Technology & Social Media | Training & CPE

Six reasons to consider Second Life for learning

Have you ever heard a lot of talk about something that you know is being slanted -- in the wrong way?


That is what I felt today while driving to work and listening to a radio station talk about how Second Life is causing real-life marital problems and is nothing more than  "X-rated" adult entertainment. Fortunately, my MACPA team member, Richard Rabicoff, jumped on the phone and gave them another perspective to consider.


Rocky_billy_at_macpaConsider this: In just the last week, I have seen two articles touting the use of Second Life for business  from CIO and ASTD Training magazines. In addition, we held a real-life training event for our accounting educators at our new CPA Island conference facility, held a live Web drawing for our team members who recently completed a Web 2.0 self-learning exercise, and did a live demo of our strategic planning process for Gary Boomer and his team in our strategic planning room.


So here are my reflections after having played around in Second Life over the past year, guided by my millennial son (a great example of reverse mentoring), who is an AP computer science student and now a freshman accounting major.


This post is really a response to David Sibbet’s post and treatise titled, “A Second Life Retrospective.” The six reasons come from some of David’s 12 questions and insights in his retrospective, with my observations and answers.


Bli_conference_center Let me start by offering full disclosure: David Sibbet is a friend, mentor and business partner. He and his company, Grove Consultants International, played a major role in helping us create a vision for the future of the CPA profession from 1998 to 2001. I have been trained in David’s Visual Planning Systems way of doing strategic planning and consulting, and we use his systems as an organization and as consultants through our Business Learning Institute. I think he has done an amazing job of thinking about the power, potential and pitfalls of using this immersive 3-D platform called Second Life.


David sums it up very nicely on page 9 in this way: “As I’ve learned more, I have come to appreciate that in this one 'space,' all of the new channels for social networking and multi-media are manifesting in one integrated social experiment. It’s the multi-layered, self-organizing quality of this environment that is now intriguing me. If the Web is reshaping the world as we know it, and will be the water in which the new generation of digital natives will swim, then it behooves all of us to understand its implications.”

Having three teen-age boys who are all avid gamers in the MMPORPG (Massive Multi-Player On-line Role Playing Games) World of Warcraft, I have observed these digital natives swimming for hours and hours in this online aquarium.


Spending time watching them “play” with people all around the world and then seeing the buzz around Brandi_makes_presentationSecond Life in many unrelated places made me take a journey similar to David’s. The events that pushed me over the edge involved the serendipity of riding for a few hours with one of our high-tech young professionals, Byron Patrick, a dinner at PAZO with David Sibbet on one of his visits to Baltimore, and a couple of articles I was reading about Second Life. When I start to see increasing coverage from my trusted and disparate sources, I begin to pay attention.


Byron and his colleague, Arlene Ciroula, are both seasoned SL’ers who created the first CPA firm on Second Life (KAWG&F). David was talking about applying his strategic planning and Grove methodologies in Second Life, and article after article was discussing the Second Life phenomena.

My reflections on David’s retrospective are really the top six reasons to consider Second Life for learning:


  1. Rapid prototyping: Second Life allows for quick 3-D designs and tools that can be created and changed easily. Integration with Web 2.0 applications like blogs and other Web sites are easy to do.
  2. Non-linear presentation and demonstration: Creating a virtual classroom and 3-D presentations, along with traditional PowerPoints, video and audio, allow for an experience different than anything else I have seen.
  3. Context-based social networking: All of the social networking functionality is in here – groups, chat, instant messaging and friend lists that tell you when your friends are online (and where). Yet it is very different when you can be in the same place and see the same things together. Imagine looking at your Amazon selections by walking through the bookstore together and pointing to the books you are chatting about.
  4. Cross-generational communications: David describes how Second Life erases boundaries between generations. I have experienced the same thing. Interacting with avatars takes away our automatic judging of people by looks and age. At a conference we held in Second Life, my son functioned as the receptionist, escorting the visiting avatars into the conference area – able to converse with the visitors as he directed them to the conference. Age is meaningless, as is diversity and cultural differences when you are communicating with avatars. Can this tool help us with our generational crisis we currently face?
  5. Global cross-cultural exchange and problem-solving: The same phenomena applies to different cultures. I recently met a member of our Second Life Association of CPAs from France and we discussed licensing issues facing CPAs in the U.S. and France. IBM onboards most of their Asian employees using Second Life. I have read research that says chat and IM, along with the avatars disguising real looks, enables cross-cultural exchanges at deeper and more meaningful levels by eliminating the pre-judging we do with real-life sensory cues.
  6. 3-D versus 2-D: No wonder they call it an engaging and immersive platform. Second Life lets people experience your brand in a very different way. This allows small organizations to look big in the virtual world. We have a high-tech, four-level office building, a huge conference center and an educator pavilion in Second Life that would be tough to duplicate in real life. That means we can project our brand and vision in this 3-D environment for people to experience in 3-D.

I was inspired and impressed with the depth of David’s insights and happen to agree that the opportunities for building 3-D communities and creating rich virtual learning environments abound. I also am enough of a realist to say it is still very early on the technology-adoption curve and is not a replacement for traditional learning tools – yet!


Are you ready to use Second Life for learning and training?