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IBM Looks To Virtual Worlds For Global Training

IBM Looks To Virtual Worlds For Global Training

November 13, 2006 | By Jason Dobson

November 13, 2006 | By Jason Dobson
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More: Console/PC, Serious

Officials from major technology firm IBM have announced that the company is adopting the use of video game and virtual world technologies as a means to train new employees as well as acclimate new hires to the company's cultural values, decision-making regimens, and required technical skill sets. The program, called [email protected], will be part of IBM's $100 million investment in new technologies, to be announced by IBM chairman and CEO Sam Palmisano in China, on Tuesday, November 14.

The program was created as a means to accommodate thousands of geographically dispersed new employees who work or reside in remote areas that are significant distances from centralized IBM facilities. According to IBM, one of [email protected]'s chief goals is to take advantage of the internet and its ability to bring people together as a social network, thus breaking down the barriers of distance and satellite office environments. IBM notes that it plans to expand the program next year with the ability to train new employees across the company's global workforce.

The [email protected] program will take advantage of existing virtual world platforms, such as the massively multiplayer online game Second Life as well as India's Planeshift. IBM's Michael Nelson, the company's director of internet technology and strategy, recently emphasized the company's interest in the use of virtual worlds such as Second Life at the recent Serious Games Summit D.C., and at that time also noted that a significant portion of the $100 million investment involved gaming technologies.

According to IBM representatives, nearly fifty percent of IBM employees are already engaged in online educational initiatives, and the [email protected] program will build upon this by allowing employees yet another way to learn and work together within the virtual workspace.

New virtual world programs utilized or announced by IBM include an online training program that began in August for employees in India, a program in China for 2007 called Fresh Blue to help college interns who plan to join the company after they graduate acclimate to the IBM culture, and a virtual world sales training tool set to debut in China next year. In addition, IBM also plans to use virtual world technology in the U.S. to bring together both retirees and those still working as a way to mentor new hires through speed mentoring, group meetings, and other disciplines.

"New IBM employees separated by thousands of miles will be able to mingle, interact and share ideas in the virtual world before their first day on the job," said Ted Hoff, IBM's vice president of learning. "They can learn real-life working skills such as signing up for benefits, developing code as part of a global team, and ramping up sales skills before they meet with IBM clients."

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