Saturday, September 22, 2007

5 common myths about Second Life

Recently, I've been spending a lot of time in Second Life talking to new users, and also talking to companies/institutions that want to get into Second Life. And one thing my colleagues and I have noticed is that some Second Life myths are still very popular among people. That is why I think that it's important to talk about what Second Life is and what Second Life isn't with a good dose of realism. So, here is our list of some of common myths that should in our opinion be addressed in any serious meeting/discussion about Second Life (and other virtual worlds):
  • Second Life = Real Life. Second Life is a just a virtual version of the real world with the same business models, customer needs and behavior. WRONG
Second Life is not real life
Many real world limitations don't exist in Second Life. For this reason, the Second Life users have the freedom to behave differently than in the real world, satisfy different needs (for example, the need to have fantasy outfits) and literally take the world into their own hands. Therefore it should come as no surprise that many established real world business and marketing models simply don't work in SL. Real companies entering Second Life must get to know the virtual world and prove their value to the users.

  • Second Life = the world wide web.
    Like on the web, users in Second Life will visit my island to get information about my company/institution. WRONG
Second Life is not the world wide web
Second Life residents are not in SL to receive the same kind of content in 3D as they could on the web. They are there for new experiences, not links to web sites. There is nothing worse for Second Life users than clicking an advertisement and being moved out of Second Life into a new browser window. Established web privacy/value trade-offs (for example, letting a company know your e-mail in exchange for a discount) must be re-evaluated and set based on specific usage.

  • It's easy to make money in Second Life. Second Life will, in a short time, grow my company profits or allow me a comfortable side income. WRONG
Second Life is not a money tree
Yes, we do have money trees in Second Life, but don't expect to get rich in SL with no effort. To make money, an individual or a company must be even more innovative and adaptable than in real world because of larger competition and a level playing field. Success requires time and effort. And don't get in SL just with the vision of making money. Get in, enjoy the ride, and be inspired by what other are doing.

  • We know what works in Second Life and in what direction the future will take it. WRONG
The future of Second Life is not clear
Nobody has a Second LIfe crystal ball, which can tell us SL best practices and future developments of virtual worlds. You can't even guarantee that Second Life will work when you've got an important demo scheduled! It is important to remember that virtual worlds are still in early development stages - think of the state of the world wide web in 1995. Don't trust people that claim they've got all the answers, and check the figures; Second Life doesn't have 10 million unique users! And just as we're all still finding our way around Second Life, nobody can predict for sure what virtual worlds will look like in 5 or even 10 years. Could anybody predict BitTorrent, Facebook, YouTube or Flickr in the Mosaic age?

  • It's useful for me/my company/my institution to start getting acquainted with Second Life. RIGHT
Get a Second Life
After the initial stages of experimentation, Second Life and virtual worlds will likely become a new way of communicating with colleagues, business partners, customers, friends and family and enable us a new way not only of doing business, but of living - just like mobile phones and the web have done in the past. Forward-looking companies/institutions and individuals that start learning about virtual worlds now will have an advantage in future. As I always say: there is no better way to understand a new technology than by trying it yourself. And I'd also suggest you to try different usages of Second Life. I might be spending a lot of time in Second Life for business/networking purposes, but I still find time for fun explorations with friends.

I'd like to finish this post by adding some links to articles/resources that can also be useful when discussion Second Life and virtual worlds:

And what are in your experience the most common myths and misconceptions you have to deal with when talking about Second Life?

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Random thoughts about the future of Moodle

Lately I've been spending a lot of time in Moodle; mainly of course as part of my Moodle Teacher Certificate (MTC) program (which I successfully completed last week), but also because of the Austrian Moodle conference, which I attended on Thursday and Friday in Graz (I had a presentation about the Sloodle project). I've been using Moodle in different roles (admin, tutor, user) for quite some years now, and I believe that Moodle is a great platform for e-learning because it's powerful, relatively easy to use, and also expandable and customizable for different needs. What is also great is the fact that the Moodle developer community is very active and always making sure new versions have useful new features and improvements of previous standard modules.

I had the pleasure to attend Martin Dougiamas' virtual presentation about the future of Moodle at the Austrian Moodle conference a few days ago, and I'm really excited about some of the features we'll be soon seeing in version 1.9, and also the roadmap for Moodle 2.0, which in my opinion has the potential of making Moodle 2.0 a great member of the Web 2.0 family. In this post I'd like to share with you some of my thoughts on the future of Moodle. I believe that Moodle has a sustainable future, so I'll focus mainly on discussing upcoming Moodle features and possible future developments.

Among Moodle 1.9 features that Martin presented on Thursday, I was most impressed by the added social networking features. I think it's a great step towards making Moodle even more flexible and user friendly. If you're a site user, make sure you edit your profile and add your interests and try finding users with common interests (check out the page for the tag "moodle" - cool, isn't it?). Right now I sometimes feel limited by the rigid course structure in Moodle, and I really can't wait to have a better way to connect with other Moodle users through tags and shared interests (similar to what Elgg offers). And one of the next steps is hopefully the ability to mark Moodle items (forum posts, resources etc.) as favorites, so each user could create his/her own library of favorite resources.

However, another problem I've been seeing with Moodle for some time now from the perspective of a common user (i.e. student role with no editing rights), was not just being closed in courses, but also being closed and limited to a certain Moodle site. I often found the thought that students lose access to their Moodle resources/activities/data after a course or study year is over disturbing. Of course, teachers have many options to export/import content and date, and move content/data among their courses and among Moodle sites. But the students don't have any easy way to export their work and move it to a new Moodle site or to their personal archive somewhere else. So, I think one of the next steps in Moodle development should also be empowering users and enabling them to create their library of resources and also their Moodle portfolio that they (the students, not the teachers or administrators!) could take to another Moodle site (when changing schools for example). The Moodle development roadmap shows plans of enabling easier connections between different Moodle sites through the Moodle Network, which plans to provide a Moodle Community Hub for sharing content, user info, and enabling better peer interaction. However, I think that moving between Moodles should also be made easy for students, and not just for the teachers.
What I'd also like to see, is improvements in helping students getting around their Moodle courses. Moodle provides a block, which shows recent activity since the last login for each course, and also an overview of your course through the My Moodle page (though I really wonder how many administrators/teachers/students are aware of this option?). Still, I think the overview of my courses pages could and should be further improved by adding more flexibility and customization options. This could be very important for large Moodle sites with a lot of activity (like the site, which I find very challenging to follow!). What I would like to see on the overview page is something closer to Facebook News feed page. Students should be able to control what appears on this page, in what order, and in how much detail. Some sort of personal dashboard with more user-centric widgets. Now you can of course add some standard blocks to the overview page, but I miss more tools to help the users organize and plan their learning activities and perhaps an option to set up custom e-mail alerts that relate to specific course events. I really don't like to receive e-mails for every Moodle post in a certain forum (especially for the most active ones), but I think it'd be useful to be able to add a rule to receive an e-mail update whenever a new resource/activity is posted (in any of courses you're enrolled in) or when new topics that match your interests (keyword watcher) are started.

All in all I'm really excited about Moodle adding more social networking features and establishing better connections between different Moodle installations and also the rest of the web. With all these improvements I'm beginning to wonder if in the future we could see Moodle also become a standardized personal learning environment with users in control of their learning data and the ability to move from one Moodle site to another (of course with the choice of moving only necessary portions of your Moodle profile data/library/portfolio)? We'll see what future Moodle development brings us. I certainly think Moodle is worth keeping an eye on, and I can't wait to get my hands on the upcoming Moodle versions :)

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.