Virtual Immersive Environments: From Theory to Practice

February 7, 2010

I recently had the pleasure of presenting at the ASTD TechKnowledge conference at Las Vegas. I had a great time and met a lot of really interesting and talented people. That’s one of things I like best about conferences; trying to get a pulse on what people are doing in the real world.

A lot of the focus of the conference was on “Gen Net,” the next generation of digital natives soon to be (or currently) entering the workforce. Rightly so, many presenters observed that these folks have grown up with different ways of learning, and us learning folks ought to be paying attention. I remember thinking to myself: yeah, that’s true, but us 30- and 40-somethings need that, too. Hopefully we’re still relevant.

I spent a lot of time thinking about the gaps that are developing; the gaps between what we’re talking about and what we’re actually doing. I talked to a lot of people about Virtual Immersive Environments, and I heard a lot of great ideas. Some folks I talked to seemed frustrated; so many possibilities, how do we get more organizations harnessing this power? And it occurred to me that although we’re not getting as much traction on the really far out stuff, there were a lot of businesses who were having success with VIEs.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Gartner Hype Cycle, and Virtual Worlds’ place in the Trough of Disillusionment. Virtual Worlds aren’t living up to people’s expectations. And it finally hit me—maybe the problem isn’t the technology; it’s the expectations. We expect the technology to do so much that we miss what it’s really good at. We spend so much time with the theory, we forget about the practice.

So let’s get out of the clouds; yes, there are scores of untapped possibilities for Virtual Immersive Environments. But let’s focus a little on the ones that have been tapped. I’ve reached out to a few practitioners who are using VIEs for learning. Some of them have been kind enough to share their experiences. Over the next few weeks, I’ll share with you what they share with me, the successes and the challenges. It should be a fun ride!

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