subQuark

Education in Second Life

14 comments

A huge boost for education in Second Life is heralded by the appointment of Judy Linden. There is significant opportunity to tap into the education market as a viable and sizable revenue stream for Linden Lab. I will use myself and my involvement in Second Life as a prime example of an overlooked business sector.

I am not Ben & Jerry’s nor am I IBM.  IBM has poured a lot of money into Second Life and is also working at independence from Second Life.  Ben & Jerry’s has a lot of name recognition, but as far as I know, they have one island.  The International Hotel Group (think Crowne Plaza) only has two islands in Second Life.

IHG and Ben & Jerry’s command a certain respect and are feathers in the cap for marketing purposes.  The value in exploiting their presence in Second Life is determined by efforts both on their side and the side of Linden Lab.

Now let’s look at the “overlooked business” I mentioned.  What if you had a group, and this group actively evangelized the uses and virtues of Second Life in an ongoing manner via blogging, flickring, tweeting, and social networks like Ning.  There is a group of people like that.

Myself – I have numerous sims and am a mentor who evangelizes inworld and a conference speaker that discusses the benefit of Second Life in a unique manner to corporate eLearning providers.  And I back up my online forums and conference sessions with Second Life specific video tutorials,  2000+ flickr images, and active blogging on two different aspects of Second life (one as a land business, the other as the eLearning practitioner).  The CEO of Brandon Hall Research was gracious and acknowledges me as an expert in the field and paid me a wonderful compliment with “If you’re planning to start experimenting with Second Life as a learning platform, this is a great place to start.”  Brandon Hall Research represents the epitome of research in eLearning.

I donate land to educators, such as the University of Glasgow, the eLearning Guild, the Texas Distance Learning Association, and so on because I believe Second Life has incredible value as a tool in creating 3D animation to make engaging and rich eLearning.  And this brings Second Life to people that are not able to access it directly.

What if there was a program that when an estate owner met certain criteria – such as number of sims, time inworld, out-of-world activity (blogging, etc), and subjective things such as general nature of estate business – that they would be approached and offered a chance to opt into a culture development program?  This program would seek to match interested private sim owners with corporate sim owners.  It’s funny that land is referred to as islands since islands stand alone (no man is an island) but Second Life is tremendously collaborative.

Being an island is great if you want to be alone, but in business, it sometimes helps to have neighbors.  Let’s say that these participants get matched up with others in order to benefit each other.  Linden Lab does this already by “giving” dozens of openspace sims to a set of yachting sims and connecting them to the mainland.  That is a huge value to a private estate owner (I’d love to have some openspaces connecting me to mainland, that would bring so much traffic).

In this program, corporate islands would have the chance to speak with “qualified” estate owners to see if they would like to be neighbors.  Of course, this arrangement would need to have provision so that either party could dissolve it at any time.  Let’s take the example of the iliveisl estate and something like Ben & Jerry’s.  On the iliveisl side, you have a stable community, continued sim growth, an evangelist spreading the word about Second Life, active blogging, Flickring, machinima, etc.  Ben & Jerry’s has an island or two and a certain amount of traffic but I doubt they are very active inworld now.  Perhaps both groups would like being neighbors and see what benefits arise from the connection?  Maybe even stipulate a certain amount of effort on the private estate owner to add value to the Second Life presence of the paired up company, such as positive social media efforts.  This is not any “way out” concept, Groundswell and many other books discusss social media and this type of program from Second Life would capitalize on this.

Just a thought and just touching on part of that idea.  This could fuel a certain buzz out in the blogosphere and if all was placed in “daylight”, such as the criteria, then negative press would be minimal (there would always be some that felt favoritism might be at work in some case, but certainly far less than the previous mentioned yacht club example).

It certainly would reward those that are contributing residents sinking real cash into Second Life.

Oh . . . answering an email is what sparked all of this: I was trying to find a case study for the Director of Learning Technologies at Harrisburg University looking for the ROI on using SL for education.  I wish I had an answer but getting information like that from Linden Labs seems to be impossible.  Funny, people see me as an eLearning expert on Second Life (don’t be fooled, I do know alot about it, but if you spent 20 hours a week in it, you would too!) but I am just passionate and believe it’s a great tool.

Don’t continue to overlook this business opportunity, the people that own multiple sims, the people that evangelize and even spend their own money going to speak at conferences (the only way you get paid is as a keynote speaker).  It’s a heck of a deal.  I’d love people to pay me and also go out on their own dime and promote me for free.  plus, it’s the current trend in corporate marketing to leverage social medi and the power of the “little people”.

So all I need is a case study, or two, that would help the corporate decision makers that ask me about the ROI of Second Life.  The IBM example is tired and too big for most people.

