Second Life may have started out as a playground for techies, but it has become a well-known virtual world where people play, do business and learn. As a result, more organizations are making the transition to virtual and ultimately finding an engaging, cost-effective training platform.
When the Maryland Association of Certified Public Accountants experimented with Second Life, it was to connect with the younger generation. However, it also found an ideal venue for training.
“We view it as a communication and education vehicle,” said Tom Hood, CPA, the CEO and executive director of the Maryland Association of CPAs. “We started it to begin exploring how to connect to this new generation. That was what piqued our interest, but once we got into it, we found a nice training platform for a small organization that doesn’t have a big budget.”
To develop a presence in Second Life, Hood turned to the best expert he knew: his teenage son.
“We took advice from Don Tapscott who wrote Wikinomics,” he said. “I saw him speak about four or five years ago, [and] he said, ‘If you want to be up on technology, hire an 18-year-old.’ So I said to my oldest son, ‘Would you check out Second Life, and if you can help us do this, we’ll put you on as an intern.’ He was quick to get into it and quick to figure it out.”
Hood said the organization began its adventure in Second Life by renting a small house, but once it became familiar with the technology, it upgraded to an island. It has had about six events in the virtual world, some of which are mixed-reality sessions that take place in real life and the virtual world simultaneously, a perk for both younger and older members.
“Our message to members is we don’t see Second Life replacing anything we’re doing in real life,” Hood said. “It’s an ‘and,’ it’s a supplement. It gives us the ability to reach different members at different times and places in their career. We’re going to keep trying to do these mixed events because it makes it more interesting, and it gives both [younger and older members what] they might want or need.”
The Maryland Association of CPAs still is in an experimental phase, so they don’t have any hard-and-fast guidelines about using Second Life.
“Fortunately, when you own an island, you can control who’s on that island, and you can kick people off if they’re not behaving according to your standards,” Hood said.
He sees Second Life as an engaging online platform because users actually feel like they’re in a room with other people. Plus, it allows them to gain access to experts or sources they wouldn’t normally be able to connect with.
As in corporations, the Maryland Association of CPAs is training its employees to be proficient in Web 2.0 to help relate to the younger generation.
“All of our staff, we’ve actually been in Second Life,” Hood said. “We believe as an association, we’ve got to all be conversant in not just Second Life but lots of the Web 2.0 technologies because of the way the young people are using them. So our group understands blogging, Facebook, MySpace and Second Life as part of our own training program.”
- 5 Forces Shaping the Future of HR
- Why ‘Leaders Eat Last’
- What’s holding inclusion back? Leaders’ behavior.
- Psychological safety: an overlooked secret to organizational performance
- Designing virtual learning for application and impact: the missing ingredient
- Brain-based leadership in a time of heightened uncertainty
- Creating an environment for effective learning measurement