Education in Second Life

posted in: elearning | 14

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*  ^_^