Here are a few considerations when thinking about developing a virtual learning environment in a 3D world.
Synchronous or Asynchronous. One of the first decisions to make in designing a 3D Learning Environment (3DLE) is to determine if the learning will occur in a synchronous environment led by an instructor or an asynchronous environment where the learner proceeds at his or her own pace. Or will it be a combination of both? Virtual blending. This decision will influence much of your design and building of the in-world environment.
Sequence and Instructional Elements. Designing the 3DLE requires careful consideration of the entire educational experience of the learner. What happens first? What is the pace of the instruction? How do learners interact? Where and when should a debrief occur? Drawing out the learning event helps it function more smoothly and effectively.
Environment and Structures. The creation of the environment in which the learning takes place is an important consideration. This involves determining the level of realism but, even more than that large decision; it requires consideration of the type of structures and spaces that are created to facilitate the learning.
Consider the Debrief. One important element of learning in an interactive environment is to provide a proper level of debriefing so the learner can understand the experience they had and reflect upon their learning. In fact, reflection is a critical element in learning. The debriefing process can be important for both a synchronous learning experience as well as an asynchronous experience.
Design Outside of Reality. Since one strong advantage of virtual learning worlds is that they can be used to create extraordinary places and have the ability to transport learners back in time, into the future or to the heart of danger. Create environments that excite the senses, that are fun and that are educationally challenging.
Don't forget to Storyboard. Because the development of a 3DLE is complex and multi-layered, many developers first design the 3DLE with a storyboard and actually build the environment only after the storyboards have been created and the learning event “walked through.” The step of creating a storyboard helps to ensure that environment that is create encourages the desired learning and that the expensive development process run more effectively because of the visual indication of the process. This is similar to the storyboard process used to create movies or other types of online learning.
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