Throughout history, mankind has created and enjoyed virtual worlds: theatre, playground games, cinema, role-playing activities – all involve the adoption of an alternative reality. In these days of advanced computer technology, and with the rapidly expanding capabilities of the Internet, a whole new realm of virtual worlds is opening up to us.
Users of the Internet are no longer passive recipients of information, but are active contributors and participants. The evolution of Web 2.0 opens doors to all kinds of interactivity, with weblogs, wikis and social networking sites becoming as integral to the workplace as learning journals, office handbooks and business cards. Virtual worlds have the potential to become the theatre stages, cinema screens and dressing-up boxes – perhaps even the training workshops – of the twenty-first century.
In this Advance article, Clive Shepherd, a consultant specialising in the application of technology to training and education, attempts to demystify the potentially overwhelming development of virtual worlds. He explores the opportunities they open up for e-learning and discovers that, while the concept of virtual worlds may not be entirely new, the possibilities for training and education are increasingly exciting.