In the real world leading up to Virtual UR
U of R Spring Break
Students are spread out across the world.
COVID-19 Travel Restrictions
University announces students will not return to campus and will complete the remainder of the semester online. No gatherings of more than 100 students.
Tough decisions about where to live are made. Sean chooses to stay on campus, unable to travel home to South Korea. Serena remains on campus as well. Kyhl arrives home in Pennsylvania from studying abroad in England. Alexander stays in Minnesota, unable to safely return to NY to collect his belongings.
Spring Break Extended
University extends spring break until March 23 to allow more time for students already on campus to move out.
University cancels the traditional May commencement ceremony. The grief begins to set in about being unable to say goodbye to the graduating seniors before they leave the University.
The genesis of Virtual UR
An Idea to build a Virtual Campus
Alexander and Kyhl connect online to play Minecraft and talk about ways to create a virtual space for students to hang out together. They begin building Rush Rhees Library and the Eastman Quad in Minecraft.
Later that night, Alexander posts a screenshot of their progress on the Overheard at Rochester Facebook page and discovers that other students are also building parts of campus in MInecraft.
The common thread: we all miss our home beside the Genessee and want to connect with our friends.
Many social media posts, emails, and text messages flood in with excitement about building a virtual campus. Students, deans, librarians, department chairs, alumni, and family members offer ideas, support, resources, and encouragement.
Alexander and Kyhl begin the process of officially creating Virtual UR and joining efforts with two other UR students—Sean and Serena—who were also building in Minecraft.
Virtual UR Core Team Meets
The new Virtual UR core team (Alexander, Kyhl, Sean, Serena) holds its first phone meeting to talk about the project and share ideas for combining their worlds together into one virtual campus.
VirtualUR.com Landing Page
Elva Resa Publishing donates the VirtualUR.com domain and server space for a new website. A temporary landing page goes live to help answer questions and direct inquiries as interest in the project grows exponentially by the hour.
Online Classes Begin
The core team is back to being full-time students, figuring out with professors and TAs how to hold online labs, internships, and discussion sessions, all while sharing bandwidth with the rest of our neighborhoods during COVID-19 stay-at-home restrictions.
Virtual UR on Minecraft Server
The combined Virtual UR world is set up on a Minecraft server. Alexander’s version of Rush Rhees Library is replaced with Sean’s. (Read more about this decision.) Serena’s modded version of the Wilson Quad is moved to vanilla Minecraft to fit better on the shared server.
The news spreads
Behind the Scenes Story
Alexander’s mom writes a blog post about the origins of Virtual UR from a mom’s perspective:
Building a Virtual World When the Real World Shuts Down
Rochester Newscenter Feature
University of Rochester communications team highlights Virtual UR:
How to Make a Virtual Campus, One Minecraft Cube at a Time
Campus Times Feature
The University’s student newspaper, Campus Times, posts an article highlighting Virtual UR:
Thanks to Minecraft Project, UR Is Just a Block Away
WHEC News 10 TV
WHEC News10 Rochester runs a segment on the nightly news covering Virtual UR as a way students are coping with social distancing:
U of R Students Create River Campus in Minecraft
Connecting with Other Universities
Virtual UR meets online with Quaranteen University, a student group at Boston University holding a virtual Minecraft commencement for several schools.