Second Summer 2011″Learning in 3D” class explores another virtual world

Last night in class we had the opportunity to check out VenueGen and see how it functioned. The software provided a great opportunity for students to see a professional virtual world and to explore how it functioned. We held the class in the VenueGen courtroom to experience how virtual environments could be used to ground learners in the actual context and we learned how the courtroom venue is being used for mock trials and even for lawyers discussing issues with clients in a familiar setting.

VenueGen Courtroom setting.

For the beginning of the class, we were fortunate to have David Gardner, CEO and creator of VenueGen provide a tour of the software and provide his fascinating insights into virtual worlds. He spoke about how learners were not engaged during 2D experiences and he discussed the importance of a sense of presence and focus communication–which is an insightful observation about learning.

David speaks to students in the "Learning in 3D" class about virtual worlds.

David described how learner’s focus attention on who they want to listen to in a collaborative environment by focusing on the person they want to hear–visually and body language. They offer the person they want to hear their focus. This can’t be accomplished in a 2D environment where no one can tell where the listener’s focus happens to be. So that is why collaboration in a traditional 2D product is so hard, no one knows who has everyone’s focus and so people talk over each other, hesitate to speak and just get frustrated because they can’t tell who has the focus of the group.

David also discussed the industry and what is happening in terms of funding, technology and the effort to gain the attention of the larger market about the benefits of 3D virtual immersive environments.

Students were able to experience being in a virtual courtroom as learners and seeing how everyone’s avatar turned out and then they were given the opportunity to walk around the space and interact with each other.

Student's listening to the description of "voting with focus."

So the questions for this blog posting are:

  • What personnel aspects of a 3D environment do you find engaging?
  • What are the three things you can do in a 3D environment that you aren’t able to do in a 2D environment and do those three things matter for a learning perspective?
  • If you were designing a virtual 3D event, what types of interactions and activities would you include?
  • What did you like about the VenueGen learning experience?

Posted in: 3D worlds lrn3d, virtual immersive environment

Leave a Comment (28) ↓


  1. Tracey Turnquist August 1, 2011

    VenueGen was very unique in a lot of ways. I think being in a courtroom allowed me to see or should I say understand some of the areas in which 3D worlds really work. I was impressed with how I could make and avatar created after a picture image of me. I also like the fact that you could create an avatar that looks how you perceive yourself. The creativity is limitless.

    I am new to 3D worlds but I can see how I would rather take an online class in a 3D world then a 2D environment. I have taken online classes for 2 years now and it cannot compare to the face to face interaction in a 3D world.

    A 3D environment allows an object to be perceived as a whole, while a 2D view is restricted to only a cross-section or profile of an object. 2D Pictures are flat, without depth and offer only one perspective. The different perspectives offered in 3D are more realistic, even though they are harder to control.

    If I were to build a 3D event I would definitely include avatars that represent your true character. I would include the different views 1st person and 3rd person. Last but not least I would include alot of gestures so that a persons personality can show through.

    I preferred VenueGen over Second Life because we stayed in one place the whole time. Due to a bug in VenueGen I still did not get the full effect because my avatar was not involved in total because all I could see was the back of the speakers head. I would love to try this 3D world again.

  2. Yousef Alshrari July 25, 2011

    First of all, I would like to thank Mr. David for the valuable information that he gave us last Monday about how to use the VenueGen program. Learning in VenueGen is really interesting and interacting at the same time. I felt that I was inside the classroom with my classmates. When Dr. Kapp and Mr. David presented in the VenueGen virtual world, I felt that I was in front of them when they were talking. The eye contact gives you the sense of interaction with your instructor, and the great control of the movement that VenueGen has lets your avatar move freely in the virtual world.

    In the 3D environment you feel that you are physically attending the class. It also allows you to know your friends or classmates by seeing their names around you. Moreover, it gives you the opportunity to explore new things that are not found in a 2D environment. There are a lot of ways in the VenueGen program to express feeling such as raising a hand, waving, applauding, smiling, and agreeing or disagreeing using gestures. It is clear to see that in a 3D environment you can interact with other users and get to know new friends from all around the world on a different level. These aspects of the 3D environment can be applied to teaching. For example, my lesson plan is about the pyramids of Egypt. I used Second life, a type of 3D environment, to “travel” there, and found new people in Egypt who gave me a great explanation about these huge structures.

    The 3D environment lets you interact with objects to get as much information as you can, unlike in the 2D environment where explanations depend on the use of videos and pictures to give a better understanding to the learners. In the 3D environment you can express yourself freely by using gestures. The 3D environment does not make you lose the interaction with your instructor. Last but not least, in the 3D environment you have the ability to share your content such as a PowerPoint, a Word document and a PDF, as Mr. David had shown us last Monday on VenueGen.

    If I get the chance to design a virtual world, I would first consider the possible benefits this could have for education. I would choose a classroom setting and prepare a lesson. Before the lesson begins, I would have the students engage in discussion as a mode of interaction. Also, during the lesson, I would include some interesting questions, which allow my students to engage more with my material and to keep them up to date about what is going to come next. Making some games would also be a very useful tool to include in my virtual world environment.

    Personally, I really liked everything about VenueGen. I liked the idea of the instructor being generally in control of everyone’s movement. I was amazed by how you can share the content in VenueGen and present it as you are sitting in the classroom. I really enjoyed using the gestures to express myself the way I wanted to. Overall, I truly liked using the VenueGen virtual world because I felt that I was in a real classroom.

  3. Jessica Andrezze July 25, 2011

    I find a 3D learning environment to be extremely engaging because, to me, it feels like I am actually in a class with my peers. This rings especially true when the avatars around you look like your classmates do in real life. In VenueGen users are given the option to upload a picture of themselves to create an avatar that resembles their picture. I think this is a very cool feature, and while I didn’t find it to work with my pictures some others I could tell it did because their avatars looked exactly like them. I really liked how in VenueGen the avatars displayed true to life gestures, such as moving a hand or leg every few minutes while sitting, and things of that sort.

    In a 3D environment you are able to make eye contact, make hand gestures, and customize your appearance. These things are all important for engaging interest and adding enjoyment to the program. From a learning perspective, these things are important because they, of course engage the learner, but also help keep the learners attention for a longer amount of time. As far as being able to make eye contact, I found that personally I felt like I had to keep eye contact with the speaker just as if he were in the room with me. I felt if I looked away that would be rude. Being able to customize your appearance is something that I think a lot of people have fun with and this gets the learners excited to use the software, and in turn, excited to take the class.

    If I were designing a class in 3D I would make sure that students would enjoy the design of the class, while still learning important information. For me, both of these goals were achieved in the green house in Second Life. These goals were also met, just in a slightly different way, in the courtroom in VenueGen. I really like the option of being able to customize your avatar to look exactly like you. In SL you are able to customize many details about your avatar, which can become very time consuming and distracting for students, while in VenueGen you had less clothing options and I don’t believe you were able to change them during the meeting. I think the ideal amount of customization, for a classroom setting, would be somewhere in the middle. I would also give the students plenty of chances to interact with each other and things in the environment because I think that is what helps keep students so engaged.

    I liked VenueGen because I feel, as Mr. Gardner stated, it has a lower learning curve then SL. After being in VenueGen for only a few minutes I felt very comfortable with all of the features and gestures and things of that nature. I have used SL a few times now and I am still a little confused about how it all works. I also liked the privacy aspect of VenueGen. Only people who were invited to the meeting were allowed to attend. I feel second life is a place for pleasure and games while VenueGen is a place for business.

