Monday, 27 October 2008

A Whole New World

Your online alter-ego or Avatar attends an in-world educational seminar where the setup is just like a real lecture theatre, with an actual lecturer (or Avatar) standing at the font of the room, peers sitting around you writing notes on their in-world virtual notepads, and conversations going on between students and yourself regarding the lecture content.

Does this sound like some bizarre dream reminiscent of misused college years or just the next inevitable step in your learning schedule?

After reading an article in the latest Learning Magazine called “It’s Learning Jim but not as we know it,” where David Wortley talks about the effectiveness of games and virtual worlds in learning environments, I got into a discussion about it with some of my colleagues , with mixed reactions.

It became apparent very quickly that there were two very different ideas on how learning should work; those who adhere to the “I need a real teacher” mentality and those who feel comfortable with online alternatives.

Myself, being an avid supporter of e-Learning, have always found interactive methods of learning far more stimulating than the traditional classroom atmosphere and with the introduction of online in-world learning to the mainstream, the likelihood of me appearing as an Avatar in the near future is almost a definite. I have already started searching around for the most popular virtual worlds in search of some online content that interests me. Due to the amazing amount of response to sites like Second Life for the inclusion of academic content, it looks like I’m not the only one who sees a future in virtual learning.

The main reasons that I can see this type of training working are:
- Virtual learning opens up a classroom arena to all students, not just the most outspoken ones. With an Avatar as your voice, anonymity is secure and inhibitions go out the door.
- Opportunities arise for users who may not have access to classroom-based training, due to geographical or physical restrictions.
- The variety of training available online will cater to everyone’s taste.
- Chances are that you will be able to record the content to replay at a later time for future clarification.
- Online environments work on the premise that users will be from all over the world and therefore content will be available variable times, to cater to average working hours.

I am interested in hearing your thought on this? Are you currently a member of a virtual site with an online alter-ego? Do you participate in any form of online training? Would you attend an online seminar?