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Implementation and Operating Perspectives on Virtual Worlds for Learning

March 2007
Author:  Eilif Trondsen
Chris Badger
Ron Burns
Graeme Duncan
Rob Edmonds
Marcelo Hoffmann

In December 2006, the Learning-on-Demand (LoD) Program published Virtual Worlds for Learning and Training as a high-level introduction to the topic of three-dimensional (3-D), immersive, avatar-mediated environments. The report responded to the explosion of media interest in the topic of virtual worlds, in particular Second Life, in 2006. The current report continues our assessment of the topic but adopts a more ground-level and operational perspective.

This report looks at the potential to use four existing platforms to create virtual worlds for sales training. All these platforms—from Linden Lab (the developer of Second Life), Forterra Systems, ProtonMedia, and Caspian Learning—are already finding use in learning and training applications. Their approaches differ widely, however: Second Life is an open, primarily consumer-focused virtual environment, whereas the other platforms are closed, enterprise-focused solutions. This report also describes current work at SRI International to use the Second Life environment to explore innovative behaviors, specifically by designing and evaluating team exercises in this virtual environment.

New developers of virtual-worlds platforms and technologies are emerging, and their activities are accelerating innovation in technology, applications, and business models. Linden Lab’s decision to share the code for its client software with the open-source community—and to consider doing the same with its server software at some point—is just one example of the growing role of open source in the area of virtual worlds. The report describes some major open-source projects that could have significant implications for users and other vendors.

The report also examines the likely impacts of virtual-worlds projects in an organization, including in information technology (IT), research and development, sales and marketing, and work processes. As with any new technology, deploying virtual worlds is likely to generate considerable excitement about new and interesting opportunities but is also bound to raise some operational concerns.

The final two sections of the report discuss some of the challenges and uncertainties of using virtual worlds and offer recommendations and action steps for organizations preparing strategic and operational plans for virtual worlds. Risks and uncertainties will always exist. The difference between success and failure could be how well an organization plans for and executes virtual worlds using available information and intelligence.

Download the report here:
Implementation and Operating Perspectives on Virtual Worlds for Learning