Archive for November, 2012

MOOCs – Another Reason for Virtual Worlds

November 13, 2012

Dr. Endicott-Popovksy at UW

This is Barbara Endicott-Popovsky.  She teaches Cybersecurity at the University of Washington.  She now teaches the same class to approximately 13,000 people using a MOOC (see 3rd paragraph regarding what’s a MOOC).

Barbara just invited me recently and three other professionals to participate in a filmed panel talking about emerging technologies and cybersecurity – this includes social media, virtual worlds, gaming, etc.

We spent two and a half hours in a studio with a score of professionals, taking and retaking one shot after another.  We immortalized our thinking about this relevant topic in November 2012.  But, the interactivity was practically non-existent.

What’s interactive about a MOOC?

Our interactivity was about as vivid as the graphic above.  There were no people, no faces, no one actually interacting.  We sat face front looking at the camera, Barbara a bit to the side, acted as talk show host for the video version of the class and the panel. She talked to a camera man, and an imaginary “class”.

We panelists didn’t talk among ourselves at all.  Well maybe between takes.  But, we didn’t see the class, we never had any contact with anyone consuming our ideas, it was like being filmed in a zoo.  I think the only person that really got something out of it was the producer who was making the video and writing notes furiously.  After this experience, I concluded MOOCs are a great idea, but their interactivity model is all wrong.

The Huffington Post just blogged today that MOOCS are Massive Open Online Courses, offered free as online college-level classes open to anyone, and everyone, who wants to take them.  The blog touts Coursera, edX and Udacity.  Huffington says MOOCs are a potential game changer. I’m wondering whose game they’re changing if the interactivity isn’t even as good as a real classroom.

I’m wondering how anyone is going to make money at this? Or better yet, how much money people are going to spend to be part of this  I saw a lot of money being spent.  But Barbara wasn’t getting anything, none of the panelists were getting anything, and even the three guys video taping are working off existing salaries at the UW. Why is this the “Year of the MOOC“?

Well, what a great time for a virtual world to step up and start offering some real interactive experiences. In fact, we put together a video to show how this could be done.  We used the occasion of How to Conduct Government Conferences in Virtual Worlds with our co-conspirators: ASTD, the Technology and Telehealth group of the DoD, and the National Defense University.    Conferences in Virtual Worlds.

Well, there is something to be said about moving conferences and real interactivity inside a virtual world. And we asked that question five years ago, do you want to be 3D.  We are betting on — you do.

How to run a conference in 3D by 2b3d, ASTD, T2 and NDU.

We’ll be happy to do that for you.  Visit us at

MOOCs – Is there a Real Degree Here?

November 5, 2012

Disclaimer:  I am for on-line learning, unequivocally.

Someone help me out here:  MOOCs are free, and no credit.  Somewhere in the back of my head, I can hear one of my teachers saying, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”.  And suddenly Ng has 40 people working for him, how does he pay them?  Why is this business model working?  When it failed so miserably before … what has changed? Expectations?

Remember the multi-university online consortium known as Fathom at Columbia University. Donald MacLeod boasted in The Guardian: “

Fathom was “Set up by Columbia University in alliance with 13 partners, including the London School of Economics, Fathom offers lifelong learning and professional development online. The member institutions include Cambridge University Press, the British Library, the New York Public Library, the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan, the American Film Institute, RAND, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum . With these huge storehouses of knowledge on tap and providing a lot of material on the site for free, Fathom aims to attract people to pay for distance learning”.

This is not the Fathom of 2001 – but if it had been, they’d be making money.

Yet two years later In the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education, January 2003, “Columbia University announced plans last week to close its for-profit online-learning venture, Fathom, from April 1st 2003.  After almost three years in operation, Fathom’s board voted to dissolve the company and reorganise the university’s digital media projects, citing failure to turn a profit and insufficient connections with Columbia’s core business as primary motivations.”

How can failure to turn a profit work again?  How can connections with core business be established? Is this the real Ivory Tower? A Fiber Optic Glass Tower? 

Help! Someone from the iSchool, the Business School, speak out — why? why? Is this Coursera model going to work? And why are so many Universities giving their content away?  Are they charging for it? Is someone exchanging money here?  Or Is Ng going to accredited courses and issue degrees that will be more digitally relevant than a REAL certificate?

The Virtual World Boom is Happening

November 1, 2012

Mary Meeker recently put out an outstanding report on the future of the Internet.  She calls it her Eyepopper.  And, I refer to it, because it is influencing how Serious Play or Serious Gaming is really booming.

Why does this data mean that the Virtual World Boom is Happening?  First, virtual worlds means: you are immersed in data, all of the time.  You are virtually in the network, working, thinking.

Ms. Meeker makes four points:

  • Internet growth remains robust while rapid mobile adoption is still in its early stages.
  • Re-imagination of nearly everything is the trend in every walk of live.
  • The economy is full of mixed trends with negative bias.
  • USA, Inc, there is a lot to be excited about, and a lot of worry in certain areas.

So, is it excitement for virtual worlds, or something to be worried about?

Ms. Meeker tells us there are 2.3B global internet users with an 8% growth, driven by emerging markets.  That means that distance is a key driver in re-imagining things.

We are global, we cooperate globally, and work globally.  Working globally means creating new spaces to work in that allows us to feel present, allows us to see each other and each other’s surroundings.

Sounds like a dream for virtual worlds innovation.

Add that there are 1.1B global mobile 3G subscribers with 37% growth, and you realize that virtual worlds must be designed for technologies that are “on the move”.

If users are global, and they are using SmartPhones, and they want to be immersed in the content, in the experience, they are on-line and ready.

But,  Screen Size is Important for Virtual Worlds

So, with what we know so far, we have the ubiquity factor fairly complete.  There are a lot of people using technology, immersed in a virtual world already.  The screen size is fairly small for the enriching, engagement experience that we know as virtual world interaction.  So let’s look at another factor indicating where we can leverage a boom in virtual world design and development.

The surge in the iPad is a strong indicator that our interest lies in having more than one immersive technology.  The screen needs to be bigger to experience more visual input, and to include highly interactive, gestured based experiences.

The proof is in Ms. Meeker’s data.

More to come on what the implication of this is.