Immersive Education Technology Group (IETG) Charter

Name: Immersive Education Technology Group (IETG)
Identifier: grid.ied
Web site:
Discussion forum:
Email list: Chairs: John Carfora (Amherst College), H. Nicholas Nagel (Grid Institute and Boston College), Jeff Orkin (MIT Media Lab), Aaron E. Walsh (Grid Institute and Boston College)


The Immersive Education Technology Group (IETG) is responsible for defining open standards and best practices for a new form of computer-based learning that combines collaborative online course environments and classrooms with interactive 3D graphics, commercial game and simulation technology, virtual reality (VR), voice chat (Voice over IP/VoIP), Web cameras (webcams) and rich digital media.



Immersive Education ( is a novel learning platform that combines interactive 3D graphics, commercial game and simulation technology, virtual reality, voice chat (Voice over IP/VoIP), Web cameras (webcams) and rich digital media with collaborative online course environments and classrooms. Immersive Education gives students a sense of "being there" even when attending class in person isn't possible, practical, or desirable, which in turn provides faculty and remote students with the ability to connect and communicate in a way that greatly enhances the learning experience.

Unlike traditional forms of distance learning and computer-based learning, Immersive Education is designed to immerse and engage students in the same way that today’s best video games grab and keep the attention of players. Immersive Education supports self-directed learning as well as collaborative group-based learning environments that can be delivered over the Internet or using fixed-media such as CD-ROM and DVD. Immersive Education gives faculty and remote students with the ability to connect and communicate in a way that greatly enhances the learning experience. Shorter “mini-games” and interactive lessons can be injected into larger bodies of course material to further heighten and enrich the Immersive Education experience.

The first generation of Immersive Education was built upon the open Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) and Extensible 3D (X3D) standards, whereas the current (2nd generation) platform is based on the commercial and award-winning Unreal 2.0 game engine. The 3rd generation Immersive Education platform is now being defined by the Immersive Education Technology Group (IETG) , for which the following are baseline requirements under consideration:

  1. Based on open standards (specifications), open implementations, and open source code
  2. Platform-neutral and vendor-neutral client (viewer) and server architectures (no lock-in)
  3. Open application programming interfaces (APIs)
  4. Support for industry-standard content authoring tools (e.g., Maya, Softimage, SketchUp, Blender, etc.)
  5. Scalable network architecture and scalable graphics architecture
  6. Interoperable content and asset exchange (reusable content libraries)
  7. Voice and text chat with support for recording/playback of in-session chats
  8. Privacy controls that enable closed (non-public) virtual classrooms and meetings
  9. Option for identity verification (linking avatar and character names to real-world identity)
  10. Stable and reliable implementation for all supported platforms (minimal crashing/freezing)
  11. Support for recording and playback of user activities and actions
  12. Support for instructor-led and self-directed learning
  13. Support for "safe mode" controls that shield users from potentially objectionable content
  14. Support for game-based learning content and environments (goals, scoring, challenges, etc)
  15. Provides a suitable foundation for formal academic curricula and best practices



  1. Immersive Education client-side and server-side platform specification(s) and implementation(s)
  2. Best practices for creating, conducting and assessing (measuring and grading) Immersive Education learning experiences
  3. Immersive Education conformance test suites
  4. Immersive Education use cases
  5. Comprehensive review of related open standards and technologies


contribute an Objective to this charter



The key criteria for success is the specification and implementation of Immersive Education standards and best practices that will enable organizations to create, conduct, and assess (measure or grade) online learning experiences in a manner consistent with the charter of this working group. The following organizations will participate in the testing of Immersive Education technology and best practices:

  1. Boston College, USA
  2. City of Boston (Mayor Menino's "Create Boston" initiative) and Boston Public School System, USA
  3. Columbia University, USA
  4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab, USA
  5. New Media Consortium (NMC), USA (200+ college and university members worldwide)
  6. University of Aizu, Japan
  7. Sun Microsystems (Global Education and Research division), USA
  8. Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC), Singapore
  9. Burke Institute for Innovation in Education, USA
  10. Royal Institute of Technology (Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan), Sweden
  11. Israeli Association of Grid Technologies (IGT), Israel

contribute a Criteria for Success to this charter



This Technology Working Group is closely related to the following groups, and as such members of this group should consider joining the following:



1) Reusable content libraries — A teacher who is not skilled in creating or editing digital media content wants to conduct one of his classes using Immersive Education technology but doesn't have the time or experience necessary to create or assemble the course materials himself. Rather than create his Immersive Education course from scratch the faculty uses a simple Web page interface to browse through libraries of pre-constructed Immersive Education courses that have been built by faculty at other universities and colleges. Because the faculty who created these courses have designated them as "shared" they're available for others to use (similar to the MIT OpenCourseWare initiative). After the teacher finds a pre-made course environment that suits his needs he then uses his Web browser to make it available to his own students through his own server instance, meaning he and his students are able to meet online in the course environment within their own private learning space (with no mixing of students or faculty from different organizations). Over time the faculty decides that he'd like for his course environment to contain more learning objects (e.g., videos, interactive 3D objects, audio lectures, etc.) which he finds by browsing the pre-made libraries. After identifying the custom objects for his course environment the faculty member has one of his student teaching assistants add the custom learning objects into his course.