*waves at Judy and feels better after whining*  ^_^

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14 Responses to 'Education in Second Life'

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  1. Judy ;)

    I actually don’t believe that LL gives “that much attention” to IHG or Ben & Jerry, even if sometimes it does look like it. For most of the companies in SL, if not all, LL’s “attention” is pretty much zero, as they quickly find out when they try to establish a dialogue with LL. Most of them get actually shocked at how little response they get — LL aims much more for the “cool factor” and are far more likely to openly support things like the American Cancer Society or the Darfur Camp in SL than, say, a big Fortune 500. Even Sun, Xerox, Microsoft, or Sony felt total neglect by LL at some stage. A few of those never even attracted the attention of a single minor Linden employee…

    IBM is, granted, quite different. It’s not really about “money invested in SL” — they don’t invest that much. They invest resources instead, and push LL’s technology ahead into fields where LL never dreamed ever to be. That’s why they announce so many “strategic partnerships” with IBM. Most often there is little — if any — “money” involved, but more a willingness to get IBM researchers to play around with LL’s technology, improve it, and push IBM’s agenda of what virtual worlds ought to be or look like. Other companies are not willing to pull so many resources into SL — even if they might actually be willing to spend money! — so the relationship is different. You simply can’t say “no” to IBM if they want to help SL to become the Next Big Thing :)

    On the other hand, LL has clearly defined their goals for 2009: stability, education, business. Of those three, I see them going to have far more success with education. Nevertheless, your feel of getting little attention is just because there is a huge community of educators in SL, and all of them are deploying incredible projects in SL. Poor Pathfinder can’t keep track of all of them! These days, there are very few universities in the US or in the UK that are not in SL — and each one of them will have at least ONE project here! — and even world-wide, the majority of the top universities are all in SL as well. Some are not doing “projects” but actually offering degrees. And if you leave the academic sector, you’ll see lots of private companies offering training services too (Language Lab comes to mind, since they’re the oldest one, and one of the largest, but they’re by far not the only one!) — or public institutes like the German Goethe Institukt to provide language classes in SL (Spain’s Cervantes Institute is following suit, and I’m sure they’re not going to be the last ones to join SL…).

    So the issue here is simply size. LL is not big enough to keep track of all that’s happening on the educational arena in SL. It has grown far beyond anyone’s ability to track it down. You mentioned that “people see me as an eLearning expert on Second Life”. Well, since 2007 I’ve been attending occasionally whole seminars where dozens — several dozens in fact! — of eLearning experts on Second Life come together and present their thesis and projects. I’ve even lost track on how many eLearning experts in tiny countries like mine are currently doing their advanced academic research in SL; in 2007 there were about 40 projects ongoing, today there are perhaps hundreds. In huge countries like the US or UK, I can imagine we’re talking about dozens of thousands of projects. Perhaps more! So how can possibly a tiny company like LL, with just a handful of incredibly hard-working people on the education team, keep in touch with all of them, so they don’t feel frustrated like you do for the lack of attention?

    I have no clue. I can only say that making this one of LL’s priorities for 2009 (keeping in touch with educators) is amazingly bold, and I surely wish them good luck and hope that as the year unfolds, eLearning experts like you don’t feel “left out” any more. If LL achieves that, they’d be simply awesome :)

  2. Very well stated and thought out. Yes, there are a lot of projects. I was taking a very simple approach in that if you have a customer that pays you a recurring monthly subscription of nearly $3000 USD, is it important?

    In the last year, I have sent fewer than 6 emails to Linden. Two on licensing (specific to proper trademark depiction). This issue can not be dealt with support tickets and specifically requests that email is the appropriate channel.

    The other emails were follow-ups to an in person meeting with Linden Lab business people. The initial request was overlooked, and then an answer for clarification of the need was never answered. And it’s not like I don’t appreciate their time (I wrote recommendations for each on a social network). Not that I needed to do that, but it was something I could do.

    Your comments are 100% accurate. However, regardless of size of company, I can not accept that they just can’t pay attention to customers.

    Is it fair to have to sort any customers and place them in categories? No, but there is a difference between an annual paid member that nets about $1.14 USD a month and someone that is pushing $3K a month.

    This is also an issue of size. Size of your customer’s commitment as measured in dollars.

    Thus, my tag of “answering emails from customers paying you $3k a month? good business practice or waste of time?”

    Thanks for the well thought and eloquent comment. I agree with you.

    subquark

    6 Feb 09 at 1:22 am

  3. If you find a case study about the ROI of using SL for education, I would love to see it. I’m doing a presentation about SL for some of our deans later this month, and I know they will be curious.

    Do you think it’s possible that there aren’t any studies like this? I haven’t found one so far. Lots of “look what we are doing” articles, but everyone seems to be treating SL as an experiment and an investment in the future.

