e-Learning has evolved rapidly over last decade or so, from being simple PowerPoint presentations to highly interactive games and simulations. Second Life (SL) is yet another addition to the armory of trainers.
I have looked at SL with interest over last year or so. To give a brief to the uninitiated – it’s a 3-D environment where you can create your own avatar, roam around in the 3-D world, interact with other people who are there, create 3-D objects, own land (need to pay real money), and then go on to create your very own virtual world (see snapshots of some properties below).
All this throws up some very interesting options for e-learning or training purposes. One can buy a small piece of virtual land, build a training center there, and start offering training classes for free or charge Lindens (money used in SL, which can be exchanged for real money with other users) from the learners. Many universities and corporations have already setup their campuses in SL, and are experimenting with this medium by conducting training sessions there. There are some distinct advantages which SL offers to trainers, some of which are –
- This virtual world is well-equipped to deliver sales training because it can effectively replicate real-life situations by using role-play exercise and simulations.
- I also think that simulation based trainings, such as team work, and communication can be done more effectively vis-à-vis VCR, or other online training methodologies.
- However, for me the greatest advantage of Second Life is that you can create various equipment models and training tools using prims, which is not possible in a real classroom.
However, SL brings its own set of challenges such as – its bandwidth and computing resource hungry; the 3-D environment is perplexing at times and acclimatizing may take time even for technically savvy people; firewall can also pose problems to its proper functioning.
I believe there would be lot of inertia against SL from corporate learners, and for it to work trainers would have to go an extra mile to make learners comfortable. One of the things that trainers can do is pre-build generic avatars for learners (which they can reuse in all the trainings), have them seated in their respective places in their training center in SL, and with this groundwork done just pass on the login information to the learners. Once learners get into SL at appointed time, give them a quick 5-10 minute overview of how to move around, interact with object, and then go on to give the training. This would help learners get started quickly, and get the best out of training without going through the initial steep learning curve.
I think SL is going to survive, provided we (the training industry) are able to offer innovative and effective trainings on it, and keep it simple for our learners to use.
(Manish Gupta is Head – Business Development at G-Cube)