Skoolaborate and the future of e-learning

Yesterday, I attended a seminar at my workplace about emerging technologies and virtual worlds, which was presented by guest speakers Westley Field, the Director of Online Learning at MLC School and the Managing Director of Skoolaborate, Second Life “architect” Mike Mikula, and education consultant Lindy McKeown who joined us remotely via webcam and also via her avatar in Second Life.

Emerging technologies

Westley kicked off by providing us with an overview of emerging technologies, including QR codes and holograms.

The latter reminded me of the Princess Leia hologram in the original Star Wars… “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope”.

Hologram of Princess Leia in Star Wars.

The truth is, holograms are not restricted to the realm of science fiction. Sooner rather than later, we can have meetings with a mix of real people and holograms in the room. Don’t believe me? Check out this eye-opening video.


Next, Westley moved on to virtual worlds, which the Horizon Report identified in 2007 as likely to achieve widespread adoption in the higher education sector within 2 to 3 years. In fact, the education sector is really leading the charge in this space, with Westley’s Skoolaborate front and centre.

Skoolaborate is a growing collaborative of high schools that use Second Life to teach students around the world. It’s an initiative of MLC School in Sydney, which is somewhat famous in Australian e-learning circles for their use of innovative technologies in the K-12 sector.

Westley gave us a real-time tour of Skoolaborate’s islands in Second Life, with commentary from Mike. The islands have virtual lecture theatres where the teachers can show video clips and PowerPoint presentations to large audiences, plus breakout areas for small-group discussions and more open areas for informal ways of learning.

They have also built a virtual shopping centre not only to support the social/fun aspect of the virtual world, but also to explore principles of commerce, economics, marketing, design etc.

The Skoolaborate collaborative is really taking off. Currently 11 schools are participating, from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Chile and USA, with interest from Singapore. The inaugural Skoolaborate Congress is being held in Sydney next week.

An IBM Concierge in Second Life

Corporate islands

Next, Westley, Mike and Lindy led us to IBM’s virtual Business Center in Second Life, which the company uses to bring together staff, customers and partners to meet, learn, collaborate and conduct business. IBM staff members are even at hand in real time to answer customers’ questions.

They also took us to the Cisco Systems island, which the company uses to host classes, meetings and other events.

Cisco Systems island in Second Life

Plenty of companies have dipped their toes into Second Life with mixed success. I think Skoolaborate, IBM and Cisco are showing us how to do it right.

2 thoughts on “Skoolaborate and the future of e-learning

  1. Hi Ryan,
    Thanks for the summary! Did you get any ideas on how you can possibly use SL in your company?
    Imagining there were no IT, infrastructure or political hurdles to implementing SL as a learning environment/option, what would you use it for in your company?

  2. Cheers Deb. The hurdles you mentioned are massive! But given they’ve been overcome, I think e-meetings and training are strong contenders for SL – especially for companies with offices in various cities, and even for staff who are working from home (for example). BNP’s use of SL for recruitment is fascinating. Taking a more commercial point of view, I can’t see why we couldn’t do what BCV and IBM are doing and have a manned island to serve customers, at least with product information. If we had avatars controlled by qualified financial planners, we could even provide advice. I also think there is scope for corporate citizenship initiatives such as educational seminars (understanding super, adequate insurance etc), which of course can build brand awareness. But at the end of the day, my interest is e-learning, so I return to training. If we could build something like Skoolaborate, that would be amazing. We could use it for presentations, workshops, roundtables, role plays… you name it.

    What are your thoughts? I believe your company is developing its own virtual world. Would you mind sharing how are you using it? How would you like to see it used differently or further?

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