinimUWA V: Seek Wisdom, with a sublime collection of 51 short animated film.

Both of these events are set up such that the viewers or the audience experiencing the artworks or the film, can submit a top10 list in the order they think will be the ultimate juried order. The 3 viewers or audience members who come closest in both art & machinima events can win for themselves up to L$10,000. To take part, click the link for the 3D Art or for the Machinima and everything is explained!

All this will culminate at 6am SLT Sunday 5th August where the Grand Finale announcement will be held for both events.

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Philip Rosedale: The Media Is Wrong, SecondLife Didn’t Fail

Philip Rosedale: The Media Is Wrong, SecondLife Didn’t Fail | Metaverse News |

As anyone who has ever been near a startup knows, none of it is ever that simple, whether the startup succeeds or fails. And it certainly wasn’t for SecondLife — a company that seemed crazy initially, lauded as the next best thing a few years later, and was then dismissed as overhyped and mostly forgotten as the Web 2.0 wave gained steam.

SecondLife never went public or sold. There were chaotic transitions in management and pretty sizable layoffs. But far worse in the eyes of many, its audience just failed to grow. And in the Valley, many consider anything that’s not growth or an exit as a death. The hype cycle moved on, and even people in the back of the room were asking whatever happened to SecondLife, as Rosedale spoke.

“Did it ever sell?”

“I don’t know… Hey, did SecondLife ever sell?”

“I can’t remember…”

But Rosedale argued hard — and pretty convincingly — that SecondLife was a success. SecondLife has 1 million active users. That’s almost the exact same number it had at the peak when everyone was going ape-shit about it — when it was on the cover of BusinessWeek as the next big thing, when staid companies like IBM were building out SecondLife presences, when politicians were holding press releases inside of SecondLife, when Duran Duran and Depeche Mode were holding concerts there.

That number never fell, Rosedale says. If that was an amazing accomplishment then, it should still be an amazing accomplishment now that they’ve sustained it in a world where websites are fads that quickly come and go. More impressive, there are $700 million a year in virtual goods transacted inside of SecondLife every year. That’s more than enough to make the company very profitable.

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OpenSim NPCs simulate disasters

OpenSim NPCs simulate disasters | Metaverse News |

For most people, NPCs — non-player characters — are the princesses you need to save in video games, dragons you need to defeat, and shopkeepers who give advice about how to proceed in your quests.

But for David Prior, CTO at Simudyne , NPCs are a way to model emergency evacuation plans for amusement parks, hotels, banks and other large venues — even entire cities.

One customer using the technology is the European Union’s SAVE ME project, the goal of which is to develop a system that detects disasters and offers mass evacuation guidance in order to save public lives and the lives of the rescuers. The first two pilot sites will be Italy’s Colle Capretto tunnel and England’s Monument Metro station.

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Teleport Between Kitely Worlds | Kitely Blog

Teleport Between Kitely Worlds | Kitely Blog | Metaverse News |

Teleporting between Kitely worlds finally works! If you try to teleport to a world that is online then you’ll be teleported to it immediately. If you try to teleport to a world that is offline then the world will be started; you’ll remain active in the world you are currently in; and once the destination world is ready you’ll be teleported to it automatically.

Teleports are also connected to the website: if you click “Enter World” in a World Page, and you are already in another Kitely world, then you will be teleported to the new world. This means that you no longer have to close the viewer to switch between worlds.

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Post-apocalyptic Steampunk Pirates in Second Life

Post-apocalyptic Steampunk Pirates in Second Life | Metaverse News |
If I could find something about vampires or Alice in Wonderland I think this build would manage to incorporate most of the major themes we love inworld. It might sound a little strange, and it could be that the owners would describe it differently, but I think this combination works and it’s a great place to visit.

My journey began today with this photo↑ by LookatmyBack. I know he likes steampunk so I thought I’d check out the region and see what was there.

