Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow's Recognition of Industry Applications within Virtual Worlds: A Meta-Analysis of Distance Learning Instructional Achievements within Virtual World Architectural Environme

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow's Recognition of Industry Applications within Virtual Worlds: A Meta-Analysis of Distance Learning Instructional Achievements within Virtual World Architectural Environme

Caroline M. Crawford (University of Houston – Clear Lake, USA), Marion S. Smith (Texas Southern University, USA) and Virginia Dickenson (eLumenata, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-672-8.ch009
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The primary focus of this chapter is to provide an analysis of business and industry case-based implementations of instructional opportunities within the Second Life three-dimensional virtual world environment, so as to delineate distance learning instructional achievements within virtual worlds and engage in a discussion related to potential implications for higher education. This provides the essential link between distance learning imperatives within the business and industry realm through a meta-analysis of industry’s virtual world distance learning case-based projects. This analysis offers a framework through which to emphasize the strengths and weaknesses of distance learning projects from yesterday and today, with implications towards tomorrow’s higher education distance education learning environments within virtual worlds. The framework through which this occurs is a focused presentation of the cases under review, followed by discussions related to: major areas of concern, integral distance activilearning considerations, successes of the business and industry world within virtual worlds; and potential implications for higher education distance learning within virtual worlds. As there is significant interest in the implementation of distance learning opportunities within virtual words displayed by the business and industry realm, there are innumerable “lessons learned” that will benefit higher education as institutions further enhance their distance learning opportunities within three-dimensional virtual world gaming environments.
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The virtual world has always polarized persons within all realms of society, from the persons who eagerly engage in the virtual world environment and clearly articulate its potential, to the other end of the spectrum wherein people are comfortable in their “real” life and don’t find the virtual gaming environment to hold the same “pull” for their time and attention. Of course, the reality of the societal world is that all things do change, and it is of utmost importance for different realms within society to try and engage with collegial professionals and customers where the professionals and customers naturally assemble. But what is a virtual world? Melbourne Laneways (n.d.) offers the explanation that, “Virtual worlds are computer-based two or three dimensional simulated environments that enable users to inhabit and interact with others through chat, instant messaging and voice, via ‘avatars’” (p. 2). As suggested by Gronstedt (2007), “Never has the adage that ‘on the Internet nobody knows you're a dog’ been more true” (paragraph 5). Interesting questions are posed by Dignan (2006), which reflects concerns of those in business and industry, who are slow to engage in the virtual world gaming environment:

I just don't get the appeal for companies or gamers. My other nagging question: Are corporate activities in Second Life–the hotels, the PR firm offices, the news bureaus, meetings and brainstorming sessions–all that cutting edge? Why exactly are all these companies popping up in Second Life? Where’s the value added? (paragraph 2)

Along these same lines, Athavaley (2007) states that, “For some people, the process may be too innovative. To use Second Life, for example, you have to have a certain processor speed and graphics card to be able to download the software onto your computer. The software isn't compatible with satellite Internet, dial-up Internet and some wireless Internet services” (paragraph 12). Adding value, and the subsequent return on investment, is concerns that continuously arise within business and industry, as well as training needs such as within the higher education realm. Yet there is another opinion. As quoted from Gronstedt (2007):

Second Life isn't your father's two-dimensional Web, that's for sure. It's Web 3-D. Don't let the video game look deceive you. There's no purpose, no score, no winners, and no levels of difficulty. Second Life appropriates the world-building and open-endedness of massively multiplayer games, but that's where the similarities end. Its more than 8 million registered “residents” chat with friends, attend book readings, role play, take classes, and make love. Much has been made of the sleaze in Second Life, but it also has virtual cathedrals, mosques, and synagogues. (paragraph 4)

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