Is this all there is?: How You Can Get Ahead of the Virtual Curve

By Mark Jankowski

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following post is slanted toward Training Professionals, however, the cutting edge nature of virtual 3D training is something that all Project Managers will need to familiarize themselves with to keep up with this exciting new technology.

As I was traveling back from a recent Training Technology Conference in Las Vegas, I was reflecting on my experience as an exhibitor at the event.  I was reviewing the list of programs, speakers, and exhibitors contained within the Expo’s Program Guide when Los Lobos’ song “Is That All There Is?” started playing on my Ipod and I realized that was the question I was pondering about the conference.

As the President of Virtual Training Partners, I spend every day, all day, thinking about and working in 3D Virtual Worlds like Second Life, Reaction Grid, and Unity3D.  Seeing the opportunity to connect with others interested in 3D Virtual World technology, our organization decided to exhibit at the conference.  The experience was well worth it.  We had great traffic to our booth, exchanged many business cards, and have several opportunities to follow-up with people who showed genuine interest.  It was three days well spent.

That being said, what remains a concern to me is the lack of other exhibitors, sponsors, and speakers who focus on 3D Virtual Worlds.  Let me run some numbers by you…There were over 100 sessions delivered over a three- day period.  Of those sessions, there were only four sessions dedicated to 3D Virtual World training.  These sessions were terrific, with Anders Gronstedt, Tony O’Driscoll, and Karl Kapp providing their continued thought leadership in this area.  But when I think about the fact that at a Training Technology Conference there were less than 4% of the sessions dedicated to the topic, I have to think: “Is That All There Is?”

What gives?  We have heard several reasons why people were not more interested in exploring 3D Virtual Technology:

  • “I need to figure out 2D E-Learning before I think about 3D Learning.”
  • “My company’s firewall blocks 3D Virtual Worlds, so we couldn’t use it anyway.”
  • “I have been burned in the past trying to integrate bleeding edge technology.”
  • “I can’t afford to spend my time ‘playing’ in virtual platforms.”

While I understand the challenges associated with adopting new learning technologies, training professionals should at least be conversant in how 3D Virtual Worlds are going to impact the training landscape over the next three years.  This might seem like a long way away for training professionals worrying about what e-learning classes they are going to deliver next month.  The pressure on professionals to deliver results immediately and efficiently has never been greater.  So why spend all this time learning about something that I might not be able to implement within the next year?  There are three reasons:

  1. You need to remain a thought leader within your organization.  If you are not ahead of the curve, you may find yourself behind the curve.  If someone comes into your office and says: “What are we doing with 3D Virtual Training?”, then you probably want to at least have some level of personal experience with the technology.
  2. It does not take a lot of time to learn.  All learning professionals spend at least some of their time reading periodicals, researching on the Web, or just talking to colleagues about trends.  We suggest that you reallocate some of this time to learn more about 3D Virtual Worlds, even if it is to just log into Second Life, create an Avatar, and search for places like Beta Business Park (which provides an excellent business centric orientation to Virtual Worlds).
  3. It is fun.  People who start experimenting in 3D Virtual World Training soon find themselves hooked.  After initial hesitation, they find themselves changing the appearance of their Avatar, teleporting to virtual locations like Italy, Paris, or Pandora.  (OK, there is no Pandora, but I am sure that as soon as James Cameron can figure out a way to get it into a virtual platform, there will be one!)

So back to the original question: “Is this all there is?”  Unfortunately, today, even at a Training Technology Conference, the answer is ‘yes.’  However, if more people become engaged in Virtual Worlds, perhaps first as individuals out of their homes, then interest levels will increase, more people will be seeking out experts on 3D Virtual Worlds, and hopefully in the (very) near future, there will be more than 4% of the time at a Training Technology Conference spent discussing this innovative technology.

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