November 03, 2009

Do you collaborate?

We are assembling a group of companies with existing active Second Life programs interested in collaborative training / collaborative applications of SL.
If you have an interesting project in one of the following areas:

    * company's knowledge base
    * development of e-learning modules
    * personnel reviews and testing
    * new hire orientation program (organization's structure and possible career paths)
    * brainstorming meetings (collaborative thinking and mind mapping)
    * project management
    * and, perhaps, other interesting applications

that will benefit from collaborative work and availability of graphical interactive representations of a concept, procedure, process, or structure you may qualify for
evaluation program of the new Collaborative Knowledge Management tool.
Please, see details at http://tinyurl.com/collaborate-in-SL and contact me via LinkedIn or SL (AHG Hallard)
(if tinyURL does not work, here it is in the full form: http://second-life-training.ahg.com/knowledge_management/Enterprise_Knowledge_Management_and_Collaboration_Solution_evaluation.htm

Here is also a full description of the Collaborative Knowledge Management:  http://second-life-training.ahg.com/knowledge_management/Enterprise_Knowledge_Management_and_Collaboration_Solution.htm The best thing about cKM in my not-so-humble opinion :-) is that it is accessible both from Second Life and the regular web interface)

July 28, 2009

Training and Collaboration with Virtual Worlds - a new book targeted towards enterprise

As of the end of July, searching amazon.com for terms "Second Life" +corporate (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_b?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=%22Second+Life%22+%2B%22corporate%22&x=0&y=0)  produces 43 results starting from The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life: Making Money in the Metaverse by Daniel Terdiman, to Handbook of Research on Virtual Workplaces and the New Nature of Business Practices by Pavel Zemliansky and Kirk St. Amant.  None of these books, unfortunately is really targeted towards a corporate user of virtual worlds in general and Second Life in particular. 

More narrow search for "Second Life" +"corporate training," (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_b?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=%22Second+Life%22+%2B%22corporate+training%22&x=0&y=0) leaves you with only three results left.  These books, however, mention training only in passing, if at all.

There are great books on the subject of virtual worlds and Second Life, but they are concentrated on entertainment value, use by hobbyists or small businesses catering to those hobbyists.  Moreover, many of the available articles and reports on the use of Second Life in corporate environment emphasize secondary, worthless, or even directly counterproductive aspects such as ability to create a three dimensional conference room or a copy of your corporate campus. They miss really important business-related features such as:

    * Expense avoidance

    * Highly effective procedural training, collaboration and support sessions

    * Great opportunities for effective collaborative work, unavailable by using other technologies

    * Expanding brand by building self-managing communities of loyal customers and outside developers

    * Increasing ROI by connecting training simulations with already existing training programs and Learning Management Systems

That is why when I was approached by McGraw-Hill with a suggestion to write a book on corporate use of virtual worlds, especially in training, I jumped on the opportunity.  Luckily, Gary Woodill of Brandon Hall Research agreed to co-author and share his expertise in emerging learning technologies.  Today I received a copyedited manuscript (that I am now reviewing for accuracy) and by December you should be able to pick Training and Collaboration with Virtual Worlds: How to Create Cost-Saving, Efficient and Engaging Programs on amazon.com, in Barnes and Noble, or another book store. 

Gary and I started with a mutual understanding that in business there is nothing more valuable than experience. We were extremely lucky in that we received unprecedented access to virtual world pioneers from the corporate community who, for the first time, candidly shared both the successes they had and the problems they faced, financial outlays, as well as best practices and recommendations drawn from real life experience in virtual worlds.  Then we proceed to discuss everything you need to learn about the business uses of virtual worlds, with an emphasis on Second Life: what it is, what you need to start a successful program in Second Life or other virtual worlds, what to expect, and how these innovative environments are used by a variety of well-respected corporate players. We pay special attention to security issues and concerns, as well as real-life implementations and use of simulations to achieve competitive advantage and high ROI.

There is more information on the book's web site (table of contents, excerpt, list of contributors, etc.) http://www.TheVirtualWorldsBook.com.

July 02, 2008

Communication Improvements?

By Avi Nimmer (Online Intern)

Are workers becoming better communicators? A new survey on workforce preparedness implies that they are, claiming that communication skills have increased by 20% over the past three years. Could this be so? Can our communication skills be so significantly improved over such a short period of time? I believe it can be true—not because of improvements in communication skills, though, but because of improvements in communication capabilities.

