Monday, August 27, 2012

Virtual career fair?

I just ran across this article from the Lansing State Journal about a virtual career fair:

What caught my eye was this passage: "On Sept. 26, Pure Michigan Talent Connect will host the MiVirtualCareerFair, an online event where job seekers and Michigan employers can interact with each other in a live 3D environment." So I went over to the web site at to see what this 3D environment was like. You can see a video at that shows you the "3 D environment" which is basically a browser-based 2D site with static web pages of "virtualness." I was hoping to see something like SL, Jokaydia Grid, Cloud Party, Kitely, or Jibe.

There are avatars to speak of, but they don't appear to move, at least they don't in the video, and you'd think that would be a clear selling point of the virtual world (a term used more than once in the video). Instead, it looks like you can click on images or avatars and then read text or engage in a text chat with those in the "the virtual world."

So for those of us familiar with virtual environments like Second Life, this virtual fair, deemed as "the State of Michigan's hottest new way to find exciting jobs," instead looks like a throw back to the early 2000s when I remember seeing one of the first online courses taught at a "virtual campus" with a crude web page of drawn buildings that you could click on to access course materials/activities.

Why is that? First off, it's browser based. So that means most computers/tablets (though sorry iPad, flash is used)/smart phones can access the "virtual world." Second, the learning curve is much less steep than what one first encounters with a truly immersive virtual environment. Pop up text windows, video, text chat, some Skype appear to be used. Even so, the web site includes a 24 page PDF file for job seekers with instructions on how to participate:

So even though the virtual career fair is not nearly as immersive as some of us are used to, it does point out that the desire to do work in a virtual environment is still alive and well, in spite of the "trough of disillusionment" that virtual worlds seem to be in (see Gartner's most recent report at But the need for ease of use (or as close as you can get for a complex 3D world), and access from typical tech, not just high end, is paramount for use by other than first adopters.

It also shows us that bringing student into virtual worlds--when doing so makes sense given the nature of the class and the nature of delivery--is preparing them for virtual environments that will likely be a part of their work world, if not now, then in the near future. Something very important to colleges and universities right now, especially community colleges.