  4. Katherine Hinkle July 25, 2011

    When I had my first 3D online course experience here with in the IIT department I was pretty hesitant. I wasn’t sure how I would perform in the classroom or if I would be able to stay focused. Since, I was already familiar with how much focus I would need in a normal online course (like Centra) I felt as if I had a good grasp on the situation. What I found most engaging about the 3D element was that is the versatility that comes along with it. Just from the one experience I had in Second Life on the first night of class, I was able to build a room, search an eco-friendly house and learn about environment saving tips, and was able to fly around the island. From the brief time I was in Second LIfe, I was able to see why it was so popular.

    There are numerious things that you can’t do in a 2D learning environment that you can do in a 3D learning environment. First thing is you create an avatar that can either look very similar to what you look like naturally or can be the polar opposite of you. This allows for a lot of creativity in creating your virtual persona. Secondly, you’re able to move around freely, depending on what platform you are in. In Second Life we could fly around and walk away at anytime, but in VenueGen, since it was a more professional meeting place (the courtroom), the class adminstrator had control of movements. Lastly, virual 3D learning spaces give you a place to meet without actually having to be physically in front of a group of people. This is probably my most favorite aspect. Since people have busy schedules, you can schedule a meeting in a virtual platform and show up in your avatar, all while just being on your computer.

    When designing a 3D event and figuring out what kind of interactions and activities you would include, you would first have to take into account what kind of event is this. Is it a more formal and business like event, or is this an exploratory learning event. If it was more business like I would stick with VenueGen’s platform, because it allows for a more focused learning environment. If I was an instructor, teaching stude

    • Katherine Hinkle July 25, 2011

      When I had my first 3D online course experience here with in the IIT department I was pretty hesitant. I wasn’t sure how I would perform in the classroom or if I would be able to stay focused. Since, I was already familiar with how much focus I would need in a normal online course (like Centra) I felt as if I had a good grasp on the situation. What I found most engaging about the 3D element was that is the versatility that comes along with it. Just from the one experience I had in Second Life on the first night of class, I was able to build a room, search an eco-friendly house and learn about environment saving tips, and was able to fly around the island. From the brief time I was in Second LIfe, I was able to see why it was so popular.

      There are numerious things that you can’t do in a 2D learning environment that you can do in a 3D learning environment. First thing is you create an avatar that can either look very similar to what you look like naturally or can be the polar opposite of you. This allows for a lot of creativity in creating your virtual persona. Secondly, you’re able to move around freely, depending on what platform you are in. In Second Life we could fly around and walk away at anytime, but in VenueGen, since it was a more professional meeting place (the courtroom), the class adminstrator had control of movements. Lastly, virual 3D learning spaces give you a place to meet without actually having to be physically in front of a group of people. This is probably my most favorite aspect. Since people have busy schedules, you can schedule a meeting in a virtual platform and show up in your avatar, all while just being on your computer.

      When designing a 3D event and figuring out what kind of interactions and activities you would include, you would first have to take into account what kind of event is this. Is it a more formal and business like event, or is this an exploratory learning event. If it was more business like I would stick with VenueGen’s platform, because it allows for a more focused learning environment. If I was an instructor, teaching students about the life within a rain forest, I would probably use Second Life, because there is more freedom for the students to explore their virtual environment.

      I found it a lot less distracting in VenueGen vs. Second Life. VenueGen seemed to have cut out a lot of distractions and seemed more like a traditional learning enviroment. I also liked the fact that we could make an avatar using our own images, even though I did not have the opportunity to do that, I still found it different from that of Second Life.

  5. Eric Newby July 25, 2011

    Different aspects of a 3D environment that I find engaging are being able to see each individual’s avatars and being able to interact with a group of people or individuals. Also, having different functions which allow your avatar to gesture, i.e. raise your hand, so that the professor or instructor can see who has a question. 3D environments just provide more interaction abilities as opposed to just being able to hear the instructor and other students’ voices. With 3D environments, it gives students a sense of seeing their classmates and instructors and allows them to interact as if they were in a classroom.
    There are many different things that 3D worlds allow avatars to do, but three in particular, 3D environments allow people to create or build their own environments, i.e. in second life, we built our own individual rooms using the different shapes and tools necessary. Second, 3D worlds allow users to interact with objects within the virtual world, which is a great tool for having users search for information within the environment. And third, the users are able to interact individual with different avatars, i.e. in venuegen, you can lock in on someone’s avatar, and engage in direct conversation.
    If I were designing a virtual event, I would create some type of game that allows each student to participate, or create a movie type activity and have each student have a role, sort of like the activity that is assigned to each student in special topics.
    While we were in VenueGen, I liked how I could see each individual avatar, and how you could actually see the avatar’s mouth moving if they were talking. I think 3D is a good way to go because it gets away from the plain classroom feel, and allows students to interact and engage in a new creative way of learning. 3D>2D.

  6. Eric Sellix July 25, 2011

    When working in a 3D environment what I find to be most engaging is the real look of things. When learning in 2D you can represent a real 3D object only by showing images of each of it’s sides. In a 3D environment, you get to see how it is put together, as well as all of the buttons and different sections of the object. This holistic display is very helpful to me, since the context of the object can be preserved.

    When working in a 3d environment you have the ability to create spacial relationships you can’t have in 2D. If the house you are working on is 20 feet tall, you can represent that in a 3D environment. 3D environments also let you use non verbal communication through gestures and how your avatar appears. This is a much deeper level of communication.

    If I were designing a 3D event I would include some form of group activity that requires the user to use their avatar in a similar way to a real world experience. Shaking hands through your avatar is a good example of this, and supported by most 3D systems.

    What I liked most about VenueGen was the seperate head motion from the body, and how it was integrated. We use terms like “over there,” and “look there” constantly. VenueGen lets you use your avatar in a similar way to a real life interaction. It makes communicating in VenueGen deep and compelling.

  7. Jessica Christ July 25, 2011

    As someone who was very new to 3D learning, I was skeptical of the entire idea especially for my career. However, as we keep exploring these different 3D worlds I am beginning to see just how useful this learning environment can be. I never imagined taking a field trip with dinosaurs, flying through worlds, or sitting in on a mock trial in my pajamas. But in the 3D learning world the possibilities are endless. I love how interactive and engaging it is. With the use of our avatars the learning is so real, so personal, and so face to face that I am able to see exactly how to use this learning environment as a math teacher!

    There are so many possibilities in 3D it’s practically like teaching in real life. In Centra you are only able to hear people, write on the screen, and there were a few non personal actions that could be used. In the 3D world the use of avatar’s, that are exact replicas of the learner, make the learning so personal. These worlds are created so that entire classes or groups of people can be in the world at the same time which makes the learning so interactive. The last thing that these 3D worlds have over 2D is that each world is created specifically for that class or lesson or course. You can come face to face with dinosaurs, jump out of an airplane, or be a member of a jury all from the comfort of your own home. This makes the learning in 3D extremely engaging.

    Minus the technical difficulties in VenueGen I really liked how personal our avatars were, but would love for the avatars to be able to shake hands. They were created from our own pictures, they got fidgety when they were idle, and were able to look each other directly in the eye. These are just to name a few of the life like capabilities within VenueGen. I thought VenueGen was a much better setting for a more business type meeting where as SecondLife I thought was more suitable for middle/high school classes. So I would like to combine the two worlds and use them for my students. I teach in a district where it is not uncommon for our students to get incarcerated. While these students are locked up it is against all odds that they are still learning and working towards their diplomas or GEDs. And the few that do take learning seriously behind bars have a new teacher and practically have to start over thus getting bored or frustrated. So my idea is to combine these worlds and create like an actual classroom world so that these students can continue to learn from their same teacher using the same curriculum basically just picking up where they left off. I believe that this virtual learning could really benefit these kids and, by providing such an education, will help them become better members of society when they are free. I hate seeing these kids fall by the waste side, no one care, and then they become these awful criminals. This is a tool that can be used to help change the lives of some of these children.

