Tapped-In is probably the longest running, still active, virtual world for educators (If I’m wrong, let me know in the comments!), but it has announced that it will be closing on Friday 15th of March. So now is your last chance to see this world before it disappears… (unless, of course, a mysterious benefactor steps in with money to keep it running)
Tapped-In opened in 1997, originally running as a MOO, before relaunching as a more web-friendly but still MOO based virtual world. The MOO roots are most obvious in how Tapped-In is organised as a set of buildings, floors and rooms, where each is generally associated with a particular group or special interest. With the focus on education, rather than entertainment, the virtual geography is a little more flexible than most MOOs, allowing users to instantly hop to any room of interest and allowing passageways to be build between rooms as desired.
The web-based environment also uses graphics to make things a little more lively, and individual rooms can contain discussion forums and document stores and are places where users can meet and chat. To my mind Tapped-In represents what how VLEs and LMSs could have evolved if they had been based on a slightly different paradigm from the beginning, and is a good example of how virtual learning environments can be made much more social: users are aware of other users online, and can have conversations with all users in the same room (and also send messages to other users online).
If you haven’t logged into Tapped-In yet, and you are interested in the use of virtual worlds in education, then I strongly encourage you to give it a try before it is gone forever.