Subject: MOO Defined
From: "Catherine G. Thwing"
Date: Thu, 11 Sep 1997
After a recent post to CRC and K12opps, I received numerous requests for a definition of the MOO and an explanation of the relevance of MOOing to education. Since, for educators, there's so much more to the Internet than the web and email, I'd like to share with you some information on MOOing.
- - - - - - What's a MOO? - - - - - -
MOOs are virtual online environments designed for live interaction and collaboration. MOO stands for Multi-user domain (which means that many users can log on simultaneously), Object-Oriented (which refers to the type of program the MOO core uses).
MOOs can be used for synchronous communication through a more efficient interface than most chats provide. But MOOs are much more than an online place to converse with others. Since MOOs are object-based, users can create rooms and objects which become permanent elements of the MOO! This means that teachers can build online virtual classrooms, textbooks, slideprojectors, and even robots that can be used for delivery of course material. Students, too, can create objects for exciting online learning projects!
- - What has a MOO got to do with Education? - -
When online educators came across MOOs over five years ago, they became very excited about the educational applications of MOOs. The roots of MOOs lie with the online gaming community. (In fact, if you've ever played any of those old DOS text-based computer games -- like Star Trek, the Hobbit, and 7th Guest -- you're already familiar with the concepts behind text-based, object-oriented games.) But because of the versitility of MOOs, their educational applications are limited only by our and our students' imaginations! EduMOOs are far from games.
Certainly, for live online discussions, MOOs are ideal! In studies on classroom discourse, many researchers have noticed the many benifits of online discussions: students reticent in f2f discussions tend to be more active; more students are able to take turns; students can think about and revise their contributions more easily; and online discussions foster egalitarian communication.
Through the use of objects, teachers can deliver material in an engaging, creative, and innovative manner! For example, a colleague at the eduMOO Diversity University has created an online robot who will answer students' questions about writing essays and documenting sources! A biology teacher at DU has created a prokaryote which students can look at, touch, and play with. Most students feel that using the MOO is play, and researchers note that when an attitude of play is adopted in learning activities, engagement and learning are enhanced.
When it comes to constructivist student projects, the MOO excels! At Diversity University, students have created online simulations of rainforests, volcanoes,and biology labs, and re-enactments of the 100
Years' War, Dante's Inferno, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Anne of Green Gables (with the characters played by online robots!). The creation of these projects requires little computer expertise, as most of the work is done through writing.
While web and VRML interfaces for MOOs are currently being developed (which means that MOOs will be incorporating more and more graphics in the future) MOOs are predominantly text-based environments. This means that all our interaction with the MOO environment and other MOO users is done through reading and writing! Students who MOO will spend hours reading and writing each day. And the reading/writing skills developed in the MOO transfer to all areas of their academic lives. For reading- and writing-across-the-curriculum, then, few learning activities surpass MOOing.
As there are MOOs in every major Western language, MOOs are excellent for foreign language learning. Several members of DU come from around the globe (Japan, Sweden, Iceland, Germany, and South America, and elsewhere) to improve their English. I often visit MundoHispano, a Spanish MOO, to practice and improve my Spanish. With all the reading and writing required by MOOing -- and with the fun that MOOing brings -- this is a great way to learn a new language!
- - - - How Can I Learn More About MOOing? - - - -
There are several resources available.
For more about MOOs (including useful links), see
Weekly workshops and presentations on MOOing are offered by the Online Educators' Resource Group. These are held every Sunday, 8pm EDT at Diversity University. The first Sunday of every night is Newby Night, a chance for educators new to the MOO to ask questions and meet with experienced MOOing teachers. And the third Sunday is workshop.
To subscribe to the Online Educators' Resource Group mail list, send
subscription message of
subscribe OERG-L yourfirstname yourlastname
- - - - Can I Visit a MOO? - - - -
Diversity University is always open for visitors! On Friday and Saturday, 26-27 Sept, DU will be holding an open house. (Watch the mail list for more info!)
To connect to DU, if your browser supports Java applets, go to
The telnet address is
To connect, type