  8. Fred Mealia July 25, 2011

    VenueGen was a very different way to conduct a class/lecture, i never imagined i would be able to see myself as a digital character, it was like i was playing an awesome video game yet in a classroom at the same time. Yet as cool as it was i thought it was even more informative to be able to enter this “venue” and be able to speak with classmates that could be almost anywhere in the world, yet be able to see them as they actually look in real life.
    This software is able to create things just as you would see them in real life, like the gestures an actual person would make. being able to interact on a level that would only be created as if you were actually in a classroom.
    although there were a few bugs, that’s how it goes. it takes a while to make something that realistic perfect, it may never be, but it is the closest thing to reality that you could get. it makes the learning experience so much better than just paper and pen.

  9. Rachied Blythe July 25, 2011

    When I first entered VenueGen I was very impressed by the courtroom setup and how my avatar operated. VenueGen has a professional and appealing look and most of all the interaction with the avatars is amazing. When comparing VenueGen to SecondLife you can really see how they differ. For instance I could see myself giving formal presentations or holding meetings with clients in VenueGen; and with SecondLife I found that this virtual world is better used to show a model or a display, like the Green House we toured through. Both virtual worlds are constructed very well but I believe that they both have their strong points and are meant to serve two different purposes.
    The body languages and customizations that could be applied to your personal avatar are phenomenal. I really connected with the avatar because the avatar didn’t just sit there for the whole presentation it actually moved every few minutes as if it was real and was adjusting itself to a more comfortable position. I also found David Gardner gestures during his presentation interesting because as he talked his avatar actually moved depending on the changes in his voice.
    If I was to use VenueGen for any type of training, I would make the customizations of the learner’s avatar a requirement, so I could identify a name with the avatar. Another thing I would include would be an introduction segment where the learner’s avatars would actually have to get up in front of the class and introduce themselves; and by doing this it would help them get more familiar with the tools, navigation and controls in VenueGen. I would definitely utilize the presentation screen so learners, group members and clients can present informal or formal presentations.
    When discussing 3D versus 2D there are a lot of advantage that 3D has over 2D.For example in a 3D setting you can customize your avatar to fit your needs and also there is more of a connection between the learners and the actual learning environment. Another advantage that 3D has over 2D is the layout itself. In a 2D world the background is pretty flat which means the interaction is limited. In a 3D setting the layout is much more interactive and engaging due to the angels, navigation and the overall design scheme. Finally in 3D setting a designer can place a learner in environment that mimics the real world. This would allow learners to get a more realistic feel of some of the elements that they might encounter while on the job.

  10. Lauren Dyer July 25, 2011

    There are many things about a 3D environment that I find engaging. When I first found out that my summer classes would be online, I got a little nervous because I had never taken an online course before. When I had my first class, which was entirely in Centra, I was relieved because it was very easy to use and enjoyable. Then when I found out that this class was going to be in a bunch of different 3D worlds, such as Second Life, I got nervous again because I didn’t know what to expect from that type of learning. But what I found out was that it was so much more engaging and personal than Centra is/was. I love the fact that I have an avatar as well as the other people in the class. when I am talking to someone, I’m not just talking to a general screen like you do in Centra and just hear your voice. Instead i am able to talk to someone using my avatar to look at them. It becomes more personal on my end as well as the person I am talking to. I also love the fact that I can express myself with my appearance. Whether i want to keep my appearance, or if I want to alter my appearance to some way that i normally wouldn’t look. These aspects are just a few of the ways that I find a 3D world engaging.

    There are many things that you can do in a 3D environment that you can’t do in 2D, and two of those things I talked about up above. First, I love the fact that you can engage in a conversation with someone by talking to their avatar and them talking to yours. It make is more personable especially from a learning perspective. When I’m just talking to a informational screen or the professor is talking to the students with a powerpoint slide up, such as you do in Centra, I tend to get bored and side tracked. However when I am in second life or VenueGen, I am more engaged when my professor speaks and find myself not loosing focus. Second, going along with being able to use an avatar to talk to others, being able to personalize your avatar in ways to either look like yourself or your alter ego is amazing. It’s not just engaging for the user, but its enjoyable and helpful for the other users as well. The last thing that I find very cool that you can do in a 3D environment compared to a 2D environment is that you can escape reality and go on a virtual vacation. In our case, yes we are still learning a lesson, but the fact that we aren’t just staring at a blank screen or a slide show and listening to a person talk, makes the 3D world so much more entertaining. We are able to skip over the dull and boring learning and jump into an interactive world that we can discover and explore. All three of these things help immensely when it comes to a learning perspective because they help the learner get involved with the learning process and engage them so much more than a boring session of nothing but a informative screen and a voice over.

    If I were to create my own virtual 3D event I would create a fun game or series of games. Like a virtual kick ball game or baseball game. I myself love playing sports, and could incorporate games into a learning perspective by having two teams play against each other. Each team would answer questions by stepping up to bat. Each person would get 3 chances (if needed) to make it to first base. just like a baseball player has three chances of hitting the ball. Every question right they would be allowed to advance to the next base. For every player that made it all around the board, and returned to home plate, an extra credit point would be awarded to those team members. If they got all three questions wrong, they would strike out, and that would be one out. It would be very similar to a baseball game with a few minor changes.

    For it being my first time in VenueGen, I found it to be pretty interesting. I really enjoyed the fact that I had the option of expressing myself with so many different expressions! I found that to be very entertaining and kept me very engaged in what the speaker had to say. I also liked the fact that the main speaker had to option to limit everyone else’s actions so that things wouldn’t get crazy or hectic. There were a few things that I wasn’t crazy about such as not being able to hear everyone and that not all the buttons were working, but in all it was a great 3D experience.

  11. Asma Almaghlouth July 24, 2011

    I found that class was enjoyable as much as it was educational. Rather than a Webinar where you broadcast your message out to an isolated participant who feels alone and separated from the team, why not bring that team together in a virtual world and then deliver your message to them as one unit. This creates a higher level of engagement, accountability, bonding and a feeling of being part of a whole as it attracted me. I believe that this is just the beginning of Virtual world era and the use of learning within them will increase within the next 5 years. The technology is not fully there yet for it to be mainstream. Virtual worlds are another channel of communication. They can be used effectively for eLearning and education.
    The most things that make me realize how 3D is different than 2D that you hear sound directionally and you can turn your head by dragging your mouse around to see others and to interact with content. It is very simple and easy to use. Also, 3D environments don’t required special hardware or cameras or lots of bandwidth like video applications do. At last, my favorite part of the interface is Infinite content display. A presenter can share a PowerPoint, Word document, PDF, picture, or live desktop on the screen or screens in the room which is a spectacular idea. Anything involving interacting in real-time with other people on the web that is not in 3D will start to look like the black and white television – not very appealing or interactive.
    If I have the chance to create a virtual 3D event, it would be a version of our client 3D engine that runs on the most mobile computing devices. However, ease of use, security, and low price will be considered.
    In VenueGen, interactive video conferencing goes down, the picture quality improves, and the technology becomes easier to use. Learning in a 3D environment allowed the enhanced interaction with content and other individuals in a unique way because of the notion of “advanced presence,” or feeling like you are really there.