2) Safe Mode — A high school would like to provide its students with access to certain Immersive Education courses created by universities, but is concerned that some of the courses and materials are not suitable for young adults. The high school uses the Immersive Education platform's "Safe Mode" controls to identify exactly which courses its students can access, and locks these settings directly into the client software (viewer) so that the viewer itself is incapable of accessing content other than what the high school specifies. In this way the high school is able to distribute a customized version of the Immersive Education client software (viewer) to its students without concern that the students will be inadvertently exposed to potentially objectionable content or characters/avatars.

3) Safe Mode — A graduate student is enrolled in Immersive Education courses offered by her college, and as such she has access to a wide variety of online learning environments through her home computer. Her young children are eager to "walk around and explore" the same immersive environments that they see their mother engaged in. Before allowing her children to do so their mother uses "Safe Mode" to set a high safety level that is appropriate for her family, ensuring that the children are only able to navigate through the environments but are unable to see any of the custom learning objects or characters/avatars within those environments. She also chooses to password-protect her "Safe Mode" settings to prevent her children from changing them or from running or quitting the client software (viewer) without her permission. Because of how she configured her client software (viewer) her children are able to walk around and explore a collection of large, interconnected virtual reality spaces deemed safe for all ages, but are not able to see or interact with any of the objects or people that populate those environments. As the years go by her children grow older, and the parent selectively relaxes some of the "Safe Mode" controls to enable her children to interact with learning objects that she decides are appropriate for them.


contribute a Use Case to this charter



Note: Not all materials listed under this section are open and freely available. Some are proprietary technologies that build upon or utilize open standards or technologies (or have proprietary capabilities or features useful for comparison with open alternatives) and, as such, merit review by this group:


Second Life:


Unreal Engine 3.0 (education license):

Torque Game Engine:

Crystal Space and CEL:

Flux (X3D ISO Standard implementation):

XJ3D (X3D ISO Standard implementation):


Active Worlds:
Active Worlds and Education:


blaxxun Contact:

COLLECTION: Game Engine feature comparison:

COLLECTION: FAS Virtual Worlds Wiki


contribute a Related Open Standard or Open Technology to this charter


::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: PAPERS :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century
Henry Jenkins, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) {..}

The Horizon Report (2007)
New Media Consortium (NMC) and EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative
See: Virtual Worlds (page 18) and Massively Multiplayer Educational Gaming (page 25)

Before every child is left behind: How epistemic games can solve the coming crisis in education
Shaffer, D. W., Gee, J. P.

Changing the game: What happens when videogames enter the classroom?
Squire, K.D.

Harnessing the power of games in education
Squire, K., Jenkins, H.

Proceedings of the Second Life Education Workshop at the Second Life Community Convention
San Francisco, August 20th, 2006

Video games and the future of learning
Shaffer, D.W., Squire, K.D., Halverson, R., & Gee, J.P. Phi Delta Kappan.

Game-Like Learning: An Example Of Situated Learning And Implications For Opportunity To Learn
Gee, J.P.

New Media Consortium (NMC) Virtual World Campus Case Study

COLLECTION: Games and Professional Practice Simulations (GAPPS) - Initiatives and Papers

COLLECTION: The Education Arcade - Research Papers and Publications


contribute a Related Paper or Publication to this charter



Technology Working Group telephone conferences and/or virtual world meetings are held once a month, with additional telephone conferences arranged at the discretion of the group.

Face-to-face (f2f) meetings are one- to three-day sessions held approximately twice a year, with additional f2f meetings arranged at the discretion of the group. To maximize working relationships between the Technology Working Group and relevant standards bodies and vendor organizations f2f meetings may be held in conjunction with industry events, standards meetings, or on location at member or collaborator organizations. All f2f meetings are announced through the group's email list and Web page.



The proceedings of this Technology Working Group are confidential and restricted to members of this group. As an open standards organization, and in recognition of the need for ongoing accountability to the general public, will periodically publish a public summary of all technical decisions (together with the rationales for these decisions) made by this group since the last public summary. Deliverables produced by this group, such as specifications and software implementations, will be provided to invited experts and collaborators for review prior to being furnished to the general public.

document revised 2008-01-30

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