Using Second Life in the MBA

Read news today that the School of Informatics at City University (incidentally also the place where my girlfriend studies), hosted a seminar in Second Life.

Of course I had blogged earlier about having created a group in SL for Cass Business School and now we have 6 members (yay) but my arguments for using Second Life as a platform for delivering MBA education have had their merits counter argued by at least one professor at Cass.

In the interests of open discussion, let me post some bits of my motivation to have Second Life be a greater part of the MBA.

The use of SL for PR and marketing purposes is probably hard to justify, and many universities have failed miserably at it, but there remain several advantages to using virtual worlds for academic research and for educational purposes.

INSEAD, IESE and several British universities have failed miserably in Second Life because their ventures were poorly implemented and minimally linked to their real world work.

INSEAD, for instance, used Second Life for some research that was
(a) not very different from what could be achieved off a website,
(b) static,
(c) uninteresting to SL users.

Other universities have used the Second Life for PR in ways that is not very different from using a website. To me then, there is no surprise that these ventures have been unsuccessful.

My attraction to SL as an MBA student is based on several characteristics that are hard to find elsewhere,
(a) A healthy, well functioning and growing virtual economy (financial markets, buying, selling)
(b) A user base whose demographic is different from what can be found elsewhere
(c) A virtual world in which one can interact in 3 dimensions

These characteristics mean that there are a number of educational opportunities at least within the areas of marketing, entrepreneurship, equity research, investments and product innovation.

For instance, as part of a finance elective or course, I would be excited to do a 'live' coursework within a virtual world that alllows me to set up my own securities exchange, or my own broking company and where reslts are determined by real consumers (albeit in virtual avatars) who I can see and speak to.

Similarly, for product innovation, it would be exciting to build a virtual product that actually sells and see how sales figures can be manipulated using different marketing techniques.

Our MBA class had a Markstrat days in late December - during this session various teams managed virtual companies selling products. The marketing drive and product strategies we came up with determined our sales, profits and therefore the share price.

We did that on a boring, very expensive piece of software (Markstrat). We really could have done that on Second Life and interacted with a whole real market rather than just with each other (now thats a product idea!). That would have been far more interesting for me as a student as we prefer to interact with real people (even as virtual avatars) rather than programmatically with some pre-designed algorithms pretending to be consumers.

There are so many more ideas that can come up for other related subjects that are taught in any MBA.

Yes it is probably true that most of these ideas haven't been attempted, or even thought of yet (and therefore remain unknown). My objective has been to bring some ideas and bridge the technology divide that curently exists between generations. Of course it will take time to develop and fine tune these ideas, but once done they could be implemented within any virtual world and not just be limited to Second Life.

For those who are interested, there are several discussion forums (can be subscribed to via email) for specific subjects where academics from all over the world discuss ideas related to education and how they can be implemented within Second Life. There is even an MBA educators group in SL.

By the way, I was told last week that the typical user of Second Life is 29 and male. So I do fit that demographic pretty well and perhaps that is why I am such a keen proponent of its use :-)