  12. Joshua Stoner July 24, 2011

    The aspects of immersion within a 3D environment alongside the humanistic avatar characteristics such as facial expressions or actions provide a greater personal activity and involvement when making use of these 3D environments.
    When evaluating a 3D environment compared to a 2D environment the main highlight of 3D is the aspect of depth and immersion within an environment. There also happens to be a great deal of environmental interaction alongside the avatar interactivity and personalization such as the facial characteristics, responses and the overall avatar inter-activity. In learning the immersion, interactivity and personalization (voice/avatar customization) provide a significant impact on learners and their experience, connectivity and understanding of a subject matter they are learning.
    For interactions and activities within a 3D world, I believe I would model a virtual 3D event within the same guidelines or aspects of VenueGen. In using VenueGen, the avatar customization was somewhat limited in outfit matters compared to Second Life, but maintain a cleaner appearance and consistency throughout for a more professional and appropriate environment for learning. Beyond the environment and avatar creation, I believe the most successful aspects in VenueGen involved the actions each person could perform within the environment and the manner in which the avatars held posture and interacted without necessarily much effort relying on the person behind the avatar. The avatars in many aspects took on the role of you, most notably as a person versus a computer character, providing other users the experience of a more natural human interaction.
    With that said I believe I expanded more so on the aspects of what I liked about VenueGen, but further more I would like to add that VenueGen approached a 3D environment of interactivity between individuals by greater means than Second Life with the fantasy experience out the door and a greater focus on realism as a key component to develop a structured learning/meeting place for individuals. Second Life, to me, came across as being very similar to a social network, a place to gather, hangout, meet people and push the limits impossible in real world (such as flying).

  13. Frederick Bloss July 24, 2011

    One aspect of virtual worlds I find amazing is their versatility. You can make anything from a virtual museum of medieval Europe to an actual simulation of a peasant village. All you have to do is learn the tools.

    One thing that you can do in a 3D tool that you can’t do in a 2D tool is focus. I have been in Centra sessions where two people would talk at once, stop in the middle of their sentence, wait a bit, then continue talking at exactly the same time. This matters because it makes conversations more natural when you can see who to focus on. Another thing 3D tools are capable of is the ability to immerse a learner in the content. When watching a video there is a sort of barrier between the learner and the video. This matters because it’s easier to remember and recall events rather than a video. The third thing 3D tools are capable of is personalization. Interacting with a name on a screen is different than interacting with a 3D representation of a person. This makes online interaction much more personal and memorable.

    If I were designing a 3D event for multiple people I would definitely introduce some light competition. Whether it is some form of scavenger hunt or even a simple quiz. Even if the prize is something simple, the prospect of competition grabs people’s attention. As for actual activities, I like the idea of a complex problem that must be solved by multiple people cooperating. An example of this is the Lunar Base game NASA released for free. Multiple players must solve various problems with the machinery within a time limit. An example of this idea being adapted would be a simulation of being stranded in the wilderness where the learners would have to cooperate to gather food and build shelter. I believe this would do a great job of immersing learners in the content.

    I was impressed with Venugen. Of course there were bugs, but that’s no real surprise when dealing with software. The fact that it can be run in a browser yet still have VoIP and what looks like heavy content collaboration. It also ran on my netbook, which shows how versatile it is. I feel like its a step in the right direction for integrating virtual worlds into the workplace.

  14. Dan Kreisher July 24, 2011

    The second class in VenueGen was very interesting as I am a newbie to the whole 3D Environments realm. I find it fascinating how the avatars act very life-like with gestures, mouth movement when speaking and the ability to have eye contact. An aspect I find very engaging is the ability to have eye contact. It make the 3D environment feel more lifelike.

    Three things you can do in a 3D environment you aren’t able to do in a 2D perspective:
    1. Interact with particular objects – In a typical 2D environment, usually, learners have a content section where they are required to take notes and look at pictures images or videos of the process, object, or theory. Where as in a 3D Environment. The learner is able to interact with the object in a virtual world. As it is still not the actual object, it allows for interaction with a type of object so learner can still become familiar with it through their own experiences.
    2. Build Environments – Learners are able to build environments in which they feel depicts certain aspects of their life, content, and other environments. It allows for a whole new perspective of their reality and creativity.
    3. Perspective – Learners are not just tied to looking at a rigid screen with 2 Dimensions. The environments allows learners to get into character and look around and experience the world through interaction with more senses than just sight and hearing. It allows for touch which is an often overlooked sense from learning. Typically, 2D learning, provides limited interaction with learners and objects, where as 3D environments allows for movement, of an avatar in a world where the learner is able to see objects from their perspective and learn through their experiences.

    If i were to design a 3D environment, I feel that it is integral to allow the learners to experience an artifact like the environmental house in SecondlLife, and the Court Room in VenueGen. For most people, may not have ever gotten to experience what a courtroom is like or a environmentally friendly house. This would allow learner to draw from their experience to allow for meaningful learning. Also, face to face interaction with other avatars would be important for a socialization aspect.

    VenueGen was an impressive piece of software. Unlike my first experience with Secondlife, VenueGen worked flawlessly on my computer that I was using. I experience no technical difficulties throughout the whole learning experience. Aside from the technical aspect, i found the gesturing to be very impressive for a 3D environment. It really adds personification of a inanimate object.

  15. Dan Kreisher July 24, 2011

    The second class in VenueGen was very interesting as I am a newbie to the whole 3D Environments realm. I find it fascinating how the avatars act very life-like with gestures, mouth movement when speaking and the ability to have eye contact. An aspect I find very engaging is the ability to have eye contact. It make the 3D environment feel more lifelike.

    Three things you can do in a 3D environment you aren’t able to do in a 2D perspective:
    1. Interact with particular objects – In a typical 2D environment, usually, learners have a content section where they are required to take notes and look at pictures images or videos of the process, object, or theory. Where as in a 3D Environment. The learner is able to interact with the object in a virtual world. As it is still not the actual object, it allows for interaction with a type of object so learner can still become familiar with it through their own experiences.

  16. Desiree Eddins July 23, 2011

    The personal aspects of a 3D environment that I found engaging were the ability to create an avatar that looked similar to me and the ability to physically interact with other people. I enjoyed creating an avatar that looked similar to me because having this aspect made me feel as if I were really in this 3D world. It helped me focus more in discussions and other activities because it was like I was really there. I could see and interact with other people by shaking hands or helping move various objects. As a kinesthetic and visual learner, I really enjoy the overall vibe and learning experiences that 3D environments provide through the real life situations.

    Three things that you can do in a 3D environment include creating avatars that look similar to a real life person, capabilities to explore surroundings as you would see them in real life, and ability to physically interact with various people and objects. All three of these things differ greatly from 2D environments because you are able to interact as if there in person. In 2D environments, you are only able to hear and chat with people, not shake their hands or pick up objects and move them. All of the three things previously mentioned matter for a learning perspective because the real life feel of being in a space will help keep individuals engaged and eager to learn. These three things will help learners feel like they are there and will help them focus more on the topic at hand. Being engaged and focused is extremely important in the overall learning for an individual. Without this, learners will become bored and disengaged.

    If I were designing a virtual 3D event, I would want the interactions to be as close as possible to real life. For example, if I were a distance educator I would create a classroom setting that resembles a real life classroom. I would have students create avatars that looked very similar to how they look and resemble their personality. From there I would engage the students in various lessons just as I would in a real life classroom. In this case, students would still be able to communicate and work with their peers from the comforts of their homes. This idea would bring together 3D learning tools such as VenueGen and the Sims. VenuGen is great for the setting and the Sims is great for creating avatars and applying personalities to the avatars. Therefore, I would create interactions where learners could communicate and learn from each other and I would create activities similar to those that could be completed in a real life environment.

    I really enjoyed the VenueGen learning experience. I thought that it was a great 3D web tool because we could actually create avatars that looked very similar to what we look like in real life. I also really enjoyed the real life atmospheres that meetings and other events could be held in. The courtroom scene that our class was held in was interesting because I could imagine an actual court case being held in that room. I also thought that the various meeting rooms were great because they made me think about how I could use them in my classroom. For example, the courtroom could be used when teaching students about the judicial system and to host a mock trial so that they could see how a court room looks and runs. VenueGen is a great tool to use for meetings and teaching because it helps keep people engaged in their learning through the real life scenarios.

