Third Summer 2011 “Learning in 3D Class”

Monday night in class we had the opportunity to check out VirtualU and see how it functioned.

Here we are gathering to begin our journey to different worlds within VirtualU.

It was a fascinating virtual environment that provided a number of great examples of how virtual environments can be used for instruction. The tour was led by Digitell CEO James Parker who expertly guided us through different uses of virtual worlds.

One example allowed the students to become firefighters and to learn about different equipment while entering into a burning building. The neat thing was that as the students arrived in the world, they automatically where dressed appropriately as fire fighters and were thrust into the “heat” of the moment.

We then got to observe a concert venue that featured streaming video of different bands shown in different places including a concert by the beach.

We also got to see various locations used for negotiation training and Jim explained how Mark Jankowski, Co-Founder and President of Shapiro Negotiations Institute (SNI) uses a virtual world to help teach about negotiation skills. Well done Mark and Jim! Intersting use of virutal world to immerse the learners in the concepts they need to learn as it relates to negotations.

Here is an article on the software:
VirtualU integrates 2D, 3D conferences

So the questions for this blog posting are:

  • How can virtual worlds be used for non-traditional training? How can it be used to supplement traditional training?
  • What types of subjects are most effectively taught in a virtual immersive environment?
  • What is your impression of the different learning environments in VirtualU?
  • What did you like about the VirtualU learning experience?

Posted in: 3D worlds, 3D worlds lrn3d, Avatar, virtual immersive environment

Leave a Comment (25) ↓


  1. Ronald Wagner August 9, 2011

    How can virtual worlds be used for non-traditional training?

    Virtual worlds can provide the missing visual learning context. While a learner can visualize an environment by reading or looking at a picture, having the ability to learn within a context using virtual worlds may be more effective for visual and kinesthetic learners. In my field of athletic training I can think of many uses for virtual worlds. At the top of the list is problem based learning. In problem based learning, standardized patients are used to train students on clinical decision making skills. Since the standardized patients are human, it is possible that a student’s decision could injure the patient. Virtual worlds could provide an opportunity for students to make clinical decisions without any fear of injuring the patient.

    How can it be used to supplement traditional training?

    Instead of an asynchronous self-paced courses, virtual worlds could be used to stage instruction prior to a face to face meeting. Learners could be instructed to complete a training module within a virtual world vs. reading a lengthy manuscript. This could aid in higher level discussions during the face to face meeting time. Perhaps virtual immersive environments is the new “Blended elearing.”

    What types of subjects are most effectively taught in a virtual immersive environment?

    I think all subjects could be taught in a virtual immersive environment because it is another medium for delivering instruction. Subjects that demand learning within specific contexts would benefit most from virtual learning environments. In my own field of athletic training, the implications for virtual immersive environments is limitless. At a very early stage in a student’s education process, I could use this environment to teach students concepts such as managing heat related illnesses. I could expose students to avatars on a football feel in South Texas on a July afternoon progressing from thirsty to lethargic to dead without ever hurting anyone.

    What is your impression of the different learning environments in VirtualU?
    Some of the environments were more distracting than others. I learned that context matters. My favorite was the beach because it took me to a place of relaxation immediately. It was interesting that we left the beach for the formal instruction portion of the class. Although we were in class, changing the context to a more academic environment aided my learning.

    What did you like about the VirtualU learning experience?
    VirtualU’s worlds were well constructed and easy to use. The avatar control panel was very easy to use. Unlike SL, I was not intimidated a bit by controls and options for my avatar.

  2. Jim Dougherty August 4, 2011

    Kudos to Parker and his team–VirtualU was by far the most stable, polished, and well-considered digital venue that we’ve seen yet (in my humble opinion). While it may lack some of the impressive emotive features of VenueGen and the sheer scope of Second Life, it had enough interesting elements and such a smoothly-implemented featureset that it was a very attractive and compelling tool. With all due respect to the other developers, this is the first environment where I felt I could comfortably bring neophyte corporate clients and be confident that they wouldn’t flounder trying to learn the technology and interface, or be so frustrated by game-breaking bugs that they simply give up.

    Virtual worlds like this can be used for training in a variety of different ways. They’re a great platform for launching serious games and simulations, particularly if the curriculum requires an integrated set of different games or sims. The firefighting simulation represents that approach very well: obviously you’re not going to instill in a student the sense memory and urgency of an actual emergency in a 3D environment, but it’s a great way to reinforce SOPs, prioritization, and problem solving skills.

    As James pointed out, subjects like Art and Music history are great candidates for virtual environments. While they may lack the tactile functionality of an actual museum or concert hall, the environments are admirably suited to delivering content to students in a high-quality way, and experiencing the media in situ (albeit virtually) is much more tangible than simply looking at it in a book or listening to a recording. That extends beyond the arts as well; essentially any subject that doesn’t require extensive hands-on immersion could be presented virtually in a very effective way with a little planning and hard work.

    The learning environments themselves were well-considered and impressive–I particularly liked the negotiation scenario where we progressed up the hill. As I mentioned above, the museum was very well done, and the sample conference area was also excellent–particularly the use of multimedia elements as our avatars traveled around the room.

    Overall I think VirtualU was a pretty amazing piece of software, and I’m going to keep my eye on it as it continues to develop.

