A Whole New World of Opportunity: Collaboration in the Virtual World

Submitted by: Alex Howland (pictured)/Ronald S. Rembisz (US), Alliant International University

Summary: We believe the virtual world offers a platform to train, develop, and assess core business leadership competencies in a way that cannot be done in a traditional classroom setting. Although individual graduate programs have begun to develop virtual world resources, we believe there needs to be a more collaborative effort. We propose developing a ‘graduate management virtual world education community’ to promote collaboration. Our idea is built around inclusion, innovation, and feasibility.

Full Description: An increased number of educational institutions have begun using virtual world platforms as a vehicle for knowledge acquisition, team development, creativity, cross-cultural/international understanding, and business simulation. Despite increased popularity, use of virtual world platforms for graduate management education lacks strategic focus. Programs work independent from one another, isolating impact and prolonging systemic education development. There is a need for collaboration. By combining resources, we see much potential in answering the question, how can core business leadership competencies be trained, developed and assessed in a virtual world, in a way that they cannot be in a traditional classroom setting?

We propose developing a ‘graduate management virtual education community’, which operates in its own virtual space where educators, students, and business leaders can formally and informally collaborate to:

  • Develop virtual training modules
  • Forge virtual cross-cultural/international partnerships
  • Develop business simulators allowing students to develop core business leadership competencies (e.g. business acumen to emotional intelligence)
  • Enhance ‘In World’ technologies
  • Redesign student evaluation
  • Research effectiveness of virtual world education
  • Be innovative & have fun!

Virtual space will provide diverse collaborative opportunities such as:

  • Meetings
  • Poster sessions
  • Conferences
  • Classes
  • Field trips
  • Experiential activities

The idea of developing a ‘graduate management virtual education community’ is built around the values of inclusion and innovation. Although there may be a core committee of organizers and facilitators, there will opportunities for anyone to participate in discussion groups, town-hall meetings, trainings, and simulations. With the virtual world transcending space and time, it is an inexpensive and easy to use platform to bring people together from around the world at any time on any particular day. Participants can be diverse in culture, values, gender, geographic location, career field, language, and age. The diversity of participants can be leveraged as a strategic advantage to create new and innovative ideas that would unlikely be developed by the core faculty of any one graduate management institution. By sharing knowledge and resources all constituents would have something to gain. Current virtual world education leaders can share their successes and failures with institutes planning to expand their services into the virtual world. Innovators can test out their new ideas or products. Student will have the space to be empowered to share their voice and act not as followers or servants of professors, but rather as co-creators and initiators. With such incredible opportunity for innovation in a virtual world, growth and development will occur exponentially.

The beauty of the proposed idea is how easily it could be implemented. We have broken the implementation process into four steps:

  1. Create a Virtual Space – Platforms like Second Life allow for the purchase of ‘virtual space/land’. Initial setup of such space is simple. Development of the space would be done by the graduate management education community.
  2. Market the idea – gain buy in from current graduate management education provides, reach out to the business school population via ‘real world’ methods, and get students excited.
  3. Begin the process – open with a presentation. Potentially have IBM present how they are currently using the virtual world to develop leaders and discuss some of the offerings of the virtual world.
  4. Watch it grow! – the virtual space will belong to the community and the community will shape its development; here is where true innovation will begin.

The question is: Will graduate management education be a front runner in the use of the virtual world environment as a learning platform or a follower? The implementation of this idea can assure the former. Thank you for your consideration!