  17. Marcus Valeriano July 22, 2011

    3D environments provide an exceptional way to learn and acquire knowledge. For me, the interaction between students is as close as you can get to actually being in a true classroom. For example, our group got together to discuss the group assignment and how we can possibly develop roles and other elements for the assignment. Our avatars served as if we were actually discussing topics in person. There was a free flow of speech, which is something that is difficult to master in a 2D environment such as Saba Centra. The ability to use gestures, flying, and the ability to build things within a 3D environment provides an engaging element that is nearly impossible to do within a classroom due to the limited resources, especially for flying and building. 3D environments allow us to do things we could only dream of which makes the experience so much bolder and enjoyable than a 2D or classroom environment

    The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about three things you can do in a 3D environment that can’t be utilized in a 2D environment is the ability to interact with virtual, yet seamlessly real, environments. Typically in a 2D environment, the classroom is limited to PowerPoint presentations or application sharing features. With 3D environments, those PowerPoint and application sharing features have the ability to come to life. For example, if we were discussing how to make the most out of energy resources for homes, 2D environments would only really give us remember level discussions. For 3D environments, we can learn at an application level where we can interact and see exactly where, what, why, how, and when we can get the most out of energy resources for homes. From what I’ve learned through the instructional design course is to develop training and learning at an application level rather than a remember level. By learning via an application level, the ability to apply hands-on knowledge trumps the reading level in today’s world. People want to experience something with their own hands through interaction rather than reading without seeing how things are actually done. Therefore, I think interacting with virtual yet real environments is vitally important to learning because of the use of application rather than remembrance.

    Another feature 3D has over 2D is the actual interaction among people through the use of avatars. In 2D environments our avatars are typically our names. Where in 3D environments our avatars are visual representations of ourselves that are able to move, talk, gesture, and create throughout a virtual world. This has huge implications on the way we learn because it allows us to see, talk, gesture, and create with each other, once again in a virtual yet seamlessly real environment. In a 2D environment, such as Saba Centra, gestures are used in terms of check marks, x’s, a smily face and a raised hand, which are simple graphics that pop up next to our names. In a 3D environment, we can actually see hands raised, we can nod our head to show that we agree, and we can act out many other gestures that are not limited within a 2D world. This helps learning significantly, making it seem as if we were actually in a classroom setting.

    A third feature that I have taken notice of are the actual settings in a 3D environment. In a way, I have seen second life as a virtual field trip. If we wanted to see London, we can go to London! If we want to see Rome, we can go to Rome! As we experienced in VenueGen, if we want to reenact or practice a trial or hearing in a courtroom it is available to experience. The ability to build and create worlds that are nearly replicas of actual places is such an exceptional way to learn and experience places that we may never get to see or learn about. For example, I am a huge soccer fan who loves to travel to European countries to experience legendary cities and stadiums. In a 3D environment, stadiums could be built and guidance could be applied throughout the stadium to learn anything and everything about a club’s history. In 2D environments, we are unable to see anything but a PowerPoint screen or an application share which really makes learning limited and almost uninteresting depending on the topic. This links back to learning on an application level rather than a remembrance level which definitely increases the significance in learning about environments three dimensionally.

    If you were designing a virtual 3D event, what types of interactions and activities would you include?

    If I were designing a 3D event, I would have to go with my above example of building a soccer stadium for the use and portrayal of a club’s history. Soccer is one of the most followed and most played sports in the world. Many times, however, people may not have the financial stability to travel to see one of the famous stadiums such as Old Trafford in Manchester, The Camp Nou in Barcelona, the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid, or the San Siro in Milan. After I would build the stadium, I’d provide a virtual tour throughout the stadium, similar to that of the Green House in the MSIT environment. Objects would be clickable to display note cards of information. Locker rooms would be accessible to see where legendary players use to get ready for games. And the learner would be able to walk on the field to view what the players view when 90,000 people are filled in the stadium for a club derby clash. The sky is the limit with something like this. It would absolutely be a dream of mine to create virtual tours of stadiums for underprivileged people who aren’t able to access such spectacles.

    The VenueGen experience was great! I would have loved to experience other meeting environments, but the courtroom was a great first experience. I can easily see how law students and even law offices would be able to step into this venue and dig into a great deal of role play interactions. Without knowing too much about other Venues, I can only imagine what else is available and understand the types of experiences that are possible. The customization of avatars was a lot easier in VenueGen than it was in Second Life. Also I felt the gestures were much easier to use and understand as well. The only problem I had was being able to use my pointer! But nonetheless it was an awesome experience to check out and interact in something besides Second Life. Obviously there will always be some flaws to learning in a virtual world whether its 2D or 3D, which is something David Gardner covered during his lecture. But the experience is just so phenomenal. Twenty-five years ago, people could have never imagined learning like this at a consumer level. Typically this type of learning was for the wealthiest of people who had the resources to develop and learn through this unbelievable virtual world. With some more time and resources, VenueGen can build off of there already sterling reputation and create some of the best virtual worlds available when it comes to specifically learning information.

  18. Thomas Fluharty July 22, 2011

    So far, I am finding a number of aspects of the 3D environments engaging. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I am really fascinated with the creation of objects, the assigning of behaviors to those objects, and then the avatar interaction with those object behaviors. Since that post, I have thinking a lot about relative and absolute scale in 3D environments and appropriate granularity. As an undergraduate, I took a few courses in cartography. The first thing you learn is that 1:1 is the scale of reality, but that it is not the map scale that very often has the most utility from the end user’s perspective. A map can provide levels of abstraction that can be more useful than the full data set, so to speak. The extreme case for this effect is with graphs and charts displaying qualitative or quantitative data. On the hand, when I worked in the telecommunications industry, I spent a fair amount of time blowing up the view, zooming in, on very small parts to show critical details not immediately apparent or easily accessible to the casual naked eye. As we have been exploring 3D environments, I have been struck with the possibilities of both large scale and small scale representations that would be prohibitively expensive in the real world if not outright improbable to execute.

    From a learning perspective, 3D has some advantage over 2D. One obvious difference is that 3D allows for smooth changes of perspective at all desired levels of granularity limited only by the design. One of the frustrations of 2D representations is that you have very constrained point of view options. A good example of that constraint would be the user manual that came with the purchase of my car. Last time I tried to change out a headlight bulb, I could have used a least five different 2D perspective drawings to understand the entire removal and replacement operation adequately. If I had access to a 3D environment of the engine compartment, I could have played around with the perspectives and the zoom level until I understood the actual spatial relationships between the parts – without the hidden information of a 2D treatment.

    Another advantage of 3D over 2D seems to be in real-time collaboration that acknowledges and encourages a much greater range of social cues and communication shortcuts. To me, that is the primary take away message from avatar-driven interaction with classmates and instructors so far. There is certainly a different and enhanced sense of agency in online 3D interactive environments versus the 2D versions. From an educational perspective, that would seem to lend itself to learning activities that are more guided tour and virtual-hands on than lecture-based. As such, 3D sort of follows the lab paradigm versus the lecture hall paradigm. And a big part of any lab environment is the back and forth verbal and not-verbal communication of the participants. Or, as we used to say when I was a telecommunication field technician, we often learned more on group coffee breaks than we did on the solo job assignments – a phenomenon well understood these days by the knowledge management crowd. 3D facilitates enhanced levels of social interaction that support a greater range of explicit and implicit knowledge transfer among participants.

    Approaching the tasks of the instructional designer, I can see some things that would be key in setting up a virtual 3D event. Again, I see it working best from a learning lab paradigm. I think there needs to be an emphasis on active doing over passive listening/watching. Also, I think I would build partnering and teamwork requirement into the activities. Not to meet promote the nebulous and much-abused ideology of “teamwork”, but because there are learning outcomes that can be achieved easier via well designed collaborative activities. In addition, there seem to be opportunities from sociological and psychological perspectives to utilize the virtual 3D environment to promote community of interest and/or community of practice for the learners. There also seems to be room in the design of the interactions and activities to build in graduated success experiences to develop positive feelings about both the virtual environment and the learning content.