  3. Eric Newby August 3, 2011

    Virtual worlds can be used for non-traditional training by taking any kind of setting really and turning in into virtual reality. For example, in Second Life, when users are put into a particular world, important information can then be scattered all around that world. Supplement traditional training can be used by taking users of virtual worlds and putting them in an actual work environment/setting, i.e. VirtualU’s use of a college campus for college students to tour.
    I feel as though the most effective subjects taught in a virtual environment are those that can be interactive as well as infomative. For example, the virtual tours in VirtualU are a great tool for showing users a college campus, while also presenting informative audio that goes with the presentation. Any kind of tour or game that provides important information to users is a great way to increase the number of viewers and the effectiveness of that particular world.
    My initial impression of VirtualU wasn’t too good only because it took a while to finally get my audio to work, but once the problem was fixed, I was pretty impressed with the program because it had a real college campus feel to it, and I was able to explore the campus, and interact with different activities.
    I was definitely a fan of the basketball game. I am a huge video gamer, so that was right up my ally.

  4. Aaron Forte August 2, 2011

    Virtual worlds can be used for non-traditional training by giving the user a sense of reality in a false setting. Using an avatar to learn and apply skill that will be used in a classroom could be beneficial to the user. Learning can be achieved if when you are put in a difficult situation and overcome the obstacle with the learned training.
    The most effective way to be taught in a virtual immersive environment would be either government jobs mainly used for simulations of criteria needed for the job at hand or city and state jobs such as police officers or firefighters. They need active simulations to perform and recognize certain situations they may even be life threating.
    My impression of different learning environments in VirtualU is very good. I like the idea of using the different environments because it give the user more than one aspect of a particular setting and it can help them adapt to any setting that they may encounter at another time.
    What I liked about Virtual U was the ability of the avatars and the versatility they have brought. Very impressed by what they have done and was very fun to control.

  5. Jessica Andrezze August 2, 2011

    If this class has taught me anything is it the fact that virtual worlds can be used for just about any kind of training. Every new example we see of different software and different environments I am amazed. VirtualU has been my favorite world to date. Using virtual worlds for non-traditional training is a world of endless possibilities. For example the beach scene that was used to describe negotiating and sales skills was a great way to engage the audience by making the environment interesting and interactive, but still offered great information for the learners. They created the instruction in such a way that not only were the learners hearing and seeing the information, but they were also performing actions that enhanced the learning that much more.

    Virtual worlds can be used to supplement traditional training in many ways. Role-play exercises have been used in training for a very long time, but now virtual worlds take role-playing to a whole new level. Now the characters in the role-play can dress the part and act in a realistic environment rather then in the front of a classroom with a chalkboard as the backdrop. To combine this with traditional training instructors could teach basic concepts in a classroom and then move the role-play to a virtual environment to really drive home those concepts with the learner.

    Based on what I have learned so far, I am finding that, when used correctly, virtual worlds can effectively teach almost any subject. Subjects that I feel work especially well are those that teach things that you are able to create an entire world around where the learners can interact with that subject. For example, the burning building used for training the firefighter was a great way to inform people without putting them in harms way. I think a lot of science, engineering, and mechanical subjects are also taught well in virtual worlds because you are able to immerse the students in things that would be impossible to do in the real world. In a virtual world you can have students walk through the human body and see various microscopic things that they would never be able to see in a traditional classroom.

    I really enjoyed our time in the VirtualU worlds. I also liked how your avatars outfits changed based on the environment you entered. As mentioned previously, this has been my favorite world to date. I encountered the least amount of technological problems here as well. Getting to see Sydney was really neat because Australia is somewhere I have always found fascinating, but have no plans of visiting in the near future due to monetary constraints. I also really liked the fire house and how everyone had to work together to put out the blaze. I think that is a great way to train the firemen on not only how to put out a fire, but also how to work together. I also enjoyed the way they were able to combine education with entertainment. I had a great time riding the jet skis and sitting on the beach, but was still able to keep engaged in the educational aspects as well.

  6. Yousef Alshrari August 1, 2011

    First, I would like to thank James Parker for the clear explanation of how we can use the VirtualU environment. The information that James Parker gave us was really informative.

    It is clear to see that the virtual world can be used for non-traditional training. From what I have experienced from my last class in VirtualU, I got the idea of how we can use these tools for non-traditional training. For example, I had the experience of being a fireman and witnessing how they reacted with firefighting in VirtualU. I have not experienced it in real life, and I think that it was a decent example of supplemental training. In VirtualU, I had the opportunity to visit some famous places such as Sydney that I have not been to in real life. I believe that these tools can be used to pursue non-traditional training for those who do not have the ability to try it in real life. Also, these virtual worlds can help me as a trainee to learn and practice new things that I have not used before in my real life.

    Languages and History are the most common subjects that are being taught effectively in virtual immersive environments. Nowadays, students who want to study the English language do not have to go to the United States or any country that speaks English. Instead, creations like these virtual worlds help students learn the English language in a convenient way. I actually started to use some 3D environments to learn Spanish, and I found them very useful. These virtual environments help students who wish to learn languages, such as the English, Spanish, and Arabic languages, in the most convenient way without having to spend a lot of money and time.

    Through all these environments that I have attended in VirtualU, my thinking about virtual worlds has totally changed. I felt that I was really there with my classmates. Now, through using a virtual world, I can learn any language without going to a specific country to learn it. From our last class, I learned how the firefighters control the fire. In this example, I learned how to put the fire out, and in some cases I would be ready to do it in real life. These virtual environments are very realistic; for example, when we went to a Native American Indian environment, I felt I was acting like them, especially when my avatar changed into a Native American Indian.

    I liked everything about the VirtualU environment, especially when my avatar’s appearance changed from one environment to another. Through using the previous virtual world environments, I found VirtualU to be an outstanding environment that lets you feel free when you move around to different places in a suitable way. In conclusion, the VirtualU environment is an interesting program to use due to the smooth interface that it has.