    Riven Homewood

    6 Feb 09 at 4:01 am

  4. Hi Riven, send me an email (subquark at gmail dot com). I would say the best bet is NMC and the Alliance System.

    As to perhaps finding more empirically-based case studies, I would recommend contacting the New Media Consortium http://www.nmc.org/ and the Alliance Library System http://alliancelibraries.info/secondlife.htm . Both are major players in the education aspect and Alliance has an active and responsive Google group: http://groups.google.com/group/InnovationAlliance

    subquark

    6 Feb 09 at 4:06 am

  5. Hi. We have been developing University Campuses for many schools and Universities within SL for over 3 years now. We find the integration of the community and using Sloodle for assessments has become very popular.

    If you plan accordingly and you integrate not only the education department, but marketing, alumni, etc. you can build a campus that serves many purposes.

    While using a LMS to track student data you can still have an effective learning environment.

    See more info at http://www.designingdigitally.com

    Andrew Hughes

    6 Feb 09 at 2:44 pm

  6. Welcome Judy –
    I like the diversity and broad view and wide horisonts on getting advantage for sl from all us small pioneers. Once back in 2007 I just got the idea to transmit, what I have done in rl all my working life to virtual circumstances, to offer language learning. BABEL Language School at sl came to world. What starts small and should have been a thoughtful experiment took me and I now can list a lot of satisfied language learners from all of the world – still on my costs ($195 monthly plus Danish VAT = $ 243), as I can’t claim full lesson prices inworld and either get back what I have to invest in ad’s and landfees to get my classes done. I’m not supported from any organisataion or university, but I believe on the way to use virtual language learning ressources for all those many, who don’t have a language institute just around the corner.
    It would be helpful, if LL could offer
    * Reduced fees on advertising and landownership for not organisational supported educational entreprenors
    * A devision in LL encouraging and supporting educational pioneers
    * High stability or at least scheduled down times, so lessons don’t have to break up
    * A narrow forum and contact person/committe and ressource bank for language educators
    Waves to you Judy ☺

    Mike Meltzer

    6 Feb 09 at 5:31 pm

  7. Mike, excellent comment! While I am not looking for a reduction in costs (but thank God I don’t have VAT) someone like you certainly would be an asset to Second Life and are different than my land business. I only use a very small part fo my estate for educational purposes, whereas your entire focus is educational.

    Certainly the value that you bring (both to Linden and residents of sl) should be a factor in your “ranking” with Linden Lab.

    It sounds as if you are not receiving an educational discount and I don’t know of how one would go about sorting out people like you that are not a direct educational entity. That is the challenge for a very progressice and proactive compnay. But in the US education is still not as highly valued.

    It is talked about as being important, but loses out to sports and American Idol. Not to say that is Linden Lab’s view. They do offer educational support and it would be nice to see that support extended to a person like you.

    If Linden Lab is able to “give” openspaces to a group of private islands and connect them to the mainland (wow, I would love free openspaces assosciated with my land after losing close to 10 wonderful ones that allowed for flying and boating . . ), then certainly there must be a way to identify contributors like you and offer some type of support in return for the positive impact you have inworld and on what the outside world can view.

    Indeed, you are a pioneer Mike and have developed a reputation with your inworld endeavors. So let’s keep getting your message out in the blogosphere. Comment often on every related blog, create ping backs to the sl blog to gain visibility and never let your passion wane.

    Good luck Mike! =)

    subquark

    6 Feb 09 at 5:54 pm

  8. I fail to see how anything in Judy Linden’s background, other than that she is educated herself at various prestigious institutions, spell some big plus for educators. Nor has she indicated anything special about education. This seems like a great deal of wishful thinking.

    I don’t get the hate for big corporations as such — but it’s typical of the opensourcey Moddled edu set. What exactly is your business, sub Quark, re-rentals to educators? So you’re in the rentals business, essentially? The fact is, IBM gives LL something they really crave: prestige. It’s not tier they get out of LL or even free labour from coders like Zha Ewing. It’s the prestige of being accepted by a “real company”. We landlords don’t give them that prestige.

    There isn’t any ROI for ebusiness or elearning or e-anything in SL except e-content and e-rentals — that’s all. And that’s ok. It’s an expenditure like computers or copier toner would be, but it’s the kind of expenditure you make to get a higher value of educated people.

    I’m trying to grasp what it is you *are* whining about. You want a tier discount because you somehow deal with e-learning? But if you are in the rentals business, why would the type of clients you have make you special? Tenants are tenants. And if you do a lot of free tutorial work — well, don’t we all?

    Prokofy Neva

    7 Feb 09 at 3:13 pm

  9. Linden Lab’s could careless about customers. They can hire all the goody two shoes they want this won’t change them. When they ignore ticket issues it is the same as saying sorry sucker we caught another. The day will come when the big sponcers will leave do to the fact there will be no members around. Keep up the good work of screwing your members Lindens. I will no withdraw my support for Secondlife from my web site and will seek out only damaging articles about SL

    Derick

    7 Feb 09 at 4:02 pm

  10. Hi Prokofy, no I don’t want a tier discount. I basically am asking why a person like you (I know you are very big in the number of sims you have) or me don’t get a few emails answered. I can not imagine any business not answering, in my case, two emails from a customer that pays this amount of money.

