Thursday, June 10, 2010

Dog Days of Summer?

Although it's only early June, the brouhaha over Linden Lab and their downsizing makes it sound like we're in the throes of a miserable heat wave. All over Twitter and the SLED list, proclamations of the demise of Second Life are being proclaimed because LL has cut their work force by 30%, including the disbanding of the Singapore office, and most disturbing for educators, the lay off of Claudia and George Linden. Here's a CNET article on the layoffs:

There are also reports of colleges and universities pulling out, from Princeton to the College of DuPage.

So is the use of Second Life for educational purposes in trouble?

Well, maybe. But not any more than other aspects of education are in trouble because of the current recession. What seems to be forgotten is that we are in the worst recession since the Great Depression, and educational communities have been hit hard by the collapse of support from states and property taxes. Did we really think there would be no casualties in the MUVE?

Fortunately, the cost of using a virtual world in education is small compared to other expenses. Yes, it may be cut, or slow to expand for a while, but I would imagine the retreat will be short lived. Online education--not the only driver of VWs, but certainly a sizable aspect--continues to grow. VWs are a natural next step in bringing students into a fully immersive experience that gives them a sense of person and place that no 2D LMS or even Web 2.0 2D app can give them.

True, if Linden Lab so focuses on social network gaming (does it really want to become the next Farmville?!!!), as it also announced with the layoffs, and if it continues its overtures of slighting educators, the ramp up and development of open source VWs may be the place for colleges and universities (not to mention primary and secondary education).

The open source sims are still clunky, but they are improving rapidly. VWER has been hosting field trips to different educational builds on places such as ReactionGrid and 3rd Rock, which have been quite fascinating. They can't handle very many people without crashing, but that was so with SL, even just a couple years ago.

Linden Lab lays off 30% of its workforce during the the Great Recession. Not really news. I'm surprised it just now happened. Linden Lab is pursuing what they consider potentially lucrative 3D avenues. Again, not surprising. However, I hope they are not simply running scared and find themselves behind the curve in both the flatter social network 3D gaming world and more graphically rich new worlds, such as Blue Mars (though I've yet to get in because my computer's graphics card is too old!!!).