Business Case Studies, Executive Interviews, Miklos Sarvary on Virtual World

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Executive Interviews: Interview with Miklos Sarvary on Virtual World
April 2010 - By Dr. Nagendra V Chowdary

Carmine Gallo
Miklos Sarvary,
Professor of Marketing and Dean of Executive Education at INSEAD

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  • How do you rate the performance of the virtual campus? Would you categorize it as a successful venture as of now or one that would be successful in the near future?
    As one of the first business schools to create a virtual campus, INSEAD has received some very positive media attention for being an early adopter of these new technologies. Given our long history of designing internetbased business simulations and other online tools, this is not very surprising, but our Second Life campus has generated a positive buzz that we hope to sustain! It has provided us with an alternative tool for extending our services and keeping our stakeholders connected, at relatively low cost, and at the same time, allowed us to gain a better understanding of the digital marketplace through research and teaching. In that sense the success of our Second Life campus has so far exceeded the initial investment, and we hope to continue with more positive outcomes!

  • What do you think would be the enabling factors for the success of this virtual campus?
    We have not finished exploring or discovering all the opportunities provided by this environment. As participants and faculty become more familiar with virtual worlds, we hope that the traffic, usage, and frequency of events on our virtual campus will increase.

  • What potential barriers do you feel are holding the growth of virtual campus? Also tell us something about your competitors in this area?
    Ideally, the technology needs to continue evolving so that it is easier for people to install and access Second Life. The technology requirements are not currently standard to all computers and corporate firewalls still pose a problem. As more organizations adopt virtual worlds, accessibility should improve, as it did for the Internet and the other standard office applications. Until that happens, there is a natural reluctance on the part of some professors to take on the risks involved. Other business schools and universities are actively exploring virtual worlds, but very few have created a virtual campus that is regularly used for teaching and research. Organizations are certainly using it for vocational training. For example, this environment lends itself particularly well to situational or scenario-based training, within industrial, military and medical sectors.

  • For the next five years, how do you see the future of Second Life virtual campus? Would it be more successful than the distance learning/ real life campus?
    Experts predict that virtual worlds will continue to be a fast growing trend over the next five years at least, so as more people create an avatar and become familiar with virtual worlds, hopefully it will become easier to connect up. For some of our alumni, virtual worlds are still a rather strange and futuristic concept but this is already changing quite quickly! On the other hand, for many MBA applicants, meeting up in Second Life makes perfect sense. Online learners are increasingly demanding and expect to have fun while learning! Virtual worlds are certainly more compelling than traditional distance learning, because you can interact in real time with others in a shared space, and there are more opportunities for informal learning. However, for optimum results, we consider all our virtual tools as complementary to the real life experiences that we propose.

  • How do you feel about the rising popularity of the virtual worlds like Second Life and what impacts would it have on the society? Will these virtual worlds continue to be the next big thing in the near future or will they soon be passe?
    Apparently our cognitive processes respond better in a 3D environment and we are more likely to remember what we learnt if we can anchor that knowledge to the memory of a physical landmark or face (whether virtual or real). Programmers are writing scripts to enhance avatars’ facial expressions and mimic real body language, and others are working on the interoperability of virtual worlds so that we can pass from one world to another with the same avatar. Many are working on how to integrate 2D and 3D applications and project 3D data. As these functionalities are refined and new ones introduced, I imagine that virtual worlds will be more readily used in many spheres of life. Virtual worlds have the capacity to level out differences, reduce inhibitions, challenge perceptions and create opportunities in a way that real life cannot.
    Businesses are making real money in the virtual world and the market for virtual goods is still growing, especially in Asia. Therefore, it seems likely that virtual worlds will continue to progress and could become as commonplace and userfriendly as webpages are today. There may be future applications of virtual worlds that we can hardly imagine right now, but hopefully INSEAD will be well positioned to try them out when the time comes!

The interview was conducted by Syed Abdul Samad (TL) and Fareeda (Sr. RA), IBSCDC, Hyderabad.

This interview was originally published in Effective Executive, IUP, Apr 2010.

Copyright © Apr 2010, IBSCDC No part of this publication may be copied, reproduced or distributed, stored in a retrieval system, used in a spreadsheet, or transmitted in any form or medium – electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise – without the permission of IBSCDC.

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