  7. Jessica Christ August 1, 2011

    Virtual worlds such as VirtualU are fascinating learning tools. They provide a “real life” venue’s that can help teach by allowing students to actually be at a location and explore it. As a teacher I understand the difficulty with certain topics that students can only read about or possibly watch a video on but we all know that is not a very beneficial way or learning. These virtual worlds provide a learning experience that students can literally dive right into the information being taught. The learning comes alive with these virtual worlds and the students actually enjoy learning in this environment because it becomes fun.
    Many subject areas will benefit from virtual worlds and it is definitely a tool that is not being utilized enough. In my opinion some of the major subject area’s that will benefit the most are history, geography, and science. It would be fantastic to have a world that would help teach about dinosaurs or the civil war or even an economic simulation. Students could simply login on a computer and be able to learn about the Indian Ocean, Antarctica, and the layout of South Africa all in the same virtual world. As a student myself I often wanted to explore a volcano and be at the eye of a hurricane. I’ve read about them but a virtual world could help students actually get a better understanding of these interesting areas of science. But basically and subject that has critical situations that can be dangerous, require precision, are an emergency situation, or require preparation, training, and experience can benefit from virtual worlds.
    So far, VirtualU has been my favorite virtual world. The environments were so detailed and real that I felt like I was actually there. I loved that as we experienced different venue’s our avatars adapted. When we went to the Indian Reservation we became Native Americans, and when we went to the fire fighting exposition we because firefighters. There was less personal interaction between the avatars but as a high school teacher this was the best virtual world for me. In one class I was able to swim and ride Jet Ski’s at the beach, fight a fire as an actual firefighter, visit the Sydny Opera House, visit an Indian tribe as an actual Native American, and see a concert venue that plays live bands. The possibilities seemed endless in VirtualU and I think in a high school setting this virtual world would benefit my students the most!

  8. Dan Kreisher August 1, 2011

    The use of virtual worlds for non-traditional training can be essential when training learners for activities that need to provide an experience for user with the possible dangers involved of actual on the site training. To get learners acclimated with the typical conditions and feel of an environment, instructors can allow learners to supplement their learning by logging more time on a virtual trainer.

    Really any subject could be a great candidate for virtual immersive environments. A couple of subjects that come to mind are English courses where students can get into the character they are reading about and explore a setting. Another Subject would be history where students can again get into character and learn about different time periods, interact with historical figures and experience the cultures of ancient civilizations.

    I was impressed with the mass array of learning environments that VirtualU offers to learners. The many different venues that the avatars are able to attend is amazing. The ability to attend concerts, mass lecture halls, the beach, decision platforms, ect are really great ways to expose learners to different types of locations to give an authentic experience.

    I liked how we were able to get to experience what a burning house was like. I have never had any chance to experience what a structure fire was like; I feel like this was a pretty authentic experience. I recall getting trapped in a section of the house and not able to move. Even though I knew it was not a real situation, I still felt a sort of panic and felt like I needed to get out of the house. It is amazing how users can go through emotions as if they are actually engaged in a real life experience. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience, but definitely was amazed at how authentic the fire fighting section was developed.

  9. Beckie Brisson August 1, 2011

    How can virtual worlds be used for non-traditional training?
    With virtual worlds the learner can be put directly into the environment being taught about. The learner can experience hand on what is being taught without spending money to travel there or resources to get there. Also, people can get to know their classmates or fellow employees by talking to them and judging them by their personalities as opposed to seeing them in person and making judgments that way. People with similar interests are brought together through virtual worlds.

    How can it be used to supplement traditional training?
    It can be used kind of how we have been using it. Sitting in a classroom learning about a certain topic is a traditional method of training but instead of physically being in a classroom the learner is virtually present. Slide shows, movies clips, powerpoint presentations, and speeches can all be performed in the virtual world.
    What types of subjects are most effectively taught in a virtual immersive environment?
    In my opinion history or anthropology are the subjects that provide the learner with the most interesting virtual world. If a learner was to go into a virtual world for the subject of math, the virtual world would hold no benefit. However, with history and anthropology the learners can go into different worlds, see different time periods, and see different people.
    What is your impression of the different learning environments in VirtualU?
    What did you like about the VirtualU learning experience?
    This was my favorite virtual world so far. There were no bugs and I found it easy to transport. I also felt there were more options when it came to the different worlds and I liked how the movement worked and the first person perspective.

  10. Asma Almaghlouth August 1, 2011

    VirtualU is one of the most fascinating adventures of my entire life. I really thought I was exploring something in real. Virtual space aims to imitate physical rooms, the student would explore it, room by room. In a museum, the information space is structured by ‘painting schools’ and the most incredible thing is that some objects are clickable so you may zoom in and click it to get more information. Virtual learning environments will improve the quality of education or reduce the costs of educational systems. However, the past tells us that it is very difficult to set up the conditions that turn potential into actual effects. Anyway, even if there were no proof of superiority in terms of learning outcomes, the evolution would not stop. The question is not to prove but to understand.
    I believe VirtualU is a great place for training, it’s simply for expanding one’s mind and learning something new without moving from the chair and it explores how this innovation could further benefit students. Also, it provides tours and encourages student to explore and discover any environment that have listed in this simulation world. It connects students with each other by open the world to all of you. Students can access the material over VirtualU at any time of day or night.
    Virtual learning is flexible. Unlike traditional classrooms, virtual learning activities often occur in unstructured environments. Even while working in class, the student needs to have a certain amount of self discipline to stay on task with the virtual lesson and avoid other distracting activities such as idle Web surfing. It delivers various of methods. It allows learners to perceive the environment, assess situations and performance, perform actions and proceed through experiences and lessons that will allow them to perform better with more experience on repetition on the same task in similar circumstances.

