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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Metaverse Hype, Decline and Realism Cycle--We've Seen It Before

Meeting in Second Life with some folks from Learning Times to discuss the learning potential of the space.

Over at Learning Visions, Cammy Bean has an interesting post called Second Life Backlash and Controversy. I can't help but keep relating the whole 3D web and especially Second Life to the birth of e-learning...way back in the late 1990s (I'm leaving out CBT and other attempts at online learning on purpose.)

In the early days, e-learning was way over-hyped as evidenced by the valuation of e-learning companies, conferences set up exclusively for e-learning, entire online universities springing up overnight. And money being poured into e-learning efforts. Why? Because e-learning was the cost-saving and efficiency dream of organizations. It was the start of something huge...revolutionizing how people learned.


The backlash. E-learning was expensive to build, complicated and boring. The ROI wasn't worth it and several high profile online universities closed their was the end of e-learning. Many companies folded and people thought it was dead. Another fad...see, we were right said the wise pundits, e-learning doesn't work. Told you so!

However, a small group of dedicated people, university departments and companies where never influenced by the hype, never went over the top, they were realistic about what e-learning could do and what it could not do. These people plodded along.

Then, several years after the bubble burst, e-learning was BACK. But this time it was more targeted, less-hyped, tools were easier to use and people as well as organizations had more realistic expectations. The people who never bought into the hype and were realistic became successful.

Today, the 3D web and specifically Second Life (as it is the most visible example) is following the same hype, decline, realism cycle.

For a while Second Life was it! The future of learning has arrived. The press loved the online world and wrote about it enthusastically every single chance they could. They were in love with it (and their own avatars). This would revolutionize training as we know it.


What do I do here? This isn't a's not fun. Hey there aren't as many people here as I thought....where is everybody? This is all adult content and gambling (until recently banned). So why are we re-creating a classroom in 3D, let's just use current synchronous course delivery packages...not as complicated. The backlash.

However, a small group of people will continue to plod along in Second Life (or other 3D metaverses) because they see the potential. They see through the hype and understand the potential as well as the limitations of these worlds for learning. To them, Second Life is a tool to be included in the toolbox of instructional designers...not the solution to every learning challenge...just another tool. This helps them see through the hype and avoid unrealistic expectations.

Eventually, 3D worlds for learning will be as common place as simulations and e-learning...we just have to ride out the cycle and wait for the realism part.

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