It was not long ago that if you wanted to get something across the globe, you’d have to physically place it in a mailbox and wait for snail mail to deliver it to its’ final destination (I have a feeling our grand children are going to get a big kick out of that crazy notion). What was once a truly revolutionary means of global connection is now an archaic system predominately used to send birthday invitations or thank you cards—not for business communication.

In today’s wireless world, even the most remote corners of the earth are typically only one click away. Cell phones, the internet, social networking websites, text messages, instant messaging…the possibilities for instant communication, regardless of geographical location, are endless!

So what does all of this mean for the survey’s claim? It means that it may be true, but it is misleading. I don’t believe that we as a human race are increasing our communication skills at such an alarmingly fast rate. I question whether Webster’s dictionary adding words such as supersize (to increase considerably the size, amount, or extent of) and mouse potato (a person who spends a great deal of time using a computer) to the dictionary in 2006 increased our communication skills by 20%.

What I am willing to believe is that the constantly improving technological capabilities are resulting in better communication.  After all, it’s a lot easier to send out an e-mail giving someone instructions than it is to sit in front of a crowd of people and persuade them with what you’re saying.

So, in essence, I am not waving the challenge-flag with full force at the survey.  It is very possible that given our technological capabilities, communication effectiveness has increased. Take away those electronic aides, though, and I would not be surprised to hear that communication skills decreased by 20%!

Unless, of course, we have all just vastly improved our orthoepy (the art of just pronunciation).

April 28, 2008

Second Life: best practices.

It is characteristic of a paradigm shift that significant differences and disagreements on implementation strategies exist during early adoption stage.  As a result, I was not surprised finding myself in the middle of such disagreement past Friday, April 25th.  That day I was privileged to be on the Corporate training in Second Life panel of the vBusiness Expo (http://money.cnn.com/news/newsfeeds/articles/marketwire/0389917.htm). [An important note: Congratulations to Clever Zebra (http://cleverzebra.com) for great organization – rarely have I seen an event run so smoothly in any life – real or otherwise.] The discussion highlighted two opposing approaches in using Second Life in corporate environment.  Champions of the first approach first and foremost see Second Life as a social tool best suited to facilitate communication within the enterprise. Indeed, few people would argue that Second Life is a great communication platform.  What I would argue, however, that social networking is the most obvious, but not the strongest side of virtual worlds in general and Second Life in particular.  Indeed, you can find other tools that allow your team to remotely communicate, often using wider possibilities, such as use of whiteboard, VOIP, streaming video, etc.  In many cases your team will even feel more comfortable using remote conferencing tools, so if conferencing is the only reason you consider Second Life, you will be better off googling “remote conferencing software”.  My search produced 2,750,000 results for this term.  Not surprisingly, though, search on double-term “remote conferencing software”+”Second Life” produced no (as in “zero”, “null”) results, in its own way proving that Second Life is not a remote conferencing software. 

You might be surprised to hear that from such as committed supporter of Second Life corporate use, but I agree – if anything, conferencing is only tangential, at best, use of Second Life in the enterprise.  Second Life is unmatched in corporate training where it allows you to create experiential, immersive environment.  Even more importantly, it has tools to create training simulations in distinctly different areas, such as teamwork and leadership, communications, project management, technical training and others (see Second Life training simulations). Remote conference does not benefit much if every team member is represented by a three-dimensional avatar.  However, ability to run your three-dimensional avatar through a sales simulation in an environment closely resembling the real thing, or ability to assemble/disassemble piece of machinery in 3D before doing it in real life, or training tag-out/lock-out or other OSHA requirements, or training managers in giving meaningful annual reviews, or dealing with difficult people – these and other areas where companies spend a bulk of training budget and time – all benefit from the inherently strong experiential and 3D qualities of  Second Life.

Up until recently wider acceptance of Second life in corporate training was blocked by necessity to conduct training in a synchronous mode with instructor leading training at all times.  Indeed, in e-learning we expect trainees to be able to learn and practice on their own and instructor serve as a figure of authority and a safety net.  With the introduction of specialized e-learning smart robots (see Second Life robotic avatars) Second Life training can be switched to asynchronous mode.  Smart robots look and act as if they represent real people, but in fact are operated by computer software.  Every time a trainee logs in to complete assigned task the system logs the process for future assessment by trainee and instructor.  Detailed reports on specific tasks and progress reports are available.  Since robotic avatar software and training-related data are located on a corporate network outside Second Life data security is drastically improved.  This raises the whole issue of data protection and security in Second Life – too far from the topic of this post, but I hope I will have a chance to return to it next time I get to this blog.