  11. Tracey Turnquist August 1, 2011

    This was our 3rd and by far the best experience I had in a 3D world. It seemed more simplistic than Second Life and VenueGen. The way we traveled from world to world was great and I did love the multiple ways to use 3D worlds in education and entertainment.

    3D worlds can be used for non-traditional training by allowing distance learning not feel so distant. It will allow you to create whatever venue is needed for the particular training. It will also allow you to interact within in a multidimensional environment. 3D worlds are very similar to simulations that create realistic environments for real world training.

    I really don’t think there are certain subjects that are more effectively taught using 3D environments. I think that every subject area can benefit from it, if well thought through and well designed. Learning should always be in a real world scenario so that it can be used in the real world. For instance math. Many people feel like there is no need for math but if you create a virtual world where math is needed on a daily basis then learning will not be so boring. It is not likely that all math classes can visit the Market Exchange, but with a virtual immersive environment any class can visit one.

  12. Eric Sellix August 1, 2011

    Virtual worlds can be an excellent choice for non-traditional training. Any time that an experience would be dangerous or unhealthy for the participants, like the fire example, a virtual world provides an opportunity to still show your example or to immerse your learners in the experience while still keeping them safe. When doing traditional training, virtual worlds can make some of the most detailed, and best diagrams ever as opposed to using paper. For example if you were teaching a course about DNA you would have a handout showing the structure of DNA. With a virtual world like SL or VirtualU you could instead build a scale model of DNA and allow learners to explore it on their own, giving a better example of the true size of everything.

    The best subjects for immersive environments are science, technology, and real world examples. If you wanted to create a course about certain architecture styles an immersive environment would allow you to actually build and show the styles in 3D as opposed to just pictures.

    The different learning environments in VirtualU all felt different enough that they were interesting while still keeping the control scheme and interaction that was necessary. The environments did have a user cap though, and it was easy to see why. Too many people in the firefighter example would play havoc with your sound.

    When looking at VirtualU it felt like a comfortable medium between Second Life and VenueGen. SL has educational aspects, but it wasn’t designed for that. It was meant to be a Sims style game where you could create whatever you wanted and look however you wanted. VenueGen is only for educational and business applications. It has the deepest levels of communication using facial expressions and non verbal communication through your avatar. VirtualU feels somewhere in between. It has social aspects, the stage and concerts, but it can still be used as a business and educational tool.

  13. Katherine Hinkle August 1, 2011

    Vitrual worlds can be used for non-traditional training in a variety of ways. For example, in VirtualU we were able to travel to Camden Yards, the world famous baseball field. We were able to hold a meeting in an executive suite. I believe that these virtual settings make your more traditional tasks like board meetings, more enjoyable. Virtual worlds can supplement traditional training because virtual worlds eleminate the need to all be physically in one place at the same time. You are also able to train, in life like situations, like firefighting, without the risk of injury which was really cool in Virtual U.

    l think subjects that are very “hands on” in nature, are the most beneficial to learn in a virtual world. Like I had mentioned earlier with the firefighter scenario, how many times can you really practice going into a burning building before you can do it for a living? I don’t particularly know the answer, but I can imagine having a different and safer way of practice can be very beneficial, and allowys for more practice.

    I really loved the diffferent virtual environments that VirtualU had to offer. I thought all of them that we visited, were designed very well and with the specific client in mind. My favorite, would probably be the world where we could watch streaming concerts on the beach. I thought that was so cool and scene was designed perfectly for the age in mind. We could change our appearances to more suit the scene complete with tattoos and different clothing, we could also even jet ski! Overall, I loved VirtualU and was impressed with it, more so then the others that we visited.

    I think that the learning experience in VirtualU was exceptional. I found it easy to not only pay attention but also to explore. The opportunity for further knowledge within the different virtual worlds was immense. I especially liked the medical virtual world and thought the idea that they were holding a large medical conference in a virtual world pretty revolutionary, and was thankful for the opportunity to explore that a little.

  14. Rachied Blythe August 1, 2011

    In my opinion I think VirtualU was a combination of SecondLife’s fun interactive environment combined with VenueGen professional atmosphere. When first entering VirtualU it appears to have the same theme as SecondLife which is fun, engaging and also a 3D world where interacting with others is the main goal; but once you see how VirtualU can be structured to provide training and to also have 3D environments where you can receive useful information you can clearly see how this world can be used in a educational way. I really enjoyed being in VirtualU because navigation was very user friendly and also the set-up of the different elements where breathe taking. When we visited Australia I was really blown away by all the unique detail that went into making that environment and I also enjoyed the fire fighter training.
    With non-traditional training an instructor can take away the pressures of sitting in a classroom and place a learner in an environment where they might be able to relax and really absorb all the training. For example, when went to the beach I was very much engaged due to my surroundings but I wasn’t distracted at all. All training is not going to be fun but if an instructor could somehow incorporate some type of amusement into the training I think that would make the difference in the training being beneficial to the learner.
    I think geography, oceanography and anytime of history class would be most effective if they were taught in a virtual immersive environment. Not everyone has the money to tour the world, but if a 3D world was well designed I think it would be close to the real thing. It would provide learners with opportunity to really get a chance to be placed in another environment which would give the learner a better connection to the training and most importantly experience learning new information in a new way.