    My car payment is only $250 USD a month. But if I contact Toyota, they answer me right away. My ISP bill is only $39 a month and they answer me right away.

    Tell me how there is any way that NOT answering a few emails is good business?

    I do not make any money with eLearning is Second Life. In fact it costs me real money to fly, stay in hotels, eat out, and speak at conferences. No one reimburses me for that and that is not what I am looking for.

    But, I reach out directly to about 500 people a year in person about using Second Life and with Ning networks, eLearning forums and the such, reach another 40,000. The most prestigious research people in eLearning post about me. But only because of my passion about the use of Second Life in the unique way I present.

    It’s not that I am important, not at all. But there is something to be said from a business point of view about active people spreading the word that Second Life is the best tool since the internet for making eLearning more engaging.

    I am NOT looking for any discount at all, just a business relationship that has a little common respect and can answer two emails whose purpose is to further the good name of Linden Lab.

    Prok, how did you feel that you learned about the OpenSpace price increase via the blog and not an automated email? That was a horrible business decision. They have your email address, when you buy a sim you get an email right away, when you do Lindex you get an email right away. Why did it take Linden Lab 18 days to finally send an email to you and I? How is that good business?

    So how is NOT answering two emails a good business practice? I know they get a lot, but they are a technology company, they can sort emails and like I said, if my ISP can answer me, well so can Linden. It’s just very sloppy and there is no excuse, especially since one went to a real person who I know in person, and the other went to a specific department.

    So I am only questioning the business acumen of a company whose product I love and that I truly believe can help people learn better out in the world. Education helps the world become a better place in my opinion.

    subquark

    7 Feb 09 at 4:51 pm

  11. [...] 3. David Miller [...]

  12. Excellent thoughts by brillant people. I do wish that elearning took full advantage of SL and I am working within my institution to make it so. Education at it’s current level will NOT satisfy the upcoming generations that require engagement and will not read miles and miles of texts. So in its current format is non-functional.

    In my inworld persona I am the Roadside Philosopher and have been looking at the psychology and insights that the metaverse can lend to the understanding of real life.

    I believe the one thing that Linden Lab is missing is NOT looking at the emotional and social aspect that initially might bring in and then quickly lose those who do not know how to properly take and understand the emotional side that they get sucked into. People are not prepared that they are intelligent but have suspended disbelief and fallen madly in love, …later realize what they fell in love with was a story line.. are embarassed and drop off world.

    We need a help center and relationship blow by blow to help people understand what it is that they are going thru psychologically.

    Anyway.. that is my two sense worth. An amazing world with extreme ups and downs.. it takes quite some time to learn how to incorporate this enviroment into Real Life perspective.

    Pamala Clift

    11 Feb 09 at 4:21 pm

  13. Well said! I heartilly agree with your view on social and emotional issues when a person first starts. And I have also seen many people drop about after a failed inworld relationship. It is easy to fall in love with your perception of a person in real life and in a virtual world, chat room Facebook, etc, it’s even easier as our perception is not placed in check as much since there is a “veil” from those venues.

    I love your idea of a help centre and just a little education may help retain more residents. I tell new people to be wary of romantic relationships inworld because they typically will get to a point where they either feel they have to meet in real life or end it abruptly. Although, I do know first hand of an sl relationship working out irl. I imagine that is more the exception than the rule. :)

    subquark

    11 Feb 09 at 5:06 pm

  14. I am monitoring several relationships that are out to prove me wrong about SL relationships not transferring to RL. My perception is that there is no SL love, it is SL deep friendship..and a great support line & alot of fun play. I acknowledge that I can totally enjoy… like the song says, “Hooked on a Feeling and high on believing that your in love with me.” and be happy with that perception and ride that high without looking for more.

    The mind fills in all the blanks with just the best possible of your desires and fantasy never lives up in real.

    One very smart man, however, has moved his sl love in with him as both their divorces clear. This universe is never without exceptions so I will never disclaim that it cant be done, but one needs to understand what is happening in your mind.

    There are good reasons to partner in SL, a support effort for those home bound or maybe just to keep the hounds at bay..smile.

    But yes.. I like to think SL needs a Dr. Ruth… and I have been attempting to fill that niche but could use alot of help and a little backing.

    SL relationships have some sort of amazing power… and without some sort of help from those who have gone before..history repeats itself.. and like all news it is the negative that gets the attention.

    Thanks for your comments and your blog!

    Pamala Clift

    11 Feb 09 at 11:38 pm

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