- 1 < Web 2.0 and Emerging Learning Technologies
- 2 Part IV: Environments and Tools: Virtual Reality
- 2.1 Introduction
- 2.2 Different kinds of virtual reality
- 2.3 Examples of learning experiences involving virtual reality
- 2.4 Tips for facilitator-led learning experiences
- 2.5 Specific types of activities for learners to engage in
- 2.6 Instructional Design Principles
- 2.7 Create your own virtual reality
- 2.8 Conclusion
- 2.9 References
Part IV: Environments and Tools: Virtual Reality
The Surprising Joy of Virtual Reality: And why it's about to change the world. This was the title of Time Magazine's cover story on August 17, 2015. One can argue that it already has. Jaron Lanier, the man credited with coining the term "virtual reality" (Lanier, n.d.), said in 2013 that one of his favorite applications of virtual reality in the future is its use in surgical training (Firth, 2013, June 19). This is on top of the already impressive improvements the technology has already made to the training of surgeons. Virtual reality has certainly changed IBM. Using 3D virtual worlds to train employees has enabled the company to cut costs while also expanding the number of employees it trains, to developing code as part of a global team, improve sales skills before they meet with clients, and even sign up for employee benefits (IBM Corporate Communications, 2006). As more learner-centered and inquiry-based approaches take off, this emerging learning technology provides clear opportunities and advantages.
Different kinds of virtual reality
LearnBrite, an eLearning company that incorporates virtual reality into its learning experiences, classifies virtual reality as either immersive or non immersive (LearnBrite, 2014).
Immersive virtual reality
Immersive virtual reality gives one the sensation of being physically present in a virtual world. This is achieved by surrounding the user in a visual environment (usually using a physical apparatus like a smartphone inside a Google Cardboard viewer, or an Oculus Rift headset) and possibly adding sound or some other stimuli). Some hardware can track a user's locomotion, head movements, and hand gestures (Stein, 2015, August 6).
One form of immersive virtual reality is the cave automatic virtual environment (also known by the acronym CAVE). In this form, projectors create images on three to six of the walls in a room-sized cube. The name refers to the the cave allergory in Plato's Republic, in which a philosopher ponders the nature of reality, illusion, and perception.
Non immersive virtual reality
Non immersive virtual reality more closely resembles traditional web browsing and allows a user to look at a virtual environment via a screen and projector, a PC monitor, a tablet, a smartphone, or any other similar device.
Examples of learning experiences involving virtual reality
Designing, building, and racing cars
Students at the Detroit Institute of Technology at Cody used immersive virtual reality via Oculus Rift to visit an assembly line and build a lightweight car . They then took the car to a virtual racetrack and raced it competitively. (Smith, 2015, October 9)
Training Canadian border guards
Loyalist College near Toronto Canada used to train guards for the Canadian-American border on-site for three weeks, but then a change in national security laws after the 9-11 terrorist attacks made that impossible. After suffering a fall in student morale and learning outcomes, the college turned to Second Life and built a virtual replica of the border and its security outposts there. , and conducted non immersive virtual reality training there. Students entered a non immersive virtual reality environment, controlled avatars and became familiar with the real-life environment. Besides orienting the students to a place they could not visit otherwise, the 3D world empowered the student to participate in role plays. After rolling out the virtual reality training component, the college measured a 30% increase in learning successes. According to Ken Hudson, Managing Director, Virtual World Design Center at Loyalist College, “No single technological addition has ever impacted grades at the college in such a positive way." (Linden, 2009, July 10)
Practicing surgical procedures
In 1989 there was concern because the benefits of minimally-invasive surgery were coming with a significantly higher rate of patient complications, particularly when surgeons’ were not experienced with the procedures. Jaron Lanier's company VPL pioneered the first virtual reality training solutions for surgery, and learners started practicing using a "3D box" around a computer screen. Surgeons and would-be surgeons physically manipulated surgical tools inside the box. Results of a randomized, double-blinded study were published in 2002, showing the virtual reality (VR) training produced excellent success in learning outcomes. According to the authors:
The validation of VR training in training operative skills marks a turning point in surgical education. The potential exists to train a resident to a high level of objectively measured skill before he or she is permitted to operate on a patient. VR trainers and simulators offer the advantage of allowing as much training as is required to achieve the training goal. (Seymour et al., 2002)
Responding to disasters
Some Second Life members have created dedicated role-play groups equipped with simulated costumes and equipment. One subgenre does firefighting role plays, complete with fire hoses that spray digital water.
Learning experience designers can take advantage of the technology available in Second Life and other virtual reality worlds and simulate various types of fires (Fire and Rescue, n.d.). Each learner can control a personalized avatar, communicate via headset and microphone, and collaborate during role plays. In the Second Life city of Bodhisena, there is a role play organization called the Second Life Fire Department (SLFD). Organizers create fires in restaurants, office towers, sewers, etc. Designers can also control the type of fire, so some can only be extinguished by foam. If you use water in the wrong situation, the fire will spread. The role play group has even created a fire academy to train people interested in joining (GoodFellow Aabye, 2007, November 16).
