I was having a conversation with our University President, Jim Browne, the other day and he made the comment that he was surprised to learn how significant elearning is to the Irish economy.
It's true. elearning is one of those industries that sit quietly, growing over many years, then suddenly awakens as it crosss that knee in the curve of interest and value. elearning is rapidly becoming not only a major industry here in ireland, but also a major interest and infrastructure in other industries. check out http://brainpower.ie/2008_03_01_archive.html
Many of the consumers of irish elearning expertise are US companies, which provides a very healty multiplier for the market strength. and, as the world becomes more and more global, the expansion of elearning companies in ireland to the entire globe is virtually assured.
As elearning comes to be understood as a wide ranging activity, the scope of which is truly global when the web is utilized, it will rise in importance. Much of our own work here in the elearning cluster has been focused on the use of informal knowledge acquisition and gathering via web-based social networkign tools.
We begin to understand elearning as any form of research, info gathering, querying, and knowledge acquisition facilitaed through digital media including the web, hypertext, video, audio, data visualizations, normal text, electronic paper, mobile devices, and virtual realities.
Our own Siobhan Dervan has just completed her masters project which involved creating a virtual version of a real live place for children to learn about plants and animals, particularly gaden denizens. her Brigit's Virtual Garden is constructed (executed, instantiated, pick the word) in second life.
Linden Labs, the creators and operators of Second Life have identified learning as one of the prime business models in virtual worlds. They have a page about it and their business model at http://blog.secondlife.com/2008/07/24/my-first-two-months-at-linden-lab/
The inworld economy of Second Life is 330 Milion US dollars. I've been exploring and playing around with Second Life myself lately and it seems that when a bunch of people come together they will do three things
And the first thing they buy and sell is the fornication
I don't see this as a problem. It is human nature and Second Life gives us strong insights into how people build their world when given ultimate freedom to do so.
Second Life is not all about Buying, sellign an Sex, however. Shortly after people form a community, they start building and creating pother things. and they start talking, and talking, and talking. They converse on all topics. In second life, though, that chat can be augmetned with visual, 3d examples.
So chem labs, physics labs, history projects, literature, and all other areas of normal human life are represented, explored, and learned about.
Second Life is going to evolve and expand. They do have problems, but it will probably become one of the most widely used venues for education in the near future. Learning is easier in Second Life for many things. simulations, feedback, analysis, exploration and other facets of learnign can be pursued and made available in ways that traditional learnign can't. we have yet to see seriously radical educational experiments in SL, but they will emerge. And I expect SL to drive the demand for more bandwidth, more processing power and more computing cpaabilities. I was experimenting with the difference between laptops running the SL viewer and a high end graphics machine doing so. It is as one might expect, phenomenal.
which means a grwoing nterest in using SL for anything, education, shopping, simulation, training, sex, communication, or anything else will drive a demand for more, cheaper, graphics power with better bandwidth, particularly to the home and on mobile devices. Demand drives innovation and innovation provides new products and services. voila!
So elearning is vitally important to Ireland's economy and in deed to the economy and probably the future of many companies and other endeavours. Watch this virtual space.