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Friday, March 23, 2007

Second Life and Learning - Tony O'Driscoll

Tony O'Driscoll - who will be on a panel at the eLearningGuild conference in Boston coming up in a few weeks and will be talking about this very topic - has published a paper in eLearn and created an interesting blog post with video (embedded below) that starts with a question many of us are asking:
Are virtual worlds a breakthrough technology that will forever reshape learning and business? Or are they this season's over-hyped fad?
In the article he
VWs have too much potential for learning professionals to ignore. But Virtual Worlds should not be used to automate existing learning approaches and models: A virtual classroom with virtual students and a virtual PowerPoint deck is not the end-game for learning in VWs. To avoid these pitfalls, let's explore how VWs work, how they are being used in learning, who the major players are, and what the future may hold.

I think his video does a reasonable job of showing some of the concepts that he discusses in his article:

I tend to agree with Tony about the power of presence. I'm sure that once you add presence-based audio (meaning you can hear people who are close to you) that WebEx style systems will begin to look more like second life so you can have easier break-out sessions. So, in a couple of years, we would expect to have virtual conferences, virtual meetings in these kinds of environments.

Some of Tony's other points around these systems being an opportunity to observe and do as part of learning, I'm not so sure that holds up today. There are some neat learning opportunities that can be created in Second Life such as a virtual visit to a NASA museum complete with videos, presentations, a rocket-ride around the solar system. That's a great, fun way to teach around these topics. But, it's not really sales, customer service, etc. It's still a ways away before these environments are going to help us much with true doing.

I think Tony's conclusion to the article may have been the most telling:
Unless your organization is a true early adopter, it is premature to invest a ton of resources in VWs. Nonetheless, we encourage you to dip your toe in the virtual water. It's neither expensive nor difficult, and it will give you an appreciation for the fresh viewpoints that are rippling out of VW innovations. It might just change your perspective on what's possible today in informal and generative learning.

It's something you should be aware of, but probably not using today. Give it a couple of years and then it's going to become important.

I'm really hoping that our discussions in Boston will help me better understand how Tony sees it being used as part of learning.

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