Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Second Life Viewer

If you've ever heard me speak about virtual worlds for learning, you've heard my mix of love and hate for Second Life. I love the openness, I love the freedom, I love the complexity...but it made it too complicated for most users. Navigation wasn't intuitive. Attrition rates after the first log in were atrocious. It didn't integrate with other technologies well. Frankly, for most people, it was just too hard.

I have friends in the virtual worlds industry who stood by Second Life. To be honest, I wasn't sure Linden Labs "got" that the same thing that made Second Life great was also the thing that was holding it back.

But yesterday, I tried out Viewer 2.

Yeah, here's where I take some of that back.

Sure, its still Second Life, with the prims and the rezzing. And no, the new viewer didn't magically fix security concerns or the (in my estimation, silly) worry about inappropriate content. But Viewer 2 tackles the usability issues head on, and makes Second Life a lot more digestible for a new user...and that, my friends, has been the biggest obstacle to virtual world adoption.

I don't want to detail all of the new can find the write up here. I will say that little features like streamlined navigation, the improved search functionality, and the simplified menus help overcome a lot of the issues that new users faced in the previous interface. The embeddable media (audio! video! Flash!) makes me swoon. But the single biggest improvement in Viewer 2? It works like a web page. Its intuitive with minimal poking around. Its better designed for user experience.

And that's what makes all the difference. Game changer? Maybe. Gauntlet thrown? Definitely.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Why you should be Learning in 3D - Blog Tour Stop

It doesn't seem all that long ago that I got a call from Dr. Karl Kapp asking me if I'd mind being interviewed for his and Dr. Tony O'Driscoll's new book on virtual worlds for learning. When he told me that he wanted to talk to me about the future of virtual worlds, I have to admit, I was both excited and skeptical. Excited to be asked to talk about my grand visions of the potential of this technology I had been immersed in for the last few years, that I've tried to understand from the inside out. Skeptical that the enormity of the change that I envision, that what I really see as the future of virtual worlds, would reach far beyond what would be captured in this book. I had a real fear that after talking to me, Karl might just decide that my fanatical rantings were a bit of a bridge too far for what they wanted to achieve in writing what I knew would be the theoretical foundational text for virtual worlds for learning.

A few months later, I received the chapters I was quoted in for review. I was truly just scared to look. Again, I was caught in the delicate balance of hoping I didn't sound crazy and hoping that the book was portraying the future big enough. After doing the vanity scan, I got brave and read the preview chapters, Chapter 8: Steps to Successful Enterprise Adoption, and Chapter 10: Back to the Future.

There was good news on two fronts. I didn't sound crazy. I sounded like I was in good company.

What Karl and Tony have provided with Learning in 3D is the foundation for how learning in immersive environments happens, how different these learning environments and experiences are from other environments, and what that means to organizational learning--and structure. When people ask me where they should get started to learn about virtual worlds, I've never had a great answer...links to a variety of vendor sites, to blogs and to some of the people I follow on Twitter. Now I have an answer. This book is the first step.

What you might be surprised to learn is that one of my favorite sections of the book is actually Chapter 7: Overcoming Being Addled by ADDIE (#lrnchat rule: DRINK!). From my perspective, and granted its a biased one, one of the major barriers to successful immersive learning implementations is the lack of instructional designers who can effectively design appropriate content for these new environments. Kudos to Karl and Tony for not only acknowledging this, but beginning to tie together the granddaddy of instructional design process models with the skills and perspective of design needed for these new learning environments.

I'm honored and thrilled to have in some small way contributed to this book because, yes, they painted the big picture. They provided the rationale and issued the imperative. Learning in 3D provides the necessary background to understand not only why immersive learning environments are important, but the risk of not including them as part of your corporate learning strategy. The future is immersive, the future is contextualized, the future is empowered and engaged regardless of your physical location. The future of learning (at least part of it) is in 3D.

Buy your copy today and use the code L3D1 for a 20% discount.
Then check out the wiki or the Facebook fan page.