Virtually There: The Top Ten Best Practices for Implementing Virtual Worlds

February 23, 2010

I’m hoping you’ll join me on March 24, 2010 at the eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions Conference in Orlando, FL. Besides the obvious draws of warm weather and Disney frolics, you can stop by and hear my presentation, Virtually There: The Top Ten Best Practices for Implementing Virtual Worlds. With Virtual Worlds still being a comparatively new approach, we’re still defining how to get the most impact with them. I’m hoping my session will help people who are just getting up to speed on Virtual Immersive Environments (VIEs), as well as those who may have tried a few things.

parmal-in-cellI wanted to use some blog space to share the best practices. Today’s focus is on number 5, “Redefine the word ‘content.’” Simply put, “content” means something different in VIEs then it does in more traditional learning approaches. Without redefining what we mean by content, we run the risk of creating virtual experiences that are not engaging, or do not take advantage of the robust environment. As Kapp & O’Driscoll observe, “In the past, content was king; today context is the kingdom.” Content is still critical; however, in VIEs we have a fantastic opportunity to redefine what we call content.

The first step is to get out of the trap of “Content = Course.” Yes, you can bring courses into VIEs; however, recreating the classroom in a Virtual World is one of the least compelling ways to use a 3D collaborative environment.

How about these other options:
  • A talk show (to see how well the talk show format can work, watch some of the videos at http://www.metanomics.net/)
  • A live speaker
  • A scavenger hunt (try building teams to increase the collaboration); not only is this approach engaging, it really takes advantage of
    the ability to explore in three dimensions
  • A simulation; while most VIEs allow you to program avatars to create simulation experiences, it’s even easier if you have real people play the simulation characters; your start-up investment is minimal
  • A collaborative activity, such as building something, exploring together, or reviewing data in 3D
  • Product demos; create a 3D version of your product and let people walk around it, on top of it, or inside it

Most importantly, don’t forget the social aspect of VIEs. In simplest terms, providing a social space such as a café or a lounge near your learning space will encourage your learners to chat and engage in informal learning. If that’s not social enough for you, consider having a purely social event that precedes or follows your learning event. VIEs support social interaction really well; why not take advantage of it?

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