The EDUCAUSE 2011 meeting of the Virtual Worlds Constituent Group (VWER) last week in Philadelphia was a positive success with 19 attendees. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a lot to you, but it had been lower last year, I heard. It was suggested that perhaps we are moving out of the “trough of disillusionment,” as that space is called that emerging technologies often fall into after an initial period of over hype (note the image of the Gartner Hype Cycle). As usual, the meeting was simultaneously held in Second Life® and this year on Jokaydia.
There was the usual lamenting of changes in the relationship between Linden Labs and the education community, although many try to interpret the changes, not as a rift, but as a wake-up call for educators to take charge of their own direction in virtual worlds, whether in Second Life or somewhere else. Jokay suggested just that, that educators have to find what is right for them, that there is not a one size fits all environment or way to use it.
I only had my iPad at the conference and could not go in-world during the meeting, a problem that was discussed–access is still an issue to using virtual worlds successfully in education. I really think it will remain a niche market technology if it can’t be made into a browser-based technology. Still I am an evangelist for virtual worlds, albeit an evangelist in the wilderness, it often seems, especially as my institution has serious access issues, including the economic condition of many of our students.