  15. Desiree Eddins August 1, 2011

    Throughout this class, it is great to see how much virtual worlds can be used as tools for learning. Virtual worlds can be used for non-traditional training as well as a supplement to traditional trainings. Virtual worlds can be used for non-traditional training because they are able to provide opportunities for learners to learn outside of a classroom environment. For example, VirtualU provided worlds that helped learners learn about firefighters and the different equipment they use to put out fires. It also helps learners learn in a more relaxed environment such as the beach. Music classes can use this virtual environment to put on concerts at the beach via huge stages and big screens. Therefore, virtual learning environments are great for non-traditional training.
    Virtual learning environments can also be used to supplement traditional training through practice scenarios. For example, firefighters can practice putting out fires in a virtual environment before going out in a real life fire. They can learn about all of the equipment they will need to use when there is a fire and practice navigating through virtual buildings before completing various tasks in the real world. Practice in a virtual environment will help learners feel more comfortable completing a task in the real world.

    I think that science and social studies would be subjects that are most effectively taught in a virtual immersive environment. I think that these subjects need to be taught in a hands-on way and virtual worlds are a great way to do that. Learners can be taken back in time to pioneers day or to the early days of the start of America through a virtual environment. This can help learners feel more connected with the topic and have fun learning. Virtual environments provide learners with opportunities to have fun learning these subjects that would otherwise be classified as “dry and boring.”

    I really enjoyed VirtualU. I think that this class was the best and most fun so far this semester. I really liked how involved we were able to be in this learning environment. I loved how we were dressed like firefighters and could learn about the equipment that is used to put out fires. I also really enjoyed the beach and how we could ride on jet skis. It made me feel like I was really at the beach. VirtualU contained very interesting and engaging learning environments. This program offered a great number of different learning environments to meet every learners needs and provided many opportunities to keep learners engaged.

  16. Shannon Humphrey July 31, 2011

    Virtual worlds are perhaps one of the newest and most intriguing ways to promote online and non-traditional training. Virtual worlds provide a forum where learners of all types can be reached through a varied form of teaching methods. These types of virtual worlds promote learning for auditory, visual, and hands-on learners. Virtual worlds can be used as a means to supplement traditional training to enhance the learning environment while also engaging them within an interactive forum. Non-traditional learners who work full-time jobs and run a household can still find a means to receive an education by attending classes within virtual worlds rather than attending a class on campus. Learners can also create avatars that represent and reflect their own personal style and appearance so that fellow classmates have a clear representation as to who they are speaking with. Overall, virtual worlds create immense benefits and extend teaching methods to students who may not necessarily have had the opportunity to further their education.
    Virtual worlds offer opportunities for learning that extend past traditional learning styles. Many people can benefit from virtual immersive environments which include typical college students, non-traditional college students, high school students, and employees in their training process. Along with this, it also benefits learners due to the fact that they don’t necessarily need to be within the same exact location like traditional classroom settings. With an increasing immersion of these types of learning environments, people across all age-groups and demographics have the ability to succeed through learning forums such as the ones we have seen which include Second Life, Venuegen, and VirtualU. Perhaps one of the most common type of subjects who are benefiting from these types of learning environments include corporate clients. Those who used to pay thousands of dollars for airfare and accommodations for a business meeting, now have the ability to meet online in these virtual worlds and conduct their meetings just as though they were sitting in the same room as one another. Where we once used face-to-face communication for these types of business transactions, we are now turning to virtual worlds.
    I personally enjoy the different learning environments that we have taken a look at. The only thing that poses as an issue to me are the various troubleshooting issues that we have come across within each of the various virtual worlds. While these issues are expected due to the fact that they are online environments, they could pose as immense problems if you are experiencing technical difficulties during an important meeting or business transaction. Despite these troubleshooting issues, I think that virtual worlds are extremely beneficial for incorporating interaction into 3D learning environments. The benefits that virtual worlds provide surely outweigh the costs and as a result I feel that these will continue to grow in popularity and will grow as a means to extend learning opportunities to non-traditional students.
    The one thing that really stood out to me about VirtualU was the varied locations that were possible to promote learning. I really thought that they had a great idea by providing the fireman environment where they learned training on the new equipment. I also enjoyed the fact that they are promoting the use of online virtual worlds for music sharing through the concert on the beach environment. I feel that the other worlds were more specified as Second Life was for playing within the virtual world and Venuegen was for business and corporate meetings while VirtualU also had those functions yet extend to other users as well. James Newman, Digitell’s director of virtual technology, is quoted as saying “What we’re all around is building specific branded environments for our clients to fit whatever needs that might be.”

  17. Matt Thomas July 31, 2011

    How can virtual worlds be used for non-traditional training? How can it be used to supplement traditional training?
    What types of subjects are most effectively taught in a virtual immersive environment?
    What is your impression of the different learning environments in VirtualU?
    What did you like about the VirtualU learning experience?

    Virtual worlds as they pertain to non-traditional training, can be used to simulate an environment or to provide more context for training outside of the traditional training environments. For example, in VirtualU’s fire fighter environment, fire fighter cadets could do “pre-training” simulation of entering a burning structure and performing certain procedural steps as practice before executing them in a real world environment.

    Furthermore, as supplemental training, cadets could practice the procedural steps for operating something like a fire hose or even equipment on a fire truck outside of the hands-on classrooms traditionally found in fire fighter academies. The benefit of the virtual world is that it can provide as close to the real thing as possible 24/7 — when real world objects (such as fire fighting equipment) is not available.

