Use of Virtual Worlds for learning is supposed to have made significant progress in the last few years. However, per the latest figures from an eLearning Guild research, out of 6500 respondents 53.95% of respondents replied in the negative to the question, “How often does your organization use Virtual Worlds to deliver training and learning?” .
One of the significant reasons for this is the misconception that Virtual Worlds such as Second Life or other custom worlds were meant to be only networking and socializing spaces. While this may have been an initial reason for adoption, use of VW in the world of learning and training has made significant progress since then. Many content domains find Virtual Worlds as a good learning environment including those of business, language learning, science teaching-principles and concepts to name a few.
Virtual worlds are extremely effective for training and teaching, provide a better than 2D experience and mimic a real-life like classroom experience. This is true however when one leverages affordances of the virtual world. Needless to say that this can happen only through powerful learning design and pedagogy. Examples of sound design and pedagogy include
- immersion and constructionist learning possibilities
- Collaboration between participants/within cohort
- self directed learning through embedded learning objects
Seymour Papert’s learning theory of Constructionism propounds that learning occurs when mental models are reconstructed, and students are able to create meaningful products at the end of a learning activity or initiative. These products could be an article they write, a lesson plan, a product they create virtually, a story or being able to suture a patient’s cut, creation and manipulation of engineering systems to name a few.
In Virtual worlds, when constructionist learning opportunities occur in collaboration with peers; social interaction, directed and spontaneous peer to peer teaching and learning, and large group learning opportunities are easily facilitated, simulating real life classroom environment. VW technology facilitates geographically dispersed learners to come together and interact, participate in the learning activities, and even conduct training events and meetings.
Finally, design of learning activities and immersive nature of the environment ensure that learners retain interest and keep coming back for more. To reiterate, it is the learning design which will make a learning experience, whether it be in a classroom or a Virtual World. At work, am focused on creating one such opportunity. Will talk about it in the next part of this piece.Meanwhile, as always, am happy to hear from you..
Linden, H. (2006). Homeland security comes to secondlife. New World Notes. Retrieved from http://nwn.blogs.com/nwn/2005/10/homeland_securi.html
Papert, S. (1980). Mindstorms:Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas. New York:Basic Books, Inc.
Roussos, M., Johnson, A., Moher, T., Leigh,J., Vasilakis, C., & Barnes, C. (1999) Learning and Building Together in an Immersive Virtual World