    Overall, what I liked about VenueGen was that it approaches an enterprise class experience. In other words, it really approaches that seamless feel. I have worked on both ends of the private/public sectors, and I agree with David Gardner that a for-profit company is much less fault tolerant than any agency that functions as a cost center. The degree of integration in VenueGen is simply impressive. On the other hand, there is almost no room for mistakes if you are selling to businesses that are operationally dominated by their respective sales teams. As such, VenueGen is ambitious as hell and a real eye-opener in regards to where things will have to go someday.

  19. Matt Thomas July 21, 2011

    The most engaging aspects of any 3D environment to me lies in the subtleties that make up that environment. An example: I’ve noticed in Second Life and VenueGen that they both have binaural, realistic sound. As I turn my head away from wherever the sound emitting, I’ll hear the sound more in the ear that’s closer to the sound source. And on the same note, if I walk way from a sound (i.e. someone speaking) their voice gets fainter. That’s such a simple, but impactful detail. Sound is the very essence of any environment. Other important subtleties include body language, gestures, and facial expressions — which really humanize “avatars” in a 3D environment.

    One of the most obvious things you can do in a 3D environment that’s limited in 2D, is to have a 360 degree view around yourself and around an object. Second, you can go into a first person view to simulate things such as driving a vehicle. And third, you can create and build environments around yourself (such as a house) — and do it to proper perspective and scale. All three of these things have a huge impact on learning because all three things provide the singular most important aspect of a 3D environment: context.

    If I were going to create a 3D event, I’d like to include interactions with mechanical objects. For example, I’ve always wanted to learn how a car engine works from the moment you turn the ignition to putting it into gear, driving and then turning it off. So if I could, I’d create a 3D event that puts you under the hood of a car and simulates what happens when someone actually drives a car — something I wouldn’t be able to see in real time without being a fly under the hood.

    My most favorite thing about VenueGen was the ability to create an avatar that looked pretty close to me physically. That was so impressive. I also liked seeing the speaker’s mouth, hands, and face move while speaking…it made me feel like I was in a lecture hall at school. Furthermore, being able to look around the room at other students to see their body language was a very important subtlety because this is absolutely something I would do in the real world if I was sitting in a lecture hall…shift around in my seat and look around the room (whether I’m paying attention to the lecture or not).

  20. Beckie Brisson July 21, 2011

    ◦What personnel aspects of a 3D environment do you find engaging?
    I Like the feeling of being a part of a group where some of the people in that group could be 3000 miles away. I like the idea of getting away from the classroom setting and into a virtual world were even if you are still in a classroom in the virtual world, it is still a different enviornment.

    What are the three things you can do in a 3D environment that you aren’t able to do in a 2D environment and do those three things matter for a learning perspective? In a 3D enviornment you can interact with other users at a different level. You can eat, drink, sleep, in a 3D world where in a 2D world, the feeling of reality wouldnt be as prevelent. Also, you can get away in the 3D world in a way that isnt the same in a 2D world. The 3D world is almost and escape. You can also do what we did in class monday and have class in a courtroom or classroom and be able to move your avatar in a way you couldnt do in a 2D world. I believe these three things matter in the learning world becasue they all have to do with how the learner feel in the 3D world.

    ◦If you were designing a virtual 3D event, what types of interactions and activities would you include?
    I would include Introducing all the avatars and having them do certain tasks that would relate to the lesson plan. I would have the learners get used to the avatars by doing what was done in class, buliding, flying walking around etc. I would also try to incorperate exercise techniques.

    ◦What did you like about the VenueGen learning experience?
    I liked the coorperate aspect of it. I found it easier to pay attention while class was in session.

  21. Aaron Forte July 21, 2011

    The 3D world is a great way to learn or conduct meeting over the internet. It is a great for distance communication. The avatar that we created was very detailed. It used many gestures and the facial expressions of them were very realistic. These were the things that caught my attention about the Venugen site and avatars. All of the things that we were able to shows how you can engage in learning or discussing a particular topic.
    There are some significant differences between 2D and 3D learning. For one, 2D learning environment is still, such as a background picture, nothing changes. In 3D, all angles, shapes, and sizes are accounted for and also many objects can be seen in that environment in 3D form. Another, in a 2D world, there are small interactions with each other, this make it inadequate because it will become difficult to convey messages with little images, animation, or text. 3D, gives the feel of reality. Even though it is a simulation of the real world, it helps to make a physical feel to someone even though you may be in different areas. Finally, 2D learning has little presence to the learner, whereas in 3D the learner is more engaged because of the authenticity of their own avatar or character.
    If I were designing a virtual 3D event, some of the activities would include a webquest or scavenger hunt or maybe online role playing. A webquest or scavenger hunt has found its ways to higher learning; it was intended for younger student but is now useful in today’s world. It includes basic factual knowledge, search and exploration skills, and also reflection. We could set up a program and have groups explore and search for items or clues to complete the work. In online role playing, it will have to include creative expression, concept analysis and review. With this activity the learner are engaged and it also gives them to have a little control over the event. Both of these activities would have face to face interaction with their perspective avatars. This is for the maximum experience with each other in the 3D world.
    I thought that the greatest thing from my Venuegen experience was the reality of the avatars; you could make them look very similar to yourself. I thought that was great because when growing up playing video games, I would always try to replicate myself to the game. I thought this made 3D an even better place to be in because everyone feels individualized because they have their own look and not just have a generic avatar which looks the same as everyone else.

  22. Amanda Bughman July 21, 2011

    In a 3D environment, I’m able to put faces to names and understand more about my classmates’ personalities. I’m surprised by how similar it feels to sitting in a meeting or a classroom, and a large part of that is what David touched upon. You have a heightened sense of involvement, that little bit of adrenaline kick, because everyone can see you and what you are or are not doing.

    In using a 3D environment, I feel like I’m physically with the class, I can interact in a very natural way, and I can participate in activities that cannot be realistically replicated in 2D. Adding a 3D experience to a lesson would help students build upon the information provided in a text or lecture, by letting students gather sensory information that is meaningful for their own unique way of thinking and learning. If the 3D environment is done well, the experience could result in a richer understanding which students are more likely to recall later.

    As an instructional designer, I’m not yet sure how I would integrate a 3D “event” where both the client and participants are satisfied. I’ve attended several 3D conferences, yet I could have done the same with a webinar and Twitter. As far as collaboration, there are scads of project management tools that do the same and don’t require creating an avatar. I see more potential in 3D simulations, such as allowing a nursing student to practice communicating with patients, and free-form or guided explorations, like walking through a nuclear power plant.

    I preferred the VenueGen experience to Second Life. It provided much of the control I was looking for as a trainer and it was school and work-appropriate. The gestures enhanced communication. It was easy to figure out the controls, they were practical, and I could see participants being able to use it.

  23. Jim Dougherty July 21, 2011

    I’ll admit, I was somewhat skeptical of VenueGen at first. When we first logged into the room, there were various levels of frustration from several people who were having trouble with the client, and the feeling was very much like being tossed into a deep pool without knowing how to swim–and I’m an avid gamer, so it’s not as if immersive 3D environments are something new to me.

    However, after David’s presentation, I felt MUCH more comfortable with the software and I really got a good feel for how many of the features were designed to work. I’m impressed with the amount of detail allowed by the Venuegen interactions, and the photo mapping feature certainly sets it head and shoulders above other 3D spaces with regard to realism and recognizability. The faux-physical interaction that the 3D space offers really sets it apart from 2D synchronous learning tools like Centra–the ability to “reach out and touch” objects and move around in a perceived “space” lends a significantly more immersive tone to the proceedings. Similarly, being able to utilize actual facial expressions and emotive gestures provides much stronger communication capabilities than emoticons or simple text feedback tools.