    To me, as a virtual world platform advocate, I see almost infinite possibilities in the subjects that could be taught in in VIEs. To name just a few: art history, applied mathematics, engineering, military training, geography, geology, physics, 3D modeling, customer service, human factors, biology, and many more.

    VirtualU’s various learning environments were each outstanding in their own way. The negotiation environment was particularly cool and different because of the beach setting — how often do you get to take negotiations training in a beach setting? I found the firefighting environment to be the most immersive because of all of the outstanding fx: 1. Our avatars were clothed in fire fighter gear 2. The environment’s ambient sound fx were impressive and immersive 3. The visual environment was also very well done in terms of the smoke and fire fx, and the structure (house).

    Out of all of the virtual worlds to which I’ve been introduced so far, I’d say VirtualU is my favorite. I’ve always harped on the performance of these different environments (in terms of hardware and network lag). VirtualU’s performed the best by far. Very little lag. Worlds loaded very quickly. And though I felt at first there was a mild learning curve with the interface, I became quickly acclimated — I’d say if there was one improvement VirtualU could make, it would be to reskin their software’s interface to be a bit more user friendly.

    I was particularly impressed with how much you can interact with the environment and roam freely within the environment. Hopping on the jet ski at the beach, and being able to ride it was a really nice touch (that extent of that functionality has quite a few potential learning implications). My favorite environment by far, was the last place we visited: the art museum. I loved how you could walk around the museum and zoom in on the artwork on the walls — I felt it was a very engaging experience.

  18. Joshua Stoner July 31, 2011

    Virtual worlds such as VirtualU allow users to gain a more enhanced training into not only the details of how certain situations should be handled (for example), but can also exemplify the wrongful consequences of some situations. Specifically comes to mind the firefighter area in VirtualU. We as users could experience the fire spreading and if we fully knew how to use the equipment within the area we might have even been able to understand the proper procedures or steps to put the fire(s) out within the home. Furthermore, the development and usage of such environments remain in existence even without a training meeting being held or schedule and so users can revisit environments and take some time themselves just to explore and gain a significant learning experience on their own time and at their own pace or just gain a bit of a memory refresh visiting an environment again.

    I feel virtual immersive environments effectively teach subjects that require or entail a great deal of application or visual experience or reliance. The virtual environments greatly enhance the learning experience of such subjects that rely heavily on one or the other as users can obtain an experience of specific places without necessary travel or entrance fees becoming an issue.

    In VirtualU the aspect of a user’s avatar becoming a part of the environment they enter captivated a greater immersive experiences. There also seemed to be less trouble in the use of the VirtualU program as opposed to some of the others we as a class have experienced. This provided a greater response in my opinion for the ability to have users easily access the virtual environments and quickly get adjusted to the program.

    For me the key positives of the VirtualU experience would definitely be the ease of use, the “just working” factor (less trouble & hassle to get a program to work = the better) and of course the incorporation of flying in the virtual environments as flying is just better and it is a virtual world… who wants to just walk and run?

  19. Jamie Weaver July 31, 2011

    Ask any knowledgable trainer in corporate America where the bulk of learning takes place, and I will bet none of them will tell you the classroom or conference room. Most of what I learned in 20+ years in the workforce was what we refer to as “on the job training.” This phrase covers a widely diverse world– trial-and-error, asking a coworker, working in teams, watching others, calling the help desk, researching for a solution to a specific issue.
    I have sat in the conference room and watched the powerpoint presentation by many over paid consultants that had no clue how things “worked in the real world.” Most of that training was mandated and had no direct correlation to my job and its duties.

    Even the conferences I attended were not always the most informative, if one only attended the sessions. I did usually learn things in the sessions. Like the immersive world of VirtualU, I have found many conference sessions would spur thoughts or questions. And many times, those ideas raised more questions than provided answers. However, I did discover that conferences, like the workplace, provide a unique chance for leaning in the networking opportunities. With companies cutting budgets (and travel expenses), a space like VirtualU gives participants the opportunity to not only attend sessions but to have “events.”

    I loved the virtual showroom we explored and could see a real use for this in bringing together professionals from all over to share ideas, demonstrate products, show new uses for tools, etc. I would provide those participants with breakout rooms where they could share experiences and ideas, ask questions and get information. Some breakout sessions could be moderated, some self-guided tours and others just a place to hang out after the sessions and network.

    Thinking about some of my past supervisors, I understand that perhaps this non-traditional approach to learning would not suit everyone. But I know enough professionals that are comfortable enough with technology to navigate and benefit from the easily acquired skills in VirtualU.

  20. Marcus Valeriano July 31, 2011

    In Class 2’s blog post, I discussed how I would use a virtual world to learn about soccer stadiums. When I saw that we were going to Camden Yards, I realized that my thoughts could be made a “virtual” reality in VirtualU. With this environment being realized, you can really use any environment for non-traditional training. For my example, if I were a training manager at the Old Trafford soccer stadium in Manchester, England, I would have my new hires that work within the stadium to walk their way through the environment by giving them a virtual tour of the stadium. Another example, as displayed in the Virtual U environment, would be to develop a setting that is engaging and enjoyable for my audience. I’d also develop learning in a way to fit the setting such as the ‘yes’ sand levels. I feel that virtual worlds can be used to supplement training by providing the main concepts of a subject in the traditional training room, followed by experiencing an actual environment where errors can be made and worked out before reaching the actual environment that the training described. A great example of this would be the firefighter simulation within VirtualU. The concepts could be displayed in the fire company’s training room, but before new firefighters can head into the real setting, they can develop their skills within a virtual immersive environment without worrying about human error and making sure their skills are correct before entering a real environment.

