The virtual learning environment of VRoma is based on the MOO platform. The acronym MOO stands for Multi-User Dimension Object Oriented. MOOs, originally adapted from online games, enable people in disparate locations to communicate in real time in the manner of chatrooms, but the conversations in MOOs take place in an “online place” with different spatial locations and many interactive features such as talkings bots, objects which can be manipulated, and extensibility (i.e., users can add to the environment by building new rooms and creating new objects). Our design and programming goals for the VRoma virtual environment were twofold:
- to create a sufficiently authentic environment to engage users, to create a sense of location, of being in another place, and to facilitate learning about the ancient city of Rome, its monuments, its literature, and its culture
- to make active participation in this virtual environment as simple and intuitive as possible, without requiring expensive equipment or sophisticated computer programs or skills.
This simplicity means, of course, that virtual Rome is not a three-dimensional, full-virtual-reality simulation; it will not impress those looking for film-quality special effects or elaborate computer-generated reconstructions. However, we believe that our design has pedagogical advantages, since it encourages users to focus on the content rather than surface appearance and to draw actively on their own imaginations to knit together the images, the textual cues and information, and the digital objects into a virtual world of their own creation (see article explaining “The Nature of VRoma's Virtual Environment”).
VRoma Help Files
The platform of the VRoma MUVE has recently been upgraded to version 5 of the enCore Learning Environment, and we have not yet completed the internal Help content (context-specific help that can be accessed from within the MUVE). However, there are three online Help Files that explain in detail how to use the most important features of VRoma. These can be read on the web or downloaded for printing in Acrobat files.
- Quick Start Guide to the VRoma Learning Environment (covers all the basic information needed to communicate and navigate in VRoma); printable Acrobat file
- Guide to Building and Creating Objects in VRoma (for all players with building privileges); printable Acrobat file
- Guide for Teachers in the VRoma Learning Environment (for all players with the new administative status of Teacher); printable Acrobat file
- Glossary for VRoma Latin (explains key vocabulary for the user who selects Latin for interface and system messages); printable Acrobat file
Ancient Rome was certainly not built in a day, and VRoma's virtual simulation of the ancient city has taken years to construct and reflects the expertise and labor of many contributors. Classicists interested in helping us expand the virtual city should consult the VRoma Building Plan, which lists constructed or projected sites in the historical section of VRoma according to region and identifies builders.