Monday, June 2, 2008

Using Second Life for virtual corporate training and communication

Companies, universities and conference planners are using Second Life technology to connect and train employees and students across the globe. If your company is trying to spice up dull meetings or cut remote employee training costs, Second Life may hold a solution for you.

Jenna Sweeney, author of the Corporate Training & e-Learning Blog, reviewed a Forrester Research report stating that “within five years the 3D Internet will become as important to companies as the Web is today.” While she holds a “wait-and-see attitude” toward that statement, she still believes the technology holds true benefits in the corporate world.

While we still don’t know the depth of the impact Second Life and virtual worlds will have on corporate life, it provides a glimpse into the possibilities of corporate communication in the future.

Right now, the opportunities seem endless – from remote collaboration and employee training to 3D projects and models. Companies like Sun Microsystems, Best Buy and IBM have are a few companies ahead of the game.

Sun Microsystems has been developing real estate in Second Life since 2006. The computer server and software maker owns exactly seven islands, two of which are reserved for the general public. The other five islands are used for corporate training sessions and meetings.

At one corporate event in April, Sun Microsystems corporate executives socialized with hundreds of employees, enjoying Alpine skiing, car racing and jazz music.

Sun held the event after acquiring a software company in order to introduce new employees to existing employees at their home office. Second Life was the best solution.

Sun only has one rule: Employees should show up looking like humans. It doesn’t worry many other companies if employees take the form of animals or other beings while on the clock. (LA Times)

Corporate America is still learning to embrace Second Life, where creative
self-expression is expected.”
IBM, with almost 387,000 employees in 170 countries, uses Second Life and other virtual communities to conduct meetings, train new employees and hold orientation sessions.

Second Life is helping IBM learn how to hold more efficient meetings. If someone wanders off track during a meeting, colleagues can send messages telling that person to get back on track. Salespeople use Second Life to test sales pitches on colleagues, with immediate feedback.

As the IBM spokesperson said in a recent LA Times article, overseeing a virtual workplace can be much more difficult than tracking a real one. When IBM first started using the technology, employees would show up to virtual meetings wearing inappropriate attire or as bizarre creatures. As time went on, the virtual world evolved just as a real community would – after laying down some ground rules, professionalism returned.

If and how the rest of the corporate world will adopt virtual worlds is still up in the air. We would like to hear from you - Does your company use any kind of Second Life or virtual communication tools to foster employee communication?

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