    I truthfully feel that any type of subject could be effectively taught in a virtual immersive environment. We have seen concepts of building as if we were architects in SecondLife. We have seen where concepts can be seen via role-play in VenueGen’s courtroom. We have seen a wide array of different environments from expos, to sports fields, to auditoriums, and to being a firefighter experience a virtual house fire. With the advancement of these settings, the only difference today is the difference that has set apart real and virtual worlds, being the ability to be face to face with each other and actually experiencing the real setting where all senses are in effect rather than just sight and sound. However, virtual worlds do their best by using avatars to replicate a real world environment to their maximum potential in a virtual world. I believe virtual worlds have a leg up in a sense that you can experience any environment that has been developed without the possibility of getting hurt or having others in danger, more specifically relating to the firefighter demonstration. Also, it allows for errors to be made without consequence, where as in a real world consequences can be found with any niggling mistake.

    The learning environments in VirtualU have been the best experience for me so far. The possibilities seemed limitless. Each environment seemed as real as you could possibly make a 3D virtual environment. We jumped from place to place, different environment to different environment, and each time I was so impressed with the realistic view of it all. I feel VirtualU supplied more realistic options at a quick transfer rate. For example, in SecondLIfe, we have the option to teleport to different locations but the environments don’t replicate the real thing as if we teleport to London or Paris. In VenueGen, we were only able to experience one room due to VenueGen’s objective to provide one meeting environment for one meeting. If we could have experienced different meeting settings, I think VenueGen would be right up there with VirtualU. Everywhere I went in VirtualU, I felt that I was experiencing an environment with the realest of settings available that I could take to a real world setting and be knowledgeable due to experiencing the different environments.

    The Virtual U learning experience was great. It moved fast from place to place, but I think Digitell CEO James Parker just had so much to show us in a short period of time! It was difficult to keep up because of this but, as mentioned in the above paragraph, the environments were seamlessly real and the possibilities limitless. I was a bit weary going in as I am a Mac user and Windows users could only use the 3D environment. I do realize that the difference between Mac and Windows is still evident in the technology world, but more and more software is being developed for all platforms. Nonetheless, the experience was simply amazing. Out of the three venues I have been to so far, VirtualU won me over, especially with my hopes of some day developing 3D environments for stadiums of soccer clubs. Good on you, VirtualU!

  21. Alyssa Genovese July 29, 2011

    Virtual worlds can be used for non-traditional training by doing exactly what you described in the blog. Being thrown into a relevant situation as an avatar and applying the skills learned through classroom or online training in the context. I believe the best part of learning is then applying what you have learned to a relevant situation. A virtual world is a great environment to do this, like the firefighting example we all got to experience. That firefighting experience could be used as a first step when training new firefighters–to introduce them to a realistic scenario without the real life risk and harm involved.

    Types of subjects I believe that are most effectively taught in virtual environments would be job positions that have to follow a certain protocol. Governmental jobs, medical receptionists/secretaries, and caseworkers–like the ones we are portraying in our SecondLife project are a few examples of job positions that have a certain protocol that has to be followed for each client. I think that these jobs are efficiently and effectively represented through virtual training because a trainee can observe how to apply the different steps of interaction with clients via avatars in a virtual world. By observing the interactions and protocol in a virtual world by avatars–a trainee can view the raining in the comfort of their own home and the trainer does not have to spend a lot of money making an actual video with actors or have the trainees watch actual employees work because it may make one of the two parties uncomfortable.

    I was very impressed by the VirtualU learning environments. I loved how immersive they were–allowing the avatars to grab a tool and run into a burning building and view priceless works of art as close as one wants. It was very interesting to see all the different actions an avatar was able to do, another fun one was jet skiing.

    Like I said, the immersive nature of Virtual U was outstanding. The ability and freedom of the avatar was better than in the other virtual worlds we have been to previously in class. I think it is a fun, interesting learning environment that I would recommend using to any learning/training developer.

  22. Lauren Dyer July 29, 2011

    How can virtual worlds be used for non-traditional training? How can it be used to supplement traditional training? Virtual worlds can be used for non-traditional training by offering a world the user can be in that he or she might not actually be able to experience in real life. For example, when my brother was younger, he went to the NASA Space camp. There he was put in a series of non-traditional training simulations because obviously they didnt have the experience or the complete knowledge of going through the real training. I guess this would be also an example of supplemental training. Swapping it out for the actual training that the Astronauts go through. Another great example of this would be the fire fighting training that we had the chance to experience during class. They can use this training as a basic course before they are put up against a real-life training scenario. It saves the company tons of money be creating this virtual world for them to experience, and when the learners mess up, it doesn’t cost them an arm and a leg just so they can do it again. with a virtual world, you can just reset what needs to be reset to have the training commence again.

    What types of subjects are most effectively taught in a virtual immersive environment? I feel like history and art could definitely be two subjects that are taught very effectively in a virtual environment. Just like Dr. Kapp and the speaker said, virtual worlds give those students who may not have the money to go to a museum the chance to explore one online. With cool artifacts, like the T-Rex room, the endless walls of painting and portraits, and so much more!

    What is your impression of the different learning environments in VirtualU? My impression is that you can really get a feel for what you are trying to learn. For example, when we went into the fire fighting simulation, as far as I know, none of us are fire fighters so we really don’t know how to put out fires, but this was an excellent way for real life fire fighters to get basic training of how to put out fires in a controlled environment and not a life threatening one. This gave them a basic fundamental knowledge of what they will need to do when they come up against a real fire.

