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Virtual Worlds for Learning and Training

December 2006
Author:  Eilif Trondsen
Contributors: Rob Edmonds
Marcello Hoffmann
Tony O'Driscoll

A record number of students are taking online courses today, and the number is rising steadily. Technology-based learning is also seeing growing use in companies. Still, significant improvements in learners' online learning experience are necessary if online learning is to see continued growth and success. We have long known that learning is a social activity, so greater opportunities for social networking, communication, and collaboration are likely to make online learning more appealing and effective. The dramatic growth of video gaming in recent years has also made educators and learning designers consider the possibilities of applying game and simulation principles in online learning to make online learning more engaging and interesting.

The growing popularity of virtual worlds in recent years—including the dramatic success of the massively multiplayer online game World of Warcraft as well as the rapid growth of Second Life, a visually rich, avatar-mediated three-dimensional virtual environment—is making available new online platforms and technologies that could take online learning and training to the next level, where new and different forms of socialization, communication, and collaboration can take place. Although efforts to incorporate these virtual worlds in more "serious" applications beyond entertainment are in their infancy, a growing number of enterprises are now exploring ways to use virtual worlds, especially Second Life, for a variety of business applications, including learning and training.

This report explores how virtual worlds, and Second Life in particular, may find use in learning and training. It describes early-adopter organizations' current activities and plans on this front and presents some plausible scenarios of future uses of virtual worlds for learning. Organizations that like to innovate and be among early adopters of technologies, perhaps partly to send a signal to their employees and customers, should consider initiating pilot projects to learn and gain new insights–especially because they can do so at low cost. Even organizations that are unlikely to embrace the use of virtual worlds for learning or other business applications in the next few years are wise at least to monitor and become familiar with virtual-world developments in light of the opportunities and threats that these advances are likely to present.

Download the report here:
Virtual Worlds for Learning and Training