|With the announcement that twelve Monroe students will be interning with major corporations that are rapidly embracing a new kind of Internet experience, the Monroe College School of Information Technology is taking bold steps into the world of virtual reality. Virtual reality (VR) is a computer environment that can provide simulations for pilot or combat training, gaming, and more recently, environments where real business and other interactions are conducted. |
During IBM's PartnerWorld conference in St. Louis, Nick Donofrio, the company's executive vice president of innovation and technology, called for greater industry emphasis on the virtual world. In fact, IBM is committed to investing $100 million over the next ten years on the development of virtual reality. A recent check to Linden's Second Life (www.secondlife.com) virtual reality website showed that there are more than 6.2 million residents of Second Life, with approximately 35,000 online at any one time, and on a single day more than $1.5 million is spent there.
This is how virtual reality might work for the general public. While traditional Internet users shop on line by scrolling through pictures and descriptions of products, virtual reality shoppers enter a graphic 3-D view of the store and actually browse the shelves.
According to Professor John McMullen, who has been at the forefront of the college's foray into virtual reality, Monroe's School of Information Technology is one of the only colleges whose students are virtual world interns. "This puts our students at the cutting edge," he said. "They won't only be doing research, but they'll be developing tools that will make them more employable as the concept of virtual reality develops throughout the computer industry. And it most surely will."
To monitor student progress, Professor McMullen holds weekly meetings. As you might expect, these are not held in an actual location, but in an online one in which graphic representatives of the students and their mentor meet in a virtual Monroe College conference center. Developed by Dean of OnLine Learning Barbara McMullen on the Second Life platform developed by Linden Labs in conjunction with Jennifer Friary of Career Services, the Monroe VR center has a meeting room as well as a Student Lounge. The students also have access to many meeting and education tools which Monroe shares on a Second Life educational island with virtual neighbors NYU, University of Wisconsin, Darton College, Williams College, Wright State University, Clemson University, Cochece College, and University of Washington.
"I absolutely love it," said Monroe Information Technology student Arthura Mitchell. "VR is a great networking and socializing tool. I've met people from all over the world." As for the benefit of a virtual room as opposed to the more familiar chat room, Ms. Mitchell says the added life-like visual, "enhances the contact and gives you a real identity."
School of Information Technology interns work virtually on Second Life platforms with such firms as Beta Technologies, Iota Studios, Sloan Consortium, as well as Monroe College itself."We're learning about something that's going to be big in the future and it's a great opportunity to get started now," said Information Technology student Teekwa Scarborough.