Monday, May 25, 2009

Summer is Underway

I took a break from this blog for a few weeks as I negotiated the break between semesters. The break between spring and summer is usually the most difficult. There are always a lot of last minute things to do as people panic in the realization that the academic year is almost over. And before you can catch your breath the summer session is underway. The other intersession breaks are usually around a month. In the spring, you only get a couple weeks. It sounds like a lot of time but between residual items from the spring and new work for the summer, it can get hectic. I had grading, meetings, two dissertation defenses, and preparations for my summer class. All of this is now under control so I can return to writing again.

I am offering an exciting class this summer. It is a class in business applications of virtual worlds. It is not a totally new class. It has been on the books for years under the title Web Based Systems Development. I first introduced this class in the early 1990's under the title of Corporate Web Applications. At the time few people believed that the web had much potential use for corporate applications. Now the web is as mainstream as you can get and few people see the potential of virtual worlds for business applications. I see virtual worlds as the 3D web and have updated the course accordingly.

The course is exciting because I have decided to, unapologetically, teach the course the way it would look if virtual worlds were mainstream. In this way I get to begin developing a future course while teaching an existing course. The drawback, of course, it that it takes a leap of faith on the part of the students. You don't see adds in the newspaper saying "virtual world developer needed" whereas you do see adds for php programmers. But, if we taught to the ads in the paper, we would not last long. To teach a proper academic course, you need the perspective that can only be gained by getting on the bandwagon long before anyone realizes there will be a bandwagon and studying it in terms of all the other band wagons you have seen.

This is a professional hazard for academics in practitioner fields like Information Systems. If you stay within your comfort zone, you become out of date and irrelevant. If you wish to stay relevant and vital, you have to take huge risks many of which will not pay off. Further, most of those risks come from our inability to predict the future. I have gotten quit good at is as far as it affects my areas of concern. But, no matter how good you get, the future is still, well, unpredictable.

There is a story, in Greek mythology, about a woman who both pleased and angered a god. In return she was given a blessing and a curse. The blessing was the gift of prophecy. She could see the future. The curse was that nobody would ever believe her. I know the feeling.

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