A match made in Second Life.

Fighting the forest fire.

Public services.

Education.

What do these two things have in common? Typically, people outside those fields would consider them to be necessary but uninteresting. Many people have experienced the rough ends of these services. You’d think it would be difficult to create a useful and engaging experience in a virtual environment that combined the two fields.

In this case, you’d be surprised to find that those challenges have been faced and overcome.

The Ontario Ministry of Government Services has worked in concert with metaverse developers TheSLAgency to produce that most remarkable of things: a fun and educational experience about careers in the public service. No, seriously.

The Ontario Public Service Careers Island is situated in Second Life. At first blush, the build is pretty, the scenery extensive and attractive, and the main building contains web links for a whole variety of pertinent information regarding career choices with the Ontario Public Service (OPS). Look a little further afield, and you find that outside the main building (that also comprises the landing point), each section of the island has an instructive purpose that is not just interactive but also interesting and fun! For each career path available with the OPS, there is a representative display, with an activity that gives prospective employees some idea of what their job might be like.

Teleportation options board.

I visited the OPS Forest Fire Simulation first. You are given a hose to attach to your avatar to fight the fire, while in Mouselook mode. You also get a list of instructions to assist you in fighting the fire. It includes information about evaporation of water from the hose impeding your ability to put out the fire, the spread of fire, and letting you know where to concentrate your efforts. Our attempts to put out the fire were laughable in their futility. I suspect greater persistence is required in training water on the flaming parts. I spent a great deal of time taking photos during the process, too – photojournalism and firefighting do not mix.

Laboratory entrance

The second stop was the Water Testing Facility. You receive a HUD in the form of a vessel to contain water. You search the island for a body of water, and if you are close enough to the water when you click on the HUD, you will obtain a sample to take back to the laboratory. We found a small puddle of water out behind the airfield, and brought that back to be tested. Here is what the Water Analyzer CK-225 had to say about its quality: ‘This water suffers from heavy lead and hydrocarbons levels, petrol derivates, synthetic oil in quantities that makes its potability virtually impossible. This water is definately dangerous for health, and measures should be taken to clean up the area and limit its accessibility.’ Not a surprising finding, given the test sample’s location.

Traffic Media

The effort put into the project, and subsequent success of it, have not gone unnoticed or unrewarded. The ‘OPS Virtual Career Fair on Second Life’ received a merit award in the innovation category at the 2008 Showcase Ontario awards. TheSLAgency Managing Partner Joe Mastrocovi states, “Our innovative government work in virtual worlds has produced a lot of successes, and we’re honored that the Ontario government feels that our work is award-worthy. We’re proud that beyond awards, this engagement brings our client real results with increased job seekers, applicants, and final hires!”

Overall, it’s a neat idea that has been well executed. Other government and educational services would do well to take a look and incorporate some of these ideas into their own virtual environment projects.

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