This quarter I was lucky enough to lead a virtual expedition to a number of virtual worlds including those of Lego Universe, World of Warcraft, SecondLife, eharmony, Salesforce.com, and one of the Furry communities. As part of a Provost’s Learning and Innovation Grant from 2011 I put together the worlds first course on Commercializing Virtual Worlds in an online only format. 20 of us set about identifying virtual worlds that were ripe for commercial enterprise. And unlike the USS Enterprise, armed with marketing strategy versus fazers we set off to build business plans. The course was structured around two live interactive lecture sessions a week (thank you Adobe Connect), a healthy dose of weekly discussion posts aimed at applying the theory from the lectures towards our plans progress, and a number of highly relevant (student words not mine) personal and team based assignments – one of which was a personal branding strategy for Virtual Worlds, and the other the marketing plan for the said virtual business. As part of the course students also;
- Engaged in a twitter fest promoting their exploration using several hashtags (#cvwrit the main, and my personal favourite – #iloveneilhair one of the others). The results were coverage on several large networks including those local to the institution and wider across a number of popular marketing daily news feeds
- Defended their business models against very aggressive questioning (by yours truly)
- Identified and justified strategies and tactics for building their businesses
- Explored skills necessary in navigating the many moral and ethical dilemmas faced by entrepreneurs in this area
- Identified common metrics for measuring the success of virtual business across the various stages of growth
- Developed several high impact viral videos for the promotion of their business concepts (the majority of which returned over 400 hits in less than 72 hours)
- Engaged with the materials of the course entirely online
- Engaged with each other and the instructor – ENTIRELY ONLINE
- Delivered a set of cracking final live presentations on their business ideas / marketing plans using their Adobe Connect rooms
- Finalized their reflections of the entire process through weekly blogs culminating in an e-portfolio charting their exploration experience
- On process it is also important to note that we had two students who were hearing impaired – and thanks to RIT’s equipment and resource capabilities (such as the use of live captioning within Adobe Connect rooms) this did not pose as a barrier towards learning – or overall experience of the course for any of our students.
Needless to say I am extremely proud of these Terraformers, they are a credit to RIT’s student population, without doubt social media evangelists, and capable of performing at an exceptional level in the absence of face to face contact. Imagine having these experiences on your resume upon graduation! My thanks to the Provost’s office for supporting this endeavor, Saunders College of Business for its usual stalwart support of innovation, and of course the captionist from San Fran that typed out my lectures at the speed of light!
Dr Hair is an Associate Professor of Marketing at the E Philip Saunders College of Business at RIT.
© 2012, Dr Neil Hair. All rights reserved.