Virtual worlds as media for learning in distributed work
Paper i proceeding, 2012
Most of the current discussions in virtual world (VW) literature have not explicitly underlined the media’s usefulness for distributed work. Still, the notion of VWs’ ability to get their users involved in many kinds of activities over geographical boundaries is embedded in the reasoning in VW literature. A large amount of VW literature has a strong focus on technology, but few studies directly approach the question on how this new technology might be applicable for distributed work. This article addresses this gap and concentrates on the potential of VWs as a media for collaborative learning in distributed work.
We conducted a review of VW literature regarding different uses of VWs including collaboration and learning and compared that to interview data. The data consisted of 47 semi-structured interviews with VW users from different global and US companies who all had experience in using VWs for distributed work tasks.
The comparison of VW literature and user experiences on collaboration and learning in distributed work revealed some matches and gaps. The psychological and technological aspects of VWs were perceived to enable collaborative learning in interviews as well as in literature. As has been discussed in VW literature, many of the interviewees conducting distributed work perceived VWs to be especially beneficial in learning how to behave in hazardous situations or in multi-cultural encounters. The most important findings from the interviews were the possibility of transferring information and sharing of knowledge and expertise as well as benefits of asynchronicity in collaboration and learning. These topics have only slightly been touched upon in discussions on VWs in literature. For distributed work, however, the sharing of knowledge and expertise and asynchronicity are important aspects of collaboration and learning, which are often hindered by geographical distance and multiple time zones.