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Those who play together, stay together - study

Those who play together, stay together - study | Metaverse News |
A study from Brigham Young University (BYU) has revealed online role-playing games like World of Warcraft both negatively and positively impact marital satisfaction.

The study looked at 349 heterosexual couples, dividing the respondents into two groups: one in which both spouses gamed, and the other in which only one spouse gamed.

For couples in which both spouses play, the study found 76 percent said that gaming had a positive effect on their marital relationship, particularly couples who interacted in-game.

The average age of the respondents in the nationwide survey was 33 years, while the average marriage length was seven years. Of those couples in which only one spouse gamed, 84 percent were the husbands; of those couples where both gamed, 73 percent of those who gamed more were husbands.

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Students Enter Virtual World of Finance (Second Life)

Students Enter Virtual World of Finance (Second Life) | Metaverse News |

Students at Maine Endwell High School have entered in to a virtual world in order to learn about financial planning for their future.
Visions Federal Credit Union provides this free educational tool.
Maine Endwell is the first school in New York State to use the game, Modoh Island.
"Our hope is that eventually it will be something that the teachers can use to supplement their classroom without our hands on in it," says Colleen Barton, Youth Educator for Visions Federal Credit Union.
To play, students create an Avatar and start with $10,000 dollars.
They have to make choices from buying cars to paying school loans, and buying or renting a home.
"I just picked the basic schooling and I was just careful about the car, and I picked a smaller house, cheaper and cheaper car. Smart decisions for then and now I can get a nicer car and house," says Julie, an 11th grade student.

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Ultima Returns as Browser-Based F2P MMO Strategy Game

Ultima Returns as Browser-Based F2P MMO Strategy Game | Metaverse News |

Electronic Arts and Aeria Games have jointly announced the launch of Lord of Ultima, a new addition to the Ultima franchise that can be played within a browser.

Following the successful launch of Battlefield Heroes and Need for Speed World, Lord of Ultima is the latest, and third, title Aeria Games has released from its multi-game deal for EA’s portfolio of Play4Free games.

"Set in the legendary Ultima universe, the game transports players to the new world of Caledonia where players aim to grow their capital on the path to glory," reads the description. "By exploring new continents and forging a vast empire, players will master the art of diplomacy and trade as well as the military activities of spying, plundering, and conquering enemy cities. Players can mark their place in history by attaining the mighty and feared status as Lord of Ultima."

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Linden Lab acquires experimental game studio LittleTextPeople

Linden Lab acquires experimental game studio LittleTextPeople | Metaverse News |

Second Life developer Linden Lab has acquired the experimental game studio LittleTextPeople, which specializes in exploring the emotional possibilities of interactive fiction.

This marks the first acquisition for Linden Lab since former Sims developer Rod Humble took over as CEO in 2010, and falls in line with the comapny's new strategy to experiment with game design and develop products beyond Second Life.

LittleTextPeople, founded by writer Emily Short and Maxis veteran Richard Evans, has so far focused on the development of software that replicates complex social interaction. For instance, among its internal technology is a simulator that models social behavior and individual personalities.

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Project to Improve Graphics Rendering in Second Life

One of the challenges that virtual world creators face is the trade-off between rich visual detail and geometric complexity. Ideally, by adding more and smaller faces to an object, a designer can model different surface textures and create realistic variations in the interplay of light and shadow. However, adding faces also quickly increases the size of the model and its rendering cost. Normal and Specular Maps are ways to address this by allowing for the appearance of a complex surface without actually modeling fine scale geometry.

A Normal Map is an image where the color codes indicate how the renderer should reflect light from each pixel on a surface by modifying the direction that the pixel "faces" (imagine that each pixel could be turned on tiny pivots). This means that pixels on a simple surface can be rendered so that they appear to have much more detail than the actual geometry and at much lower rendering cost. Light and shadow are rendered as though the surface had depth and physical texture, simulating roughness, bumps, and even edges and additional faces.

