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Understanding Learning Archetypes For 3D Learning

Designing instruction within a 3D envrionment involves traditional instructional design...you need objectives, design strategies and a specific methodology to follow. However, it also involves the use of learning archetypes or strategies that go above and beyond traditional instructional design considerations. Here are some thoughts on designing instruction in a 3D environment to facilitate learning.

Learning in 3D
3D learning environments can provide many different instructional strategies, methods or archetypes for facilitating learning. These include:
  • Classroom Emulation
  • Role-Plays
  • Treasure or Scavenger Hunts
  • Guided Tours
  • Conceptual Orienteering
  • Operational Application
  • Co-Creation
  • Critical Incident

Each of these archetypes can be used in different ways to provide a rich educational experience for the learners. Let's examine each one in detail.

Classroom Emulation
In this use of a 3D learning environment, the idea is to re-create the actual classroom environment within the 3D world. This can be a small group classroom with only a couple of tables and chairs or it could be a huge stadium in with a 100 or so avatars gather. The basic idea is the same, a presenter provides a message to a group of people. He or she may use a PowerPoint-esque presentation to show virtual slides or just may talk to the attendees through VOIP or via a text chat. The learners sit in the virtual seats, look forward and raise their hands or ask questions as if they were in the same space with the person presenting the instruction. Current, this is by far the most wide ranging use of 3D worlds. The advantage of this delivery is realized when it is compared to 2D Synchronous Learning where you want to get everyone in the same space and looking at the same thing and provide people via distance with a sense of connecting to one another through the visual representation of their avatars.

In this learning archetype, the goal is to provide a realistic environment in which a role-play an occur over a distance. For example, an experienced sales manager can play the role of a potential customer in a virtual store with virtual products. A new trainee can play the role of a sales representative and engage the potential customer in discussion in an attempt to sell him or her a product. This can be valuable in helping the training be immersed in the environment in which he or she would actually be doing the selling and helps because no matter what direction the sales trainee takes, the experienced manager playing the role will be able to provide feedback. It is not limited like a branching simulation which only has a certain number of branches that the learner can follow.

In a 3D synchronous environment, the role play archetype removes some of the traditional obstacles and barriers of conducting face-to-face role plays. For one thing, online role plays are easier to take on because the learner can get the closer to the role. He or she can dress the avatar in the right clothes, be placed in the right environment and be given the right tools. Participating in an online 3D synchronous role play helps crystallize the knowledge of the learner because they are forced to apply all their skills and abilities to the role play presented to them on the screen.

A good design for a role-play in a 3D envrionment is to provide a minimal script with a few guidelines and specific objectives and let the learner role play with a more experienced peer or facilitator. Once the event is over, a live debriefing can be held to inform the learner or learners participating in the role-play and those who are merely observing

Treasure or Scavenger Hunts
A scavenger or treasure hunt is a method in which items or clues are hidden throughout a virtual area and the learners must find the hidden information. This provides an opportunity for the learners to explore an area. This could be used for a large corporate or academic campus when you want the new employees to get oriented to how the campus is layed out. It can also be done in a virtual factory to provide the learners with an opportunity to learn about the location of machines or safety stations. It can also be used to help orient people to a new city or country to which they will be visiting.

Initially, a scavenger or treasure hunt can even be used to teach the learners how to utilize the functionality of the 3D software itself.

Guided Tour
A guided tour can be used to show learners in a 3D synchronous environment the location of items and or/ help the learners understand the relationships between locations/features within an area/product. Tours can led by a facilitator who points out various items to the learners during the tour. Or it could be a pre-programmed item the learner carries with him or her that provided a virtual "guided tour" without the need for a live person. If you were studying history, you could get a guilded tour of forts or battle fields or historical buildings or other types of places. The tour could take place in an extremely large computer or could be a tour of a blood stream or volcano where the learners appear to be shrunken to a small size so they could experience areas in which they could not otherwise travel.

Conceptual Orienteering
Teaching concepts involves providing the learner with examples and non-examples of the concept and then allowing the learner to determine the attributes that describe the concept. This would be good for comparing and contrasting visual elements such are archetecture or two different types of cars.

The process of side-by-side comparison allows learners to recognize and apply concepts in a variety of different environments. In the archetype of conceptual orienteering, learners studying to be FDA inspectors could be teleported from one manufacturing line to another to see the difference between inspecting a plant that creates medical devices versus one that creates ingestible drugs.

The goal is to provide a visualization of the differences to the learner who can then determine what attributes apply to the concept and what attributes do not. The learners can visually see attributes and do a mental comparison through the ability to instantly move from one location to another. These do not always need to be physcial attributes. For example, you could create a 3D environment to resemble what it looks like to someone who is legally drunk and provide a frame of reference for the person attempting to understand the imparment that occurs when a person has too much to drink. The learner can then get behind the wheel of a virtual car and see and feel the effects of trying to drive while "drunk."

Operational Application
In an Operational Application the learner is challenged to apply rules to specific situations. This is “learning by doing” in the virtual environment. The learner or team of learners must follow the rules and parameters of the physical world to achieve a goal. It is practice for what happens on the job. The facilitator observes the learners and then makes comments or recommendations. This could be repairing a piece of equipment, trouble shooting a computer network, conducting a virtual experiment or fixing a car. Anything that can be reproduced within the world that the learner needs to work on. These are simulated pieces of equipment or machinery that the learner interacts with in a safe 3D envrionment.

This is where two or more people work on creating something within the 3D world. This process can teach teamwork, cooperation and the benefits and potential pitfalls of trying to work within a group.

Critical Incident
The critical incident archetype is when the learner is placed into an environment or situation similar to the real event in which they must use their prior knowledge to solve a problem. This could involve placing the learner into the middle of a disaster like the aftermath of a hurricane or car accident or into a burning building. This use of a 3D environment would challenge the team members to respond together to resolve an issue, incident or problem. The individuals would be expected to act and react as they would in the event of the actual situation but they would not be in an personnel danger as they would in the actual situation. The learning in this environment would be within both the affective and cognitive learning domains.

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