March 19, 2007

Welcome to Education Island

Sorry, didn't have a chance to post anything last month. But that's for the good reason – we just opened Education Island.  As always, regardless of all plans and schedules, most important questions had to be answered, problems solved and options added immediately before the opening.  Luckily, this is all behind us and Education Islandhas become a known Second Life destination for educators. We tried to make it interactive and fun – after all these are the qualities that make Second Life an attractive educational and training tool. 

One of the examples of interactive tools is our Team Tester.  Psychologists have known for a long time – and we, lay folks, have known this forever -- that a team of individuals can be more and can be less than a sum of its parts.  Results of a team effort depend much more on how well people work together, rather than on how great they are as individuals.  There is an experiment that allows you to test a team – give a group of people a simple task they need to complete in cooperation with each other and you will find if it’s a group of people or a team.

In Team Tester #1 we created a puzzle consisting of 9 cubes. The task is for several people to solve the puzzle without direct communication with each other.  We have been offering Second Life tours for educators and Team Tester seem to be very popular.  Interestingly, the difference in time it takes several randomly assembled people to solve the puzzle together varies between a couple of minutes to … forever (that’s when people just cannot work together).  Even more interesting that it happens to educators who know what the test is all about and one would think they would be able to better organize team effort.

There is also another variant of Team tester and an open auditorium with a few movies showing Second Life educational capabilities. Of course, you are welcome to sign up for a free Second Life tour. We currently run at least two per week and I would love to see you there.

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Alex Heiphetz received Ph.D. in geophysics from the University of Pittsburgh. After working for a

consulting firm he started an independent company in 1997. Delta L Printing specializes in business services to training companies and educational institutions: training management software, publishing, audio and video production. Dr. Heiphetz can be reached via e-mail at alex.heiphetz@deltalprinting.com or through the company web site www.deltalprinting.com.

February 12, 2007

Society for Applied Learning Technology: Orlando Conference


Three days away from winter cold always are a welcome break, especially if you spend them with interesting people. I was lucky to spend three days in Orlando on a SALT New Learning Technologies Conference. There were over eighty presentations separated into several tracks: Design, Mobile Computing, Gaming and Simulation, Training, Knowledge Management, Assessment, Content Development, and e-Learning.


Delta L presented the first results of our Second Life work: Teamwork Testing tools we developed that specifically take advantage of Second Life platform and environment. Live demonstrations created very noticeable interest – which is to be expected when you show avatars doing something in a virtual 3D environment and allow people to control them. Even those without prior experience with Second Life were interested in this kind of “play”. 


Continue reading "Society for Applied Learning Technology: Orlando Conference" »

November 19, 2006

Distance Learning Association Conference

Last week I had a pleasure of attending tri-state Distance Learning Association 4th Annual Conference & Expo ( PA/DE/NJDLA). One thing that surprised me most: number of attendees who came looking for vendors providing pre-packaged distance learning courses. Not that I didn't know about the trend beforehand, but as always, it's better to see once. Among the vendors, those who had pre-packaged modules were surrounded by really interested crowd whenever there was a window between talks. At this point I did not noticed overwhelming bias towards SCORM – compliant modules. However, it seemed to be a definite plus for those searching modules for web delivery. Everybody and his grandmother has a LMS nowdays and it looks like a no-brainer to select SCORM – compliant modules that can be used with that LMS. There are, of course, more than one side to this medal. If I was making a living teaching a set of courses in a regular class setting, I would be a little nervous. On the other hand, as often, “if you can't beat them, join them”. Now seem to be a great time to convert existing classes to e-learning format and capitalize on existing knowledge. Of course you are running the risk of cannibalizing some of existing business, but given forethought , negative effects can be minimized, while expanding potential audience and staying on top of the events might be a very positive outcome.

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Alex Heiphetz received Ph.D. in geophysics from the University of Pittsburgh. After working for a consulting firm he started an independent company in 1997. Delta L Printing specializes in business services to training companies and educational institutions: training management software, publishing, audio and video production. Dr. Heiphetz can be reached via e-mail at alex.heiphetz@deltalprinting.com or through the company web site www.deltalprinting.com.