Well finally, my summary and thoughts on Forterra's 'Recipe For Success...' paper.
The paper, a recommended read for anyone interested in enterprise uses of VW, was produced by Forterra after their work with the MASIE Center, a New York think-tank for corporate learning. The focus of the work was to have a second look at virtual worlds for enterprise learning, after spending some time in Second Life during the hype cycle of 2006. That first evaluation threw up the challenges most people will be aware of, namely:

  • Firewall requirements

  • Enterprise PCs not up to the task graphically

  • Lack of convincing real case studies

  • Concern over trust and identity

  • Steep learning curve

  • Big client download

Second time around, a big list of companies expressed an interest in participating, but eventually, only Accenture and the outsourcing company ACS went ahead. The reaons given by the other companies for not being able to proceed were uncannily similar to those sited as weaknesses of Second Life, namely inability to gain IT backing to have the client communicate through the firewall, or to get time from the IT department to set the software up. No magic Forterra bullets there, although they mention that they will soon have a proxying solution to reduce the firewall needs to a single port.

Both companies used the environments for training. Accenture wanted application sharing, presentation tools, existing CBT integration and brand customised training rooms. It is interesting to note that people really want rooms that look like rooms. I believe too many SL educators seem to feel that it's only cutting edge if you throw all that convention away, but people need it, at least initially, to help them accept the world on the other side of the screen.

Accenture seemed happy with the results, although it isn't clear if the application sharing was possible (it's in OLIVE 2.2?), and the CBT material needed to be re-worked for the OLIVE environment. The most interesting thing however was their decision to locate and recruit four specific groups of users - advocates, skeptics, learning executives and IT. This seems like a great approach, especially in specifically bringing the skeptics into the picture and assessing their feedback.

ACS wanted to find out if "a virtual space could be used to replicate instructor-led learning". So they needed powerpoint, role-playing, break-out spaces, voice-integration and video-clips. Strangely whiteboarding was on the list of future enhancements - I'd have thought it was quite fundamental to replicating a real world training room (It's there in OLIVE 2.2 apparently).


  • Still hard to get IT buy in, some staff needing to work from their own PCs at home. Aim for senior level buy in first with a good prototype and demo.

  • Personalised avatars essential to the immersive experience and to get emotional investment

  • VoIP better quality than teleconference

  • Make sure to schedule a tuning exercise before the pilot to iron out technical difficulties

  • Define the use case in advance - what will folk be seeing, hearing, doing?

  • Go for the easy wins - prototype the easy things with the big gains first

  • Get regular feedback throughout the pilot

Quote Mine:

"Several participants commented how this experience was more enjoyable than an audio-based conference call even for just a meeting"

"I could make my avatar express my thoughts and feelings when appropriate. I could walk up to the person I would like to talk to and it felt like they were actively listening to me"

"A lot of what I've seen of Second Life feels very 'out there'. The application we saw today was business-oriented and real for people"

"The participants were able to interact in ways that are quite similar to 'real life'..."

"Our biggest issues were with the sound and VoIP..."

"...participants 'stay with the program' and stay interested instead of 'multi-tasking'"