    What did you like about the VirtualU learning experience? I really liked the fact that I could become whatever character related to the different worlds. Like when we went to the Draeger world, we all became fire fighters and when we went to the Indian tribe we became Native Americans.

  23. Scott Stahl July 29, 2011

    Virtual worlds seem to open many non-traditional training options. Virtual worlds can reach a much larger audience and really eliminate the problem of people being able to see or having enough materials if it is some type of manipulative training. Virtual training offers the ability to train individuals on using equipment and tools with no worry of someone getting injured. Along those same lines pilots can get an immersive training experience without having to successfully land the plane on the first attempt. After seeing the marketing environment that is used I think virtual worlds can be used to simply immerse someone in an environment instead of having them inside classroom walls. The environment itself seems to help me make better connections with the content.
    Perhaps a great way to use virtual worlds is to supplement traditional training. Certainly pilots will need to practice flying the actual airplane at some point. I believe a great way to supplement traditional training is to allow pilots to fly a plane in a virtual world and then take them to the actual plane. This same concept could be used when training any employee for the operation of any type of dangerous equipment.

    Subjects that are hand-on in nature seem to have the most merit to be taught in virtual worlds. Virtual worlds allow people to practice the manipulation of objects and practice procedures. Subjects that are purely lecture based could just as effectively be taught by using PowerPoint.

    I thought the various learning environments in VirtualU were impressive. I found them to be very realistic from an aesthetic stand point. Although we did not stay long I felt like I was actually a Native American Indian in the one environment. It was very realistic. The outfits were great. However, I did notice I was missing a few head feathers!
    Another aspect of the learning environments that I liked was that everything seemed to work. The fire was blazing away at the house, the fire sirens were blaring, and we could even ride the jet skis!

    I liked everything about the VirtualU learning experience. I liked how vivid the learning environments were. I also liked the vastness and the array of learning environments that were offered by VirtualU. I thought it was very nice to use a program that worked so smoothly.

  24. Amanda Bughman July 28, 2011

    I loved what I saw in VirtualU! It combined the engaging and interactive environment of Second Life with the control and practicality of VenueGen. The attention to detail made for such a rich experience that I wanted to explore the environments more after class. In the firefighting environment, the thick smoke and intensity of the sights and sounds created an adrenaline rush. I wanted to learn to fight the fire and see an “end” to the story!

    I could see using a world like VirtualU to role-play critical situations, such as emergency response. Or to prepare for a clinical experience—something that requires the assimilation of sensory information to make decisions in a safe, practice environment. I would use it as an application experience for students (to get to the higher levels of Bloom’s) after first using traditional training methods to teach discrete concepts and skills. On the flip side, I would also consider using it as an introduction to a training module to illustrate the importance of mastering a concept or skill. In this approach, I would then follow-up with group discussion and more-traditional training methods to review the concepts and skills.

  25. Linda Brown July 28, 2011

    VirtualU gave us some great venues for non-traditional training. The virtual worlds become the classroom, but with a new twist. In Mr. Jankowski’s virtual world on negotiation skills, the setting is a beach. It’s relaxing, more engaging than a traditional class room and I suspect the learners are more motivated by the beach theme to learn. The concept of small yes’ is exaggerated with multi-tiered sand dunes and you progressively work your way to the top tier. It becomes an experience the learner takes part in versus a concept being taught in a traditional class room. Virtual worlds can supplement traditional training be offering reinforcement of the concepts being taught in the class room. Learners can visit a location and explore on their own at their own pace to facilitate learning, revisit concepts presented virtually to gain greater understanding and/or work as a team to collaborate on an exercise to confirm a greater understanding of the concept in a “real life” setting.

    Concepts are a great fit for virtual immersive environments (VIE). Concepts are taught with a comparison of examples and non-examples. They can be viewed by a learner and then can see and experience the difference as we did on the beach with the sun tan lotion stands. While the instructor can tell you why it’s important to have a choice for customers in the sales process, you get a visual which you can commit to memory when you see the three different sun tan lotion huts. It’s obvious you’ll migrate to the stand that gives you choices.

    Art history is a great fit for VIE. It’s rare that student would have a chance to visit all the museums housing master pieces. With a few clicks, students could see multiple paintings in various museums quickly without leaving their computer. The enhanced detail and the ability to focus on a portion of the painting are another benefit.

    History and geography would also be subjects effectively taught in a VIE. Students can be thrust into the historic event or a particular location. It gives virtual life to these topics which are more engaging to the learner. They are also like to retain more as a result of the experience.

    As we moved to the different environments in VirtualU, I felt like I was really there. The scale of environment was proportionate to our avatars. James Parker was our guide for each site we visited. He was able to point out the unique elements of each location. As we moved to the Draeger site, our avatars automatically transformed into fire fighter gear. As we “pulled” equipment off the fire truck and entered the burning building, alarms we sounded because we weren’t gear appropriate for the environment. As the spouse of a fire fighter, I could only hope new recruits could experience this situation virtually and not be in any real danger. The Sydney Opera House and walking on the bridge (without fear of falling) was one of my favorites. It’s one of my bucket list items and I feel like I can give it a partial check mark!

    I really liked the depth of the environments we experienced in VirtualU. The simulated expo designed to accompany a virtual conference was feature rich. As you entered another booth, your conversations were self-contained within that particular space and the “experience” maintaining the focus on that particular topic. When we moved to the museum, the extreme detail in a painting we viewed was better than being at a museum. You could get closer and see the enhanced detail. Customization of your avatar was easy and you were able to easily see the enhancements you made. I had a little trouble flying, well, flying was easy . . . I just couldn’t remember how to land!

Karl Kapp
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