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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Save Yourself Time and Money--Before Implementing a Virtual World, Do an Analysis

Conducting a virtual brainstorming session.

Jumping into a virtual world can provide a competitive advantage, facilitate collaboration and provide virtual role-plays across the enterprise but, if a careful analysis is not done before taking the leap into virtual worlds, disaster could loom.

Here is some advice (and a sneak peak at content from Learning in 3D) that you should follow in terms of analysis.

Without analysis problems such as developing instruction that doesn’t match the needs of the learners, designing instruction that is not really needed, reconfiguring poor stand-up materials as poor virtual world learning or developing spaces that don’t attract learners are bound to occur. Problems can even occur where the virtual world doesn’t run on the current network. None of these situations is favorable.

To help ensure success, an analysis must be performed prior to launching into a virtual world learning experience.

Task, Concept or Skill. When deciding if a task, concept or skill is appropriately taught in a virtual learning world, consider several variables. The first is determining the type of content being taught. Is it facts and jargon or concepts and procedures or it is problem-solving? Identifying the type of knowledge will help with the rest of the process of creating the instruction. Second examine whether or not the instruction requires group coordination and working together in real-time to accomplish a goal or solve a problem. Virtual worlds make a lot of sense for group learning.

Learner Environment/Experience. Should the learning be in a realistic environment? Should it be in a more stylized or surreal setting or even a setting not possible in real life? The immersion can be realistic like putting a person in a sales situation and asking them to perform or it can be more surreal like having a doctor walk through a giant heart to gain another perspective on human anatomy.

Technical Considerations. One area that can quickly derail a virtual learning effort is technical obstacles. Conduct an analysis of the types of servers available, firewall issues, client computer capabilities and other technical specifications to ensure that the virtual learning world will function properly when launched.

Learners. One of the most important elements is the readiness of the learners to engage in a Virtual Immersive Environment. It is important to understand that the best developed v3D virtual learning experience will not be successful if the learners don’t understand how to gain access to the world, how to navigate through the world or how to set up their avatar. For example, have a greeter meet newcomers in the world so they do not feel alone when they first arrive in-world.

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