Similarly, a Specular Map allows each pixel to have its own degree of reflectivity, so that some parts of a single face reflect sharply, while adjacent pixels can be dull.

The open source developers of the Exodus Viewer are contributing Viewer support for Normal and Specular Maps, as well as some additional controls for how light reflects from faces. Linden Lab is developing the server side support so that this powerful tool will be available in Second Life.

Design and development are under way. Watch this blog and the Snowstorm Viewers page for information on when test Viewers with these new capabilities become available.

For additional information, or to learn more about how you can participate in the open source program, please contact

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Machinima Expo 2012: submissions open

Machinima Expo 2012: submissions open | Metaverse News |

Pooky Amsterdam has tapped me about this, and I’m happy to slip-in this post for her.

This year marks the 5th annual Machinima Expo, a three day virtual machinima festival which bridges Second Life and the real world. The Expo will be held over the weekend of the 17th-18th November 2012, and submissions are now open for those wishing to participate.

There is no maximum running time for entries to the event, but a couple of rules must be adhered to:

Entries must comprise at least 50% machinima

Entrants must not have previously submitted the film to the Expo.

Note that films do not have to be filmed in Second Life (or any other virtual world – although entries created in any virtual world are obviously welcome), just so long as they are at least 50% machinima.

The closing date for submissions is September 30th 2012, and you can find the entry form on the Expo website.

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The End of the Second Life Community Convention

You may have read the official announcement that AvaCon is not organizing a Second Life Community Convention this year. This post is not an official anything, it’s just one person’s opinion and personal perspective. I knew how I felt about organizing another SLCC after last year, but I remained silent on the question about this year to give the other organizers an opportunity to communicate whatever they ultimately decided to do. Now that they’ve done so, I feel some obligation to address the questions from people who want to know what happened.

To be clear, this is purely my own opinion / interpretation / understanding of events and doesn’t represent the position or opinion of AvaCon or the Board or any other organization or person I work with. I didn’t run this post by them or Linden Lab, and I hope I don’t get sued or something, but considering the nature of SLCC as a user-led community event, I think the Second Life userbase has an important interest in hearing fair comments and criticism from one former organizer of SLCC about what she thinks happened.

The tl;dr short answer of why there is no SLCC this year is because Linden Lab opted not to sponsor one.

I can’t say I was completely surprised considering the meeting we had with Linden Lab at their offices after SLCC last year. Instead of being treated like valuable customers who had just volunteered months of our lives working for no pay to organize a fan event for their product, we basically got chewed out for not producing the equivalent of BlizzCon. Seriously, that’s what they said. (Note to Linden Lab, if you want BlizzCon, you have to pay for it – BlizzCon had a budget in the millions.)

I’m sure it was easier for them to blame us than to face what I think is the reality of the situation: Second Life isn’t the draw it once was. The fact is, the number of people willing to pay to fly to a real world location to discuss it has dwindled over the years. As the number got smaller, the costs went up, which meant fewer people could afford to come, which.. the very definition of a vicious cycle.

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Thoughts on the serious games scene in Singapore

Thoughts on the serious games scene in Singapore | Metaverse News |

The third annual Serious Games Conference was held last in week in Singapore and it was a real pleasure to speak at the event. The event was well attended by a variety of speakers and industry representatives from across the globe and local Singapore developers.

Designers, developers and domain experts shared their experience, current developments and where they believe serious games are heading. Presentations were made by representatives from companies such as Crytek (South Korea), Digitalmill (US), Eduwealth (Singapore), Littleloud Studios (UK), MOH Holdings (Singapore), National Institute Education (Singapore), Playware Studios (Singapore), Ranj Serious Games (Netherlands), Rockmoon Pte Ltd (Singapore), Serious Games International (UK) and yours truly from Hummingbird Interactive.

