In Jason Frand’s article “The Information Age Mindset“, one of his 10 attributes is “Reality is No Longer Real.” Spend time with any teenager and you will be amazed with the amount of time they spend in virtual worlds playing massively multiplayer online role-playing games ((MMORPG). A generation who grew up with World of Warcraft are now college students and there is tremendous opportunity to engage these students in virtual worlds.
My experience has been that virtual reality is the most difficult emerging technology for college administrators to understand. Second Life has received a lot of publicity in the last year, both good and bad. While many see the value of creating online virtual tours and conducting classes, especially distance learning classes, in Second Life, they are concerned about development costs and the dark side of this environment (crime, sex, etc.). I’m hoping for the day when an open source MMORPG platform specifically targeted at higher education comes along.