Jumping into a virtual world can be a fun but scary and daunting place for first timers. As instructional designers, one of our "missions" is to help learners overcome the scary and daunting aspects so learning occurs.
One of my beliefs is that designers need to be made to feel like learners again so they can empathize with the people for whom they are building instruction. To that end, last night, I threw students into the 3D virtual world of Second Life. I purposefully did little instruction and then sent them off to explore the world and comment on the learning aspects of different places they had visited.
During the debrief a number of conclusions where drawn:
1) Throwing learners into a virtual 3D world is a big step, navigation needs to be clear, goals need to be clear and directions need to be clear.
2) Technical problems arise, not everyone could hear my Voice over IP. So I had to resort to typing so everyone could "hear." You need a back up or need to test and retest the virtual world so that learners don't need to worry about technology when they are in virtual worlds.
3) It take time to acclimate to clicking on items, using your arrow keys to move and, especially, using the camera to view what you want to look at.
4) Sometimes too much freedom is too much. Students indicated that talking off clothes, having too many clothes to choose from and not knowing exactly where to go can be overwhelming.
5) Flying was "weird" but fun.
6) Background noises are nice for ambiance, horrible when trying to have a discussion or meeting.
What did I miss? Any other "learning insights" from last night's class?
The class accomplished its goal of pointing out some difficulties in virtual worlds. We will eventually overcome all those difficulties and design and informative and effective educational session but a little "frustration" and "confusion" by an instructional designer makes for better designed instruction. Having been a student using technology makes you a better designer using the technology.
Here are some examples of past Machinima that students have done.
Here is one done by a professional. See the original post Don't Forget the Power of 3D Machinima
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