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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.


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I am currently and Instructional Design student at Bloomsburg University in PA. I feel that using Second Life, when used correctly can definitly benefit in training. I think that when you do training session people are sometimes hesitant to answer. By inventing their own avatars and not having to be there in person they can talk and interact without feeling intimidated.

Abby Clubb

There are so many methods to train virtually these days that it may just come down to the company's culture. Some use an LMS type training system while others use more interactive conferencing like web conferencing where you can poll students, break into small groups, etc without having to go create an online persona. Video conferencing, in turn can also be good for some types of training and you get to actually see the real people you are working with.

Belstaff Jackets

For any folks invested in more and better resident contribution, that is a knock back, i believe. But strangely enough, the newest one-pager Can involve many responsibilities around consultation.

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