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Are Virtual Worlds (still) Relevant in Education?

By Sarah Smith-Robbins / December 2011

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  • Thu, 22 Dec 2011
    Post by Ryan Tracey

    Sarah, I think you're spot on with the reasons for the relative decline of virtual worlds in recent times.

    I see it all the time in edtech: if it's not easy to do yourself, then you need to get someone else to do it for you - and that costs money. Unfortunately for Second Life, not only is it somewhat unintuitive for the user (as you mention), but it's also challenging for the L&D professional behind the scenes. That leaves it vulnerable to competition from the next big shiny thing that comes along.

    Having said that, I agree that virtual worlds do have much to offer L&D, particularly in terms of creating authentic environments - especially those which might otherwise be difficult to reproduce. A case in point is the virtual hospital at Sydney Medical School (see "Second Life for Medical Education" http://is.gd/71lqW5 ).

    Indeed, a single technology will not solve the issues. It's the "how" and "why" you want to use that particular technology (among others) that matters.

  • Mon, 19 Dec 2011
    Post by Koreen Olbrish

    I get this question a lot too, in relation to the relevance of virtual worlds for corporate learning, and I think you're exactly right on all counts.

    The truth is, I don't know if it was ever about the technology so much as it was about the design opportunities that they provided when there were limited other options. Sadly, the virtual world platform companies didn't evolve to meet the demands of the market, and new technologies continue to emerge that are filling the void of tools that enable immersive learning: mobile, augmented reality, and sleeker, more agile and social game engines.

    I still believe there is a place for 3D environments, that avatars are a unique projection of ourselves and that all of us early evangelists will likely see most of our claims of potential realized. I don't believe that will happen with the current pool of available virtual worlds without a major integration with other social technologies and software systems. And at this point...we may not need them, not when we can create increasingly immersive experiences through other technologies.