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Charting the growth of Second Life

Charting the growth of Second Life | Metaverse News |

With over 20,000 regions currently active on the grid, it is sometimes hard to picture just how big Second Life is, much less under how all the various component parts – continents, famous regional groups, places like the Blake Sea and Bay City – look and fit together. Harder still is to picture exactly how SL grew over the years.

So, if you do have an interest in the physical growth and development of Second Life, or are curious about SL cartography, Maps of Second Life is well worth a visit.

Brought together and curated by Juliana Lethdetter, the exhibition features maps charting the history of Second Life from 2002 onwards, and features maps supplied by groups such as the Historical Society of Second Life, the SL Coast Guard, and individuals such as Carl Metropolitan and Marianne McCann.

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Time to Cloud Party

Time to Cloud Party | Metaverse News |

Cloud Party.

Two simple words. I found out about it a few days before it got blogged on New World Notes and as I have a commercial Facebook set up took a look. My old Mac that cannot support Second Life worked perfectly well for Cloud Party. It’s embedded in Facebook or you can use just on a normal browser. And inspiration struck me. The piece of music I am using for this post was on my Spotify as I logged on and it really made me smile.

- Mesh Content (so yay for those who have learnt it for SL)
- Access to a potential huge market via Facebook
- Easy Interface (if you can use an iPhone you can use this)
- Marketplace and ability to cash out for creators coming soon

And it was well – pretty neat.

It’s not a replacement for Second Life. It’s a different animal but it has the sparks that Second Life first created for me albeit it with a now more skilled background. For a content creator who has learnt mesh and photoshop etc this is an amazing opportunity. Key is for Cloud Party to now get heir pricing point and commercial model right. Then the second key is to continue to engage the Facebook set whilst not getting too distracted by the SL set. And I mean that in the nicest way as I am one of those. They have a small but perfectly formed team, CEO Sam Thompson and his team with advisors Cory Ondrejka (he co-founded SL) and Bruce Rogers from Cryptic Studios.

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Federal Virtual Worlds moving beyond Second Life

Federal Virtual Worlds moving beyond Second Life | Metaverse News |

explore in Second Life. Now it operates just one.

For NOAA and other federal agencies, the focus of virtual world activity has moved beyond Second Life and diversified onto other platforms and gaming engines, according to Eric Hackathorn, a 3D Web designer for NOAA and one of the federal pioneers in virtual worlds.

“Virtual worlds are in need of some rebranding,” Hackathorn told Federal Computer Week. “Historically, virtual worlds were synonymous with Second Life, but that is no longer the case.”

While several agencies, including NOAA, NASA, Defense Department and National Library of Medicine maintain a presence on Second Life, several current initiatives have shifted to open source and in-house platforms and interagency efforts, he said. For example, DOD's PTSD Experience invites users to learn about post-traumatic stress disorder.

“There is a lot of activity and many different use cases,” Hackathorn said, with initiatives for training, innovation and research in 3D and gaming environments.

The upcoming Federal Consortium for Virtual Worlds’ annual conference starting on May 16 will highlight some of those programs.

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Eve Online FanFest panel accused of mocking suicidal player

Eve Online FanFest panel accused of mocking suicidal player | Metaverse News |

CCP has launched an investigation after an Eve Online panel at its FanFest convention was accused of mocking a suicidal player.
Eve Online player Kestrel wrote to CCP and Eurogamer today to complain about Thursday's Alliance Panel presentation.
The presentation, delivered by one of the CSM council members and moderated by a CCP employee, featured an in-game communication between two Eve Online players where, according to Kestrel, one of the players clearly indicated suicidal thoughts and showed "obvious" signs of severe depression.
"When this communication was shown to the audience the presenter, along with part of the audience of players and CCP representatives present all had a good laugh," Kestrel said. "The presenter went on to encourage other players of Eve Online to harass this player in the hope that he would eventually be compelled to act on his suicidal thoughts.
"This player's in-game contact information was provided. I found this section of the presentation to be in extremely poor taste."
The panel was broadcast online as part of the streaming of the popular FanFest event, which showcased Eve Online, Dust 514 and World of Darkness.
In response, CCP issued a statement criticising the "abhorrent behaviour" that occurred.