    If I were designing a learning event in a 3D space, I think that the first thing that I would do is schedule one on one sessions with everyone involved and make sure that I worked out as many of the potential technical glitches ahead of time as possible. Before I got into the actual learning objectives, I would want to verify that the space provided a positive experience for everyone. I’ve had a lot of experience introducing learners of all ages and backgrounds to new technology, and nothing is more off-putting to students than the feeling that their tools are not functioning properly (or they don’t understand how to make them function properly); I know, for instance, if I had tried to introduce campus faculty at my institution to VenueGen and the initial experience played out the way our class did the other night (connectivity issues, microphone problems, etc.), the instructors would call the experiment a colossal failure and give up after 5 or 10 minutes. In a corporate world, it would dissolve even more quickly–that’s not cynicism, it’s simply experience. That’s exactly why small-scale one-on-one tutorials might be in order for software like this that offers such a sea change for the eLearning space.

    Once I was confident that my learners were comfortable with the environment, the possibilities for the space are essentially limitless. I’m working with an instructor now who is trying to design an online lab space for chemistry experiments, and VenueGen might be the perfect tool for integrating interactive ‘discovery spaces’ online.

    Overall, I think that VenueGen (and other similar products) has enormous potential as a learning tool. Like anything in its infancy, however, this technology needs to be nursed along with extreme care, and new users need to be introduced gently and carefully to ensure their experiences are a positive one. For instance, on Monday night I didn’t discover until late in the class that my microphone apparently wasn’t working (I had raised my hand for some comments and Dr. K was clearly unable to hear me). After trying everything I could in the software, I decided a relaunch might be in order–after all, that works in Second Life. Unfortunately, after closing the client down, I wasn’t able to get it to launch again–it generated persistent critical errors on my machine, and I was forced to uninstall it completely and reinstall, by which time the class was over. I’m an early adopter, so I’m used to this kind of thing, but if I’m an old-schooler who is at all technophobic or resistant to change, these kinds of things provide all manner of excuses to stick with my chalk and overhead transparencies; until issues like this become almost nonexistent, it’s going to be tough to get traditional instructors and corporate execs to buy into this platform. I hope that’s not the case, because VenueGen really is a phenomenally useful tool with tremendous potential.

  24. Linda Brown July 21, 2011

    I’m really intrigued by the use of avatars in the 3D environment and the various ways you can customize their appearance as well as their level of interaction. VenueGen gave us the ability to upload personal photos for enhanced customization. It was fun to “look at” my class mates to see how closely they resembled the real person. The enhanced personalization makes you feel like you are really talking with the other person. As an instructor, you can use gestures as well as you tone of voice to reinforce a point. Gestures are a great way to provide feedback to the instructor and let him/her know you are engaged.

    In comparing a 3D environment to a 2D environment, 3D allows you to create a greater sense of self with your avatar. Other learners in a 3D environment get a sense of who you are based on the personalization of your avatar. Your avatar is more approachable as a life-like figure thus creating a richer learning experience. Curiosity causes learners to be more attentive as they observe other avatars. In 2D, you could display a photo of yourself, but it’s a static image which you can hide behind. The 2D emoticons tend to be “flat” and limited in their ability to convey a sense of self. I think sense of self is important in learning as you are more likely to feel like you are part of the experience.

    Secondly, 3D allows you to create a setting for the learning event. 2D lacks the ability to set the tone for the learning event as it relates to the learning environment. In 2D, you can listen to a description or view photos, but you can’t experience it. For example, in last evening’s courtroom, as spectators for the hearing, we were not initially able to leave our seats. This parallels a real court room in that spectators are not permitted to freely roam the courtroom. The 3D environment provided a realistic space for the judge, jury, dependant and plaintiff. When given permission to roam the courtroom, if you made your way to the jury area, it seemed as though you were really in a court room serving as a juror. I think experiencing the setting is important in learning as it gives you a sense for the setting and perspective to mirror the real life environment.

    Lastly, David emphasized the sense of “presence” a 3D environment provides over 2D. It’s accomplished through a multi-sensory experience of watching, listening to content, interacting with others and experiencing the environment. Additionally, 3D offers learners the opportunity to act on what they’ve just learned through an exercise individually or as a group which may simulate the real-life experience. In a 2D environment, a learner can log on and be in attendance, but not engaged in the experience. The instructor may not be aware of the learner’s lack of “presence” unless they call upon the student and receive an unsatisfactory response. The multi-sensory experience is important to learning because it causes learners to be more engaged and enables them to remember more by doing something with the newly learned skill.

    If I were creating a 3D environment, I would create an environment in which the learners have some opening time to explore their virtual setting with other virtual learners. Some self-discovery stations with information about the content expected to be covered in the lesson would be placed throughout the environment. Perhaps some small tasks would help to emphasis the importance of the lesson with tasks being able to be completed individually and/or in small groups. Continue the lesson with instruction provided through content provided through video as well as content learners could read at their own pace. Avatar instructors could observe and assist learner avatars as they complete the lesson. Reinforce what was recently learned by sending the learners back to the introductory tasks to use their newly acquired skills and see (hopefully) how their performance improved after instruction. Wrap up the session with an opportunity to share their experiences with other learners with an instructor facilitating the discussion. Inform learners they can come back to the virtual setting to review what was presented as needed. It would be important for the virtual setting to match a real life experience as it relates to the environment.

    In VenueGen, I liked the sense you had for really being in the courtroom setting. The parameters for requiring spectators to be seated helped establish your role in the environment. The enhanced ability to customize your avatar with personal photos was fascinating! The ability to select your hair style, clothing and accessories was easy to use and offered sufficient choices to express yourself. I found the ability to express yourself through gestures a bit easier to use than Second Life. The pictures displayed for the gestures were easy to follow and were well placed on the screen. David also explained the emphasis placed on ensuring gestures such as raising your hand were not the same robotic movement each time you displayed the gesture. Double clicking the hand raising gesture displayed an eagerness to gain the attention of the instructor. While a simple click may cause a slight wave with your right hand one time. On the next occurrence, your left hand would raise with conviction. Walking was also effortless as you simply clicked on where you wanted to walk to and your avatar made its way to that point. Overall, I was impressed with the VenueGen experience.

  25. Ken Boland July 20, 2011

    The most engaging part of the 3D environment to me was watching the avatar speak and act like a real person. This was accomplished by movement of the avatar’s mouth, changes in facial expression, and the use of gestures. The real life qualities of the avatar gained my attention toward the speaker. I also think that the learning environment is engaging because it can be used to fit the context of the training. Holding a mock trial in a virtual courtroom may even prove to be more engaging than holding a mock trial in a real world classroom. While the ideal situation would be to hold a mock trial in a real world courtroom, it would probably be very difficult if not impossible to arrange. So by having the virtual alternative, it could prove to be a very engaging experience for the learners because the environment looks like it would in the real world. On the other hand, if the virtual environment looked like a classroom it wouldn’t be any more engaging than holding the mock trial in a real world classroom. The experience with VenuGen further confirmed the idea that the design and context of the virtual environment is essential in engaging the learner.

    There are several differences between a 3D learning environment and a 2D learning environment. First, in a 3D learning environment, learner presence is more noticeable than in a 2D learning environment. In 3D, the learner must move their avatar frequently or will run the risk of having their avatar fall asleep. The instructor can assure the learners are present by having them walk to different locations or give them tasks to complete in the environment. In a 2D learning environment there are less options available to assure learner presence because the learners can usually only talk or type information. Second, the 3D environment can put the learner in the context of the situation, so while the 2D environment can show pictures of a courtroom, the 3D environment can actually put the learner into the environment so they can interact with it. Lastly, the 3D environment gives the learner the opportunity to perform tasks as they would in a real world environment. By using the avatar, the learners can pick up objects and interact with them. The learner can also create objects in the 3D environment. In a 2D environment the learners are limited to viewing information and can only interact with text and images. The 3D environment can offer a true simulation of the real world. For example, in the VenueGen courtroom, the learner could be told to approach the witness at the stand and ask a series of questions. That same task could not be accomplished in a 2D environment. These 3 differences between 3D and 2D environments are extremely important from a learning perspective, because they assure learner participation and offer simulations of real world experiences. From a learning perspective the 3D environment is only second to training taking place in the real world environment, which may not always be possible.

