Immersive eLearing

How did you learn in school?

Lectures? — check.

Slide shows? — check.

Films? — check.

Staring out the window wishing you were somewhere else? — many times.

Wished your lessons were more engaging or interesting? — many times.

And then there were those role-playing activities in front of the class. Some students loved these and many were very uncomfortable, especially if they didn’t believe they had mastered the learning material.

Times have changed. This is not your old school or learning environment.

If you are younger than 30 you grew up on Nintendo, and other game consoles. Even if you are older than 30, chances are you started playing video games at some point in your life. The use of games to learn is now mainstream.

In the past we used face-to-face role-playing in individual and group sessions to improve communication or learn new skills. We also used games to uncover new opportunities and business strategies.

I remember in the early 90’s the organization I worked for an organization that retained an outside consulting firm to facilitate organizational change. The outside firm was helping hospitals bring about change in thinking about ways to reduce health care expenses. The firm created a 3-day face-to-face game to explore changes in health care with the role-playing designed to uncover new strategies and opportunities. The game was very expensive, both in costs and in time. One concern was that not everyone who took part was prepared for the public role-playing. In many cases the participant hadn’t mastered the material and really didn’t want to “wing it” in front of peers. In other cases, participants really didn’t feel comfortable engaged in role-playing in front of their peers.

Today, the same situation exists. Face-to-face role playing and simulation games are very expensive. This is especially true if the participants are spread out geographically, even in the same city. Additionally, a portion of the participants are still not suited for this public simulation.

We are beginning to see data that demonstrates that people, behind the anonymity of virtual world avatars, can more actively participate and learn in virtual role-playing sessions. These sessions can be one-on-one or small groups. The sessions are less costly and are yielding higher learning results. These sessions are especially effective in learning new communication skills. The improved learning happens because the anxiety many students dealt with in face-to-face sessions is reduced. In virtual learning environments, they can focus on improving their communication skills, interactions, and the material.

So let’s look at a concrete example.

You have a need to teach new communication skills or coach individuals. Your students are geographically spread out. You know that some of your students do not like public role-playing. You also need a cost-effective way to conduct the role-playing or mentoring one-to-one.

One approach is to use an immersive learning environment. Gartner, the technology research firm, has their definition. Essentially, these are 3D virtual worlds.

Second Life (SL) jumpstarted the teaching and learning in immersive learning environments in 2003. SL is still the preeminent platform with large corporations, higher education, and government agencies using the virtual world for a wide range of learning activities. But you don’t have to be a large corporation or agency to use Second Life.

O2 Digital Media has been actively engaged in Second Life since 2007 upon returning from a Brandon Hall Innovations conference. Let us know how we can help you explore and structure how to use an immersive learning environment to meet your role-playing or skill simulation needs.