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Great overview of VWBPE 2012 by Daniel Voyager

Great overview of VWBPE 2012 by Daniel Voyager | Metaverse News |

Early this morning I logged into Second Life to visit VWBPE locations around the grid and started to collect notecards/freebies which was fun. As you can see today I have updated my blog for VWBPE 2012 which I hope all my readers will like. I went over to the first event on the listings called Conference Orientation Meet-and-Greet where the SL community started to catch up and hang out.

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ClassRealm: How One Teacher Turned Sixth Grade Into An MMO

ClassRealm: How One Teacher Turned Sixth Grade Into An MMO | Metaverse News |

Video games and education. Two passions in my life that I tend to keep separate. I’ve been on the learning side of education for the last 16 years, but last fall I made the transition from student to teacher. I was dead set on bridging the gap between my life as a gamer and my life as a teacher before the school year even started. I plastered the walls of my classroom with posters of Link, set up Mario action figures across my desk and crafted 8-bit sprites all over my board. My sixth grade students loved that I was interested in video games — just like them! As sixth graders, most of the boys in my class were more focused on Call of Duty and Madden, they had no knowledge of the magic of platformers, RPGs, or adventures games.

I wouldn’t be as well read as I am today if it wasn’t for video games.
As I was describing my video-game-related teachings to my buddy Courtny, we began talking about incorporating gaming into education. Why not? I probably wouldn’t be as well read as I am today if it wasn’t for games like Pokémon Red and Blue. Games that relied on text. How else would I have known a large Pokémon was blocking Route 12? Video games are surprisingly helpful in school. They often promote reading, help students think through problems, and give players a sense of accomplishment to strive for. Courtny and I weren’t the first to think of gamifying a classroom, but maybe we could come up with the best system to date.

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EVE Online offers lessons for the financial crisis

EVE Online offers lessons for the financial crisis | Metaverse News |

Uh-oh! Another big bank is the subject of a depositor run amid charges its chairman has run off with customers' money. Thankfully, this scandal is only taking place in Eve Online, a space-age virtual reality created by CCP, a games developer and Iceland's coolest company. But Ebank's troubles in the ether may offer some valuable lessons for earthly banking and regulation.
Eve is one of the more successful so-called massively multiplayer online games. Some 300,000 people - as it happens, nearly equal to the population of Iceland - pay $15 a month to navigate characters that pilot inter-galactic spaceships, manufacture and trade goods, mine resources and enter into big alliances - or bloody battles - with one another.
Central to Eve's strategy, players develop economies within an "anything goes," free markets framework that allows them to expand their fleets, buy weaponry and equipment and bolster defences. Indeed, Eve boasts 66 different marketplaces for some 5,000 items, with more than a million transactions a day.
Enter Ebank. Because players often do not have the interstellar credits - abbreviated to ISK, also the official abbreviation of the Icelandic krona - they need to expand their fleets, an enterprising player created a bank that would accept deposits and lend to players who would pledge assets, like their spacecraft, as collateral.

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Ball State University buys out Blue Mars platform

Ball State University buys out Blue Mars platform | Metaverse News |

Under Ball State’s terms of agreement with Avatar Reality, the university will begin to fully operate Blue Mars for non-commercial purposes, expand upon the source code, increase its research and academic initiatives, and enhance the community of Blue Mars. In addition, Ball State will continue to deliver original content on Blue Mars as it has done in the past. “I am really excited about the future,” Phil Repp, Ball State’s vice president for information technology, said. “Through our division of Hybrid Design Technologies, Ball State will further our position as a national leader in hybrid worlds and their applications to mediated learning technologies. Our reputation in this discipline is such a perfect fit to our institutional history of innovation in teaching and learning.”

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