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Posts Tagged ‘Learning in 3D’

 by Rich Mesch

(Links to other articles in this series: 1 2 3 4 5 6)

I’ve been a musician for most of my life, and over the last several years I’ve focused my energy on the mandolin. The mandolin is a diabolically complex little instrument, and I became fascinated with the way they were constructed. So, perhaps ill-advisedly, I purchased a mandolin kit and set about building one myself. Initially, I thought it turned out rather well, looking like this:

 And I kept feeling that way until I played it. The tone was not unlike a cat battling a raccoon in a submarine. I was crestfallen; I had used the same tools and the same materials as the pros, and it looked pretty good. Why wouldn’t it sing? 

So what does this have to do with VIEs? Simply this: producing great results means having more than the right tools—it means having the right skills. I have seen too many organizations go through an arduous process in selecting their VIE platform, only to have the whole effort fall flat when the platform fails to magically change everybody’s lives. I wouldn’t expect to go to Home Depot and buy some wood and tools and come home and magically be a great cabinet-maker. I would expect to spend some time honing my skills—or, failing that, hiring someone who already had great skills to do the building for me.

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by Rich Mesch

A few months back, I interviewed Chuck Hamilton about the way Virtual Immersive Environments (VIEs) are used at IBM. One of the concepts that Chuck introduced me to was the idea of “affordances,” and how they change in VIEs. According to our old friend Wikipedia, an affordance is “a quality of an object, or an environment, that allows an individual to perform an action.” The term doesn’t really have anything to do with VIEs on its own, although the concept of affordances is frequently used in describing the way people interact with computers.

Affordances become interesting in VIEs because VIEs “warp” the common way we use affordances. For example, what are the affordances of a chair? Well, it can be used for sitting, for decoration, for standing on to change a lightbulb… you get the idea, I could go on and on. But in a VIE, what is a chair? For sitting on, sure… but your avatar never gets tired, so you never really need to sit. Nor do you have to change light bulbs (and if you did, odds are you could fly up and do it).

Or a roof. What are the affordances of a roof? It keeps out cold, rain, snow, burglars, etc. But what if you lived in a world where there was no weather (unless you wanted it)? Would you need a roof at all?

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by Rich Mesch 

I’m hoping you’ll join me on March 24, 2010 at the eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions Conference in Orlando, FL. Besides the obvious draws of warm weather and Disney frolics, you can stop by and hear my presentation, Virtually There: The Top Ten Best Practices for Implementing Virtual Worlds. With Virtual Worlds still being a comparatively new approach, we’re still defining how to get the most impact with them. I’m hoping my session will help people who are just getting up to speed on Virtual Immersive Environments (VIEs), as well as those who may have tried a few things.

I wanted to use some blogspace to share the best practices. Today’s focus is on number 5, “Redefine the word ‘content.’” Simply put, “content” means something different in VIEs then it does in more traditional learning approaches. Without redefining what we mean by content, we run the risk of creating virtual experiences that are not engaging, or do not take advantage of the robust environment. As Kapp & O’Driscoll observe, “In the past, content was king; today context is the kingdom.” Content is still critical; however, in VIEs we have a fantastic opportunity to redefine what we call content.

The first step is to get out of the trap of “Content = Course.” Yes, you can bring courses into VIEs; however, recreating the classroom in a Virtual World is one of the least compelling ways to use a 3D collaborative environment. How about these other options: (more…)

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by Rich Mesch

[This is part 2 of series that started here. I met Dr. Glynn Cavin at this year’s ASTD TechKnowledge conference. He shared with me some of the work he is doing using Virtual Immersive Environments, and was good enough to allow me to interview him for this article.—RM]

(Links to other articles in this series: 1 2 3 4 5 6)

Is your training a matter of life and death?

For Dr. Glynn Cavin, it is. Glynn is the Director of the Transportation Training and Education Center at Louisiana State University and a PhD in Human Resource Education and Workforce Development. One of his responsibilities is training road maintenance crews in Louisiana. Road crew errors have resulted in thousands of injuries and deaths over the years. How could he turn those numbers around?

A former Air Force Colonel, Glynn spent 24 years in the military. His military experience taught him that he needed to be out there, working side-by-side with the people he was responsible for, and to get to know them.  “It felt like training had two different camps,” says Glynn. “There was more sophisticated training for professionals like engineers, but only classroom training for the highway maintenance crews. There’s nothing wrong with classrooms, but a lot of the crew members were intimidated by the classroom.  It isn’t their natural setting, for many of them it’s an environment where they haven’t historically been successful, and it isn’t really relevant to their job. And then we wonder why they aren’t getting it.”

As a curious learning professional, Glynn had spent some time in Second Life, and found himself wondering if Virtual Immersive Environments (VIEs) might be an option for him. After all, road crews didn’t work in classrooms; they worked out on roads and highways. Although the classroom training provided opportunities for practice, it wasn’t very realistic; there’s a big difference between trying a skill in the classroom versus doing it in the midst of busy traffic, noisy construction, and unpredictable weather. What if learners could practice in a safe environment that replicated many of the auditory, visual, and emotional cues they’d experience in real life?

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by Rich Mesch

I’ll start by saying I’m hardly the first blogger to write about the state of Virtual Worlds in learning. Many have gone before me—in fact, Karl Kapp has summarized it nicely in his own year-in-review post. It’s a great place to start reading about what the blogosphere has to say about the topic. But, of course, the fact that other people have their opinions will not prevent me from sharing mine! So here are the trends and changes I’ve seen in the space this year:

Virtual Worlds have become more mainstream—primarily with kids and gamers. And that’s a good thing. One of the biggest barriers to changing the way we think about online collaborative media is having a relevant point of reference. I’m surprised when I talk to people about Virtual Worlds that their main point of reference is not Second Life, but kid-oriented sites like Club Penguin or Tootsville. Children are wonderful innovators, because they have no idea they’re innovating. The other thing they’re doing is teaching mom and dad about the power of immersive environments in a way that bloggers can’t ever hope to do!

Corporate America is still behind the curve: While there is an uptick in corporate users of virtual worlds, we still haven’t seen broad acceptance of the platform in corporate America. Part of this is the natural Hype Cycle. But another part of it is that virtual environments are still perceived as the purview of gamers, not “serious adults” (who are these serious adults, anyway?) And those who have adopted virtual worlds still are using perhaps 1/10 of 1% of the potential, still perpetuating the “WebEx on Steroids” model of chairs and whiteboards, instead of taking advantage of three dimensions, a collaborative environment, and persistent space. Perhaps we can get them to read more blogs?

Second Life continues to be a leader: It’s rare that the early entrants get to remain major players, but Linden Labs has demonstrated the ability grow and rethink. Second Life’s main grid grew up a little by requiring age verification to access the adult content that defined SL to a lot of people. But of course, the big news is Second Life Enterprise, Linden Labs’ corporate-oriented behind-the-firewall solution. The robustness of Second Life still impresses; let’s see if big business is buying.

Browser-based worlds make it easier: Corporate IT departments hate downloads, so it’s can be tough for corporate folks to even get a good look at the possibilities. Browser-based worlds make it easier. Virtual Conference Centers like Venuegen may be the gateway experience that helps corporate America “get it”; they can use it for single events with a minimal technology investment, and begin to understand the value. Venugen apparently also lets you create avatars that look just like you… which is a little scary. My Second Life avatar apparently spends a lot more time at the gym than I do..

Onward to 2010!

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