Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Virtual World Watch launched today

Even though today is the official start date, the Virtual World Watch website has been going for a few weeks now. In a nutshell, the project will be looking at the serious application of virtual worlds (not just Second Life but some of the others) to Higher and Further Education in the UK.


Why Virtual Worlds? I'll write a longer graph on this later, but essentially:

They're getting used a lot in UK universities for teaching, learning, communication, meetings, distance learning, design and a whole range of other education uses.

  • The snapshot surveys which foredated VWW show this use to be increasing. Nearly all UK universities have some kind of virtual world-based activity. Some, such as the Open University, are using it in the teaching of students.

  • The 'perfect storm' of:

    1. Better equipment (higher spec PCs and the like).

    2. Broadband becoming ubiquitous.

    3. Virtual worlds becoming more savvy and better designed.

    ...will result in more uses of this form of online communication.

  • Education is for life (Lifelong Learning), and so it's something that doesn't just happen at school but increasingly wherever you are on the grid.

  • The conventional form of school-based education can't fund itself. Whether you look at California, or the Outer Hebrides, you see school-based education in fiscal trouble pretty much throughout the western world. In some circumstances, virtual worlds can and will provide alternative methods of learning stuff.


The development and use of virtual worlds is going to be a long-term thing. Some, such as Second Life, have already been around for a few years, while this year (like Web 2.0 apps) has seen many emerge (most to falter, a few to go on). It'll be interesting to see which "stay the distance" and how they adapt and are used across the education sector.

And, as is becoming a habit when I start something new, I'm off to California. Next stop, my favourite city in the world: Los Angeles.

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