learning in virtual worlds

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At the beginning of 2009 I wrote a blog article “Top 10 trends for Virtual Worlds in the public and private spaces as I see it for 2009…” Rather than re-invent the wheel lets expand on 2009 predictions and see where we are now coming in at the end of the year, then maybe make a few speculations for what 2010 has in store.

1. Learning in a Virtual World will become in vogue
We’ve already seen a large migration towards this with more to come in the future I believe.

2. Double-digit adoption across a broad demographic
Registered virtual world accounts continue to increase across the board, although the largest growing sector is the 10 to 15 year old age bracket according to KZero. Gartner Research estimates that 80% of online users will have a presence in metaverses by the end of 2011.

3. More and more social networks migrating to the Virtual World space
This could be good, this could be bad. The past year has seen an explosion in social networking sites, namely Twitter and Facebook. Apparently not so much on the virtual world front: A few examples for social networking/ interaction are Kaneva and version 1.0 Vivaty. Don’t hold out much hope in the near term on this front…

4. More institutions turning to Virtual Worlds (Universities and Colleges building Virtual Campuses & Classrooms/ Virtual Teaching Environments being established)
Throughout 2009 we have seen multiple colleges and universities adapting to virtual worlds for learning. From U.C. Irvine’s announcement of offering a 4-year degree for virtual worlds to medical students training in virtual worlds without all the inherent risks found in the real-world.

5. Artificial Intelligence-like behaviors – more buzz around this
And yes there has been buzz around AI in virtual worlds throughout 2009. I have no doubt that in the next 3-5 years some form of artificial intelligence or behavioral intelligence, or BI, will come “baked in” to virtual worlds.

6. Backlash against traditional CBT coupled with lower development costs will encourage corporations to pilot Virtual Worlds for training and collaboration
Although I have seen numerous companies turning towards the first stages of implementing virtual worlds, many just don’t have a budget for training, period. Perhaps the more anticipated announcement of enterprise virtual worlds this year has been Second Life Enterprise (SLE) otherwise known as codename Nebraska, although the launch came out with a big bang most got fearful when seeing the hefty price tag.

7. Virtual Goods – Hot for ‘09
This trend projection turned out to be right on. Mediapost reports that a new study shows that the virtual goods market will double in 2009, reaching $1 billion in revenue. Other forecasts show as much as $3 billion! No doubt the virtual goods market will continue to grow in 2010 and beyond.

8. Government entities adopting Virtual Worlds as pilot programs (many agencies won’t want to be left out)
Yet another prediction that has come true, sort of… Military and Government organizations seemed to drive the demand in 2009 for virtual world proposals and development. Many RFP’s were issued this year from government entities looking to adopt virtual world programs, and I am sure 2010 has much more in store with regard to the government space adopting virtual worlds for training purposes.

9. Beginning to see traction for standards, especially in the enterprise space
Although standards haven’t been covered too heavily in ’09 they have been mentioned. 2010 will see more companies turning to virtual worlds for training and thus standards should ensue.

10. Cross-platform Avatar standardization will continue
Although the cross-platform avatar standardization has not happened yet, I feel we have made progress in making avatars look more realistic to the human replica that they imitate. Such examples of this include: Blue Mars and Evolver which is currently in Beta.

Some early predictions for 2010…
• Mobile learning will be HOT. With the amount of mobile devices used today it is only a natural progression for learning to be addressed on mobile devices.
• Growing demand for Browser-based virtual worlds.
• Corporate training dollars will free up marginally but not for virtual worlds; in hard economic times, most decision makers become allergic to trying new ideas.