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Monday, February 09, 2009

Advantages of 3D for Learning

Some thoughts on the advantages of 3D environments (virtual worlds) for learning.

Advantages of 3D Immersive Learning
  • Learner cues on visual, auditory and spatial elements of 3D environment which leads to better recall and application of learning.
  • Learner rehearses on-the-job behavior in an environment as close to job environment as possible. (Realistic learning environment)
  • Allows learners at a distance to be in the same place to practice behaviors (not just online at the same time).
  • Learners become emotionally involved in the learning due to realism.
  • Experienced learners can explore more possibilities of dialogue than in a scripted simulation.
  • Sense of “being there” for the learner.

Advantage of 3D Worlds Over Virtual Classroom
  • Learners stay more focused (not as likely to check email).
  • Learners are immersed in learning environment.
  • Learners must act and behave as if in actual environment.
  • Integrates learning into environment similar to which it must be applied.
  • Learners are vested in avatar and in situation.
  • Learners are placed in the appropriate context to apply the learning.

Am I on the right track? Is anything missing? What do you think?


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everist said...


Yes this is pretty close to my own list for my 2D world.

You missed one however. Situated avatars allow for non-verbal communication between the participants. This is quite important in the online context because much interaction with people is reduced to webcams or just text.

The richness of in-person interaction is lost in the online context. But it can be supplemented partly by avatars with body language and facial expressions and provide some communication that does not exist in the real world.

You also mentioned emotional involvement which I think is one of the more crucial aspects of situated learning. If the person can become invested in the avatar or personalize it in some way, it becomes theirs and it is no longer an empty exercise.

everist said...

Regarding "Learners must act and behave as if in actual environment"

I don't think this is true unless the environment enforces this in some way. My impulse when entering a virtual world is to push the bounds of physical possibility and jump around or run as fast I can. This is clearly not an "acceptable behavior" in social situations, but is actually quite common in the gaming world.

You can also have a troll problem, depending on how anonymous your system is.

I think social behavior is only enforceable by peers or by restrictions in the system itself. See the Hitman and Assassin series of games where the NPCs will respond to you based on your suspiciousness, whether or not you are wearing the right clothes or acting in the right manner.

Consiliera said...

Your list is a very good round-up of advantages of immersive learning, and I'd just want to add two of my own: 1) one of the most important aspects in any learning environment: fun. Students have fun in 3D environments, especially if they're designed to include casual games or playful training situations. Having fun is the most emotional engagement you can get
2) Water cooler effect. This is true for business trainings or meetings and studies show that the informal socializing in-between or after sessions is as important in virtual worlds as in the real world.

And I agree with Everist on non-verbal communication (most people think there's a lack of it in 3D worlds, not knowing that people with customized avatars tend to subtly aquire new ways of social behaviour which is as unconscious, like "taking a step back" etc.)

Karl Kapp said...


Thanks for the added ideas and insights. I agree that body language can be a big advantage in a 3D world and also, people can act in non-natural ways in a virtual world if allowed.

In terms of acting as if in the actual environment, I was thinking of more of a "locked down" environment like a corporation or something. However, in a more "free" environment I wonder what the implications are in terms of being able to do things like flying in a situation vs. walking. That would be an interesting study.

Thanks for the comments and insights.

Karl Kapp said...


Thanks for your additions. I agree (but hadn't thought about it before) that fun is an important elmeent. It adds motivation and engagement.

And the water cooler effect or informal learning that occurs in these environment is often overlooked but very important.


Consiliera said...

Karl, thank *you* for posting the list in the first place - obviously it inspired people to think and write about it :-) In fact I think this is too good to leave my German readers in the dark - would you mind if I translated your listing into German and used it (with Everist's and my own thoughts) in my German blog in full?

Karl Kapp said...


Feel free to translate and post on your blog along with the insights from yourself and Everist.

I am only sorry I can't read German.:(

Gaby Benkwitz aka Consiliera said...

Thank you! And hey - there's a Google Translate button in the upper left corner, my American friends tell me it's working ok enough to get the message across ;-)

Anonymous said...

Besides Water cooler and fun, I really don't see 3d online as much of a learning tool. Now don't get me wrong I love WOW and MUDDs as much as the next person, however unless slaying dragons becomes a job, I don't see much use for 3d learning.

seekerBB said...

I think VWs are at their educational best when they meet the needs for both social interaction and immersion in a physical space. To me, this is the key advantage.

Anonymous said...

Karl, the 3D world has some huge accessibility issues. Over here in the UK the BBC had problems when it made its weather maps move. Many people felt giddy.

I tried 2nd life but had to lie down for half an hour after just 10 minutes in there - it made me feel quite sick. I can't play video games for the same reason.

If we create interactions with these models and forget the accessibility issues there are big problems - regardless of the potential benefits.

Amal said...

Thank you Kapp for your brilliant list and thank you Consiliera for adding the fun where i believe as Kapp do that it can motivate students. For a good learning, I think motivation is not the only thing, social raltionships that each student has could affect the whole learning. What do you think here, will 3D environments help in creating more realtionships? stronger relationships? will the anonymous identity for shy students could help them to be engaged and participated more in learning discussion?

Consiliera said...

@Amal, I do think that one of the advantages of 3D learning environments - as opposed to 2D, web-based e-learning applications - is the building of strong relationships in a student group or any kind of team. It's because of the memory of "having been there/hung out with somebody" that adds to a stronger emotional relationship. Quiet/shy students: definitly, there have been several examples of how especially the "quiet ones" are suddenly the most actively contributing team members in 3D-virtual worlds, blogs and forums. That is a clear advantage to the real world classroom.

cube3 said...

There are a few immersive 3d solutions that dont require large instal downloads or learnign curves beyond a typical webpage app.

we have set up such a system

works in browser and in most platforms and pcs/macs/

easy to try, they will have more features as things progress, but can now easily do much of what simpe meetings in sl offer.