    If I were going to design a virtual 3D event, I would definitely include face-to-face interactions with other avatars, but I would also have the learners perform a task in the 3D environment. Having the learners actually do something to interact with the environment or objects in the environment would take full advantage of the possibilities of a 3D environment.

    From my experience with VenueGen, I would say what I liked best was the life like characteristics that are given to the avatar. First, you can upload pictures of yourself to create an avatar that resembles yourself in the real world. This is a great feature because it allows you to recognize people in the learning environment. Even if they don’t look exactly like they do in the real world, they still look unique in the 3D world, so you could put their name with their virtual face just like you would in a classroom setting at the start of a new class. I also really liked the natural gestures and facial expressions that the avatar makes while talking, it gives more realism to the experience. One more feature that I enjoyed was the idea that you can actually focus your avatar’s view to look directly at another avatar’s face because it can show that you are listening to the person who is speaking. I quickly realized that when someone new started talking, I was looking around the room to try to find that avatar just as I would in a real world environment. I definitely believe their is a strong possibility that the VenueGen virtual world, or something similar to it, could replace 2D learning environments in the future.

  26. Scott Stahl July 20, 2011

    I enjoyed the VenueGen experience very much last night. I enjoyed it mostly due to the very realistic way in which we could watch Mr. Gardner present to us. He was gesturing and looking around at us as if we were in an actual class. It was quite life-like! For this reason I found VenueGen to be very engaging. Just the ability for the presenter to be looking around the room and gesturing with his hands made it very realistic for me. Also, the fact that some of my classmates took the time to upload a photo to the program was a benefit. This feature again added to the life-likeness of the program.

    3d learning environments offer many advantages compared to 2d learning environments. In 3d learning environments we (our avatars) are able to interact with learning objects. For example, we were able to explore the green home that was shown to us in our first class rather than just look at a picture of the same house. I do believe that the interactivity or immersion that 3d environments provide is a critical factor in what gives them an advantage when it comes to learning.

    Another key advantage 3d learning environments provide is true collaboration. David talked about the fact that we could look at the person speaking and tell where it was coming from. This made me more engaged into the topic. For example, When David started addressing our class he was facing us and talking with hand gestures and I was very engaged. Later there was a technical difficulty that locked up my computer. From that point on David was stuck in the same position, his back to me and he was not animated. I found it more difficult to pay attention while he (his avatar) was not facing me and being animated. It just wasn’t as realistic even though I could still hear his actual voice. So I believe the ability for a 3d learning program to provide users with a face-to-face feel is very important to the learning process.

    Another option 3d learning environments provide is the ability to interact with one another through an avatar. This allows users to interact with one another in a much more personable manner than a 2d program. I believe the creation of an avatar and the ability to communicate with one another while standing face-to-face with someone can enhance the learning experience.

    If I were designing a 3d event I think the ideal learning experience could be achieved by using a combination of VenueGen and Second Life. I would use Second Life to allow users to explore a topic. For example, if I were teaching a unit on construction perhaps I would provide learners with a few minutes to explore a construction site and interact with some of the tools, materials, and equipment found at the site. After the learners had time to explore and interact I would take them into a more formal and life-like environment to discuss what they saw at the construction site and deliver the lesson essentials.

    I really liked the personableness of the VenueGen experience. I couldn’t believe how life-like it was! I though the face-to-face feel the program achieved enhanced the learning experience greatly!

  27. Shannon Humphrey July 19, 2011

    When I first began learning via online classes through the IIT program, I was a little worried about how I would perform in the classes. During my undergraduate coursework, I had an online course and it was really difficult because we had no interaction with the professor at all; he merely posted reading assignments then tested our knowledge on what we read. However, the online courses that I have had thus far within the IIT program have been wonderful learning experiences. I really enjoy the fact that we have the ability to learn from within an online 3D environment. Since I know most of my classmates very well from face-to-face classes, it is fun to interact and learn with them from within a 3D setting. I also like the fact that we can create an avatar that resembles our own appearance so I actually know who I am looking at when we are in the different learning environments. As opposed to the Centra online learning software, the 3D learning environment gives us the opportunity to move around and interact using our avatars. This is one aspect that definitely keeps me engaged during an online class. Rather than just sitting there looking at the computer screen for three hours, we are able to interact with one another and share comments and questions on the content. I feel that these learning environments will only continue to grow and flourish in the next couple of years and by implementing their use within our program now, we are only taking a step to advance ourselves and immerse ourselves into this varied form of teaching.

    There are a number of things that one can do in a 3D environment that you aren’t able to do in a 2D environment which makes a big impact on your ability to learn and succeed within the classroom. First of all, I really enjoy the fact that we are able to move our avatar from place to place around the environment in which we are learning. This doesn’t really affect the learning perspective but keeps me engaged in the lesson because I am interacting in the learning experience. I also enjoy the fact that we can work as a team on a variety of tasks such as building the rooms within Secondlife. I was really having some troubles creating the walls at first but I was able to better understand the process and technique involved because I was working in a team with another person who could answer some questions about the difficulties I was facing. It was nice to be able to group together to listen to instructions and then be given time to work on things for ourselves so that we could learn it through actually doing it. Lastly, I really like the fact that within an online 3D environment, you can make “face-to-face” eye contact with the person that you are speaking with. As David said last night, this makes a huge difference when we can directly connect with someone else through eye contact whether it being through an online 3D environment or face-to-face in reality. I don’t feel that all of this aspects are necessary for successful learning to occur but it really does enhance the teaching methods and keeps the learner more engaged in the topic being presented.

    In creating an virtual 3D event, I would probably using a program such as VenueGen because I liked the formal, corporate setting that it created. When I was in Secondlife, I felt that I was too distracted by all of the neat features that you could use that I didn’t see it as a learning forum but rather a gaming forum. I would definitely have students group together, as we did in Secondlife, for providing generalized information on a specific topic, but would give students the opportunity to break up into small groups to learning and interact with one another. I also would enact some sort of evaluation of material at the end of class. I personally like when the professor sums up the material at the end of class so that I can make sure that I clearly understood the objectives that were presented at the beginning of class. I think that it would be really interesting to give the students the opportunity to teach and present within the online worlds since this is ultimately what we will be doing following our completion of the program. It would be beneficial to learn from this perspective and to teach things that we have learned about through our personal experience working with the various programs.

    I originally had some technical difficulties with Venuegen program because it was continually kicking me out of the program over and over again. After hearing that no one else was having the same problem, I figured that it might have had something to do with my internet connection at that time. Other than this, I actually really liked the program overall. As I stated prior, I like the formal setting that it offers because it takes the environment out of the learning and provides a forum that is conducive to learning at a graduate level. The most beneficial aspect of VenueGen is the fact that you can present PowerPoint slides and internet browsers for learners to see the material being presented. I also really like the fact that there are so many hand gestures that the speaker can use depending upon their own preferences. I also stated before that I like the fact that within this program you can move your avatar from one location to another. This really breaks up the classroom experience because we are not consistently looking at the screen but rather interacting with one another. I think that it is important to break up a class by having everyone move around just as you would in a face-to-face lecture. If I am staring at the computer for too long, or listening to a professor for too long, I lose my focus on the material and end up not being able to comprehend the information as a whole. Personally I really liked the VenueGen program and hope that some of the technical problems can be worked out of the program because, other than that, I feel that this is a very beneficial learning forum for students such as myself!

Karl Kapp
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