virtual environments

All posts tagged virtual environments

I had to laugh when I wrote the title of this blog post. It’s something that I have thought for a long time, but recently there has been a buzz about this on TV and the Internet. So here I am to prove it to you and then you can pass it along to other non-believers…CNN recently published an article by Scott Steinberg entitled “How video games can make you smarter” in the article, Steinberg outlines that the interactivity of video games help your intelligence. Backing up the article is one study from Loyalist College which showed that students playing a simulation saw test scores jump from 56% to 95%. And not to mention Directory of Duke University’s Human Simulation and Patient Safety Center, Dr. Jeffrey Taekman stating that “Serious games and virtual environments are the future of education.”

The key take-aways (just as I have been preaching) are:
-Build brain cells by requiring extensive problem solving, dynamic decision-making skills and teamwork.
-Encourage players’ confidence
-Hands-on experience
-Job training
-Contextual learning
-Teamwork and collaboration

So there you have it, I hope I have made a believer of you now.

eLearn Magazine recently posted a feature article on “Knowledge Transfer from Virtual Environments” among the key take-aways from the article was the outline of six requirements of virtual training.

6 Requirements for Virtual Training
Macedonia and Rosenbloom (2001), citing also Michael Zyda, identified six characteristics that simulations must have to create realism and allow for the acquisition of knowledge that can be transferred to real situation.

1. Immersion. Immersion is the impression that a user is participating in a realistic activity. Immersion occurs when the learner, through intellectual, emotional, and normative reactions, has to take meaningful actions in order to influence the state of the virtual environment.

2. Networking and databases.
The distribution of virtual environments enables a large number of users to interact in the same virtual environment. People can collaborate and perform group tasks over networked virtual environments but in order for this to be realistic, databases must be updated frequently in order for the actions of one user, as well as the effects of these actions on the environment, to be visualized by the others.

3. Story. Constructivism learning theory argues that humans generate knowledge and meaning from their experiences. Success of learning within virtual environments would therefore be linked to interactions, which should be designed to provide the learners with challenging experiences in which they will build new or consolidate existing knowledge.

4. Characters. Animated characters can play various roles in a virtual environment. They can facilitate learning by helping learners accomplish their tasks or by challenging them. To be effective, their behavior must be realistic and responsive to the user’s actions. Characters can be automated as part of the scenario, or they can also be instructors or other learners interacting within the virtual environment.

5. Setup. The environment in which the story takes place must be realistic and provide conditions that will foster learning. Not only does the virtual environment need to be properly designed, the physical environment in which learning takes place must also be adequate.

6. Direction. Learners need to be guided and monitored within the virtual environment. They need to be told that what they do is right or wrong, and they need to understand why. This can be accomplished by an instructor observing the learners, or through the use of a virtual coach providing visual or auditory feedback when the learner executes an action or completes a task.

With the outline of these keys to virtual world training- I believe that all are equally important to a creating a compelling training program.

I thought I would outline a few of the major highlights that virtual worlds are able to provide the user with:
-Realism
-Ties to the real world
-Believable
-Sense of Space
-Experience
-Sense of Presence
-Persistence
-Collaborative learning
-Interactivity & Immersion

Did I miss any? Leave a comment below with additions/ suggestions.

Wow, how cool would that be to graduate in a virtual world? Well Texas State Technical College’s virtual college (vTSTC) in Second Life recently announced the first known student to graduate from a certificate program taken entirely in a virtual environment! It just goes to prove my point that virtual worlds have a wide array of useful applications (including education).

Click here to view the video.