Ohio University has launched Virtual Finance, a game set on Credit Union Island in the virtual world of Second Life. Created with teenagers in mind, the game guides players through real-life financial decisions like taking out a college loan, making car payments and buying a home.
With many high school students having little to no financial education, the island plans to become a new vehicle for awareness to help teens better understand important financial decisions. The game which is currently accessible to any users of the teen grid in Second Life, bids on attracting students with its appealing, Web-based environment. It also hopes to prove the effectiveness of immersive technology in education.
Ohio University was one of the first to develop functioning campuses in Second Life, offering classes in subjects ranging from English to engineering. Roger Shelor, a professor of Finance at the University’s School of Business, participated in the development of Credit Union Island and regards it as a great new learning tool.
“I’ve had a couple opportunities to share parts of the game with my undergraduate business students and our professional MBA students, and all of them have given me a lot of positive feedback,” Shelor said.
Credit Union Island is powered by the Virtual Immersive Technologies and Arts for Learning Laboratory (VITAL Lab). The multidisciplinary research and development facility located at Ohio University is sponsored by Members United Corporate Federal Credit Union and the Filene Research Institute, a think tank for the credit union industry.
The VITAL Lab is also behind other inworld projects, including a partnership with the Smithsonian Institute to build the Smithsonian Latino Virtual Museum in Second Life, scheduled to open publicly March 2009.
“We’ve been working on the forefront of immersive technologies in learning applications for a few years,” said Dr. Chang Liu, VITAL Lab director and associate professor of computer science in the Russ College of Engineering and Technology.
“This project gave us an opportunity to collaborate internally with the university’s education and finance departments and externally with the credit union industry to make a real-world impact in this important area,” added Liu.
Unveiled in February 2009, Virtual Finance is said to take about 30 minutes to complete, though expansions are already in the works. A second phase of development will include additional features like roads and highways for players to drive on, credit cards and a shopping mall to purchase furniture for their homes.
“We are very excited about releasing the first generation of Virtual Finance. This has been a collaborative effort to enhance financial education for youth, while making it more engaging, and more importantly, more effective than traditional education methods,” said Scott Moriarty, of the Filene Research Institute.