Research - Volatility

Volatility and Investment of Resources

Research by KZERO and others shows how rapidly new virtual worlds are developing and also the number that have ceased to exist.
Some virtual worlds have enjoyed some longevity such as as Active Worlds which started 15 years ago.

Issue: How much time and money is worth investing in establishing 3D immersive environments, organising professional learning and developing learning resources if virtual worlds regularly change or are superseded?

Establishing virtual worlds

While there is a reasonably high degree of risk that a particular virtual world may no longer be continued or supported in the near future this needs to be considered together with a number of other factors such as
  • the anticipated length of time that the 3D learning environment or resource might be useful - teachers and learners often decide to develop new environments or resources based on newly developed skills and emerging understanding of the affordances that 3D environments bring
  • it may be better to use existing virtual worlds or collaborate with others who have virtual worlds rather than establish a new one
  • the experience gained in using a 3D virtual world may far outweigh the costs in moving to a new virtual world with that new experience

Investment in professional learning
As long as virtual worlds are chosen that use most of the standard tools and have the most common elements of user interfaces most professional learning is transferable to new virtual worlds.

Investment in learning resources
Efficient and effective use of learning resources can maximise the investment of time and money. For example
  • Focussing on learning processes and outcomes with existing or easily developed resources means that little will be lost if resources can't be exported to a new virtual world.
  • Working within collaborative educational communities that share resources.
  • Facilitating student participation in building learning resources - this is something many virtual worlds are designed to do

Mitigating strategies for an institution
  • Build experience in more than one virtual world platform
  • Actively collaborate with other institutions - sharing environments, resources, professional learning...
  • Join professional virtual world (immersive learning) networks to keep up-to-date with developments and trends
  • Avoid the temptation to invest heavily in particular builds - needs, ideas and software features will change

Recommendations for possible Guidelines/Standards

  • Build skills in whatever virtual world meets your needs now because much of the knowledge and skills gained will be transferrable to other and newer immersive environments.
  • Join communities of educators using virtual worlds to keep an eye on trends.