Tips for facilitator-led learning experiences
Anders Gronstedt is the president of the Gronstedt Group, which develops customized immersive VR learning programs for Fortune 500 clients. He recommends five competencies when leading training in virtual worlds (Kapp, 2010, November 4). They are:
- Be a guide-on-the-side, not a sage-on-a-stage Follow a learner-centered approach. Let peers teach each other, and take advantage of design features in your virtual environment to facilitate collaboration. Break-out rooms can be created in a variety of different ways.
- Give tours, not classes Don’t put avatars in virtual chairs and use PowerPoint slides; Training like that is better done through videoconferencing technologies like WebEx. If 2-D images like slides are necessary, walking tours are effective. One benefit is the facilitator can easily see who is following by looking at what avatars are doing.
- 3-D props work better than 2-D images Visualize products and environments in 3-D. Create workable replicas of cars or full-scale oil rigs. Play with scale and let learners walk around inside a molecule.
- Focus on informal learning, not formal Schedule the equivalent of conversations around a water cooler by creating areas where learners can hang out, socialize, and collaborate. This can be in virtual cafes or on virtual beaches or somewhere more exotic. Encouraging people to come early to meetings and then stay late will give them the opportunity to expand their networks and learn from each other.
- Ask for forgiveness, not permission Your legal department, HR, IT and others may want non-customizable avatars in a virtual, grey conference room. Gronstedt says not to let them or anyone else obstruct real learning opportunities.
Specific types of activities for learners to engage in
Kapp and O'Driscoll (2010) list eleven types of activities possible in virtual reality worlds. Calling them archetypes, they label them as follows:
- Avatar persona [creation] Research has shown that people put emotional and intellectual investment into their avatars. An experiment at Ohio University showed that imagining yourself in the third person makes it easier for you to change your behavior in the future. This has valuable implications for learning designers trying to build learner habits and impact the affective domain.
- Role play
- Scavenger hunt Scavenger hunts can be used to orient learners to a new environment they will be operating in. Learners can look for specific 3D objects and take virtual photos to verify that they found them. This can be done in virtual groups, giving participants informal learning opportunities to share information and get to know each other.
- Guided Tour Guided tours can not only take learners around and inside virtual buildings, but also inside replicas of the human nervous system, computer circuit boards, or complex computer routers. Learners can find their own way, be led by avatar guides, or use computerized maps for reference. This can be useful for teaching facts, concepts, and locations, and features. It can also help illustrate relationships between products, locations, or features.
- Operational Application
- Conceptual Orienteering As the name suggests, this kind of activity allows learners to learn about concepts by examining examples and non-examples. Some insurance agents go through this type of training to learn about how different kinds of collisions affect a vehicle. What kind of damage will a side impact cause versus a frontal impact? Learners can examine cars from all angles, and from up close or far away. Conceptual orienteering also works with representations of historical locations and events, science and engineering concepts, and more. The more interaction the learners can have with the environment, the better.
- Critical Incident [simulations/role plays] Building fires, oil spills, medical emergencies and more can be recreated in environments that would be dangerous or impossible for learners to access in the real world. Do the learners analyze and evaluate what is happening? Do they recognize what should be prioritized? Do they follow proper protocol and procedure? Do they communicate well with each other and work as a team? All of this can be observed and assessed by facilitators and training leaders. Strategically placed "cameras" can record the action, then play it back during debriefing sessions.
- Co-Creation Teams of learners can work together to create new items, products, machines, buildings, or even landscapes. Time can be sped up or slowed down as appropriate. Learners can be provided with specialized tools, or even be expected to "fix" or build them themselves. One drawback is learning how to create things inside a digital world can be challenging, and those with prior experience may dominate the activity and other learners are reduced to spectators or cheerleaders.
- Small Group Work Small groups may get together and communicate or collaborate via text or voice chat.
- Group Forums Tens or hundreds of people can gather together to listen to a speech or presentation. While this is typically better done using a platform like WebEx, sometimes it is desirable to meet in a virtual replica of a particular environment. Other times, a speech is immediately followed by learning-by-doing activities.
- Social Networking As mentioned previously, experts like Anders Gronstedt recommend planning free time for participants to loiter and engage in informal learning. They may reflect on what they've learned, discuss aspects of the jobs, exchange real world contact information, or discuss projects they are working on.
Instructional Design Principles
Kapp and O'Driscoll (2010) list eight instructional design principles to consider when using 3D immersive environments in learning, and include questions for designers to ask to help determine whether the principles are being adhered to.
Note:This table is taken from Learning in 3D: Adding a New Dimension to Enterprise Learning and Collaboration, p. 77-78, by K. Kapp and T. O'Driscoll, 2010, San Francisco: Wiley.
|Design Principles||Key Questions to Consider|
Create your own virtual reality
Teachers and students creating their own virtual reality is no longer far-fetched. Special cameras allow you to take 360° pictures and videos in one shot. Then, software like ThingLink's VR Lessons provides the tools to make your images and videos interactive and atmospheric. You can add clickable hotspots, sound effects, music, and even link several images and videos together. As of May 2nd, 2016, ThingLink VR Lessons is sold on the Apple App Store for $4.99 USD. Teacher- or student-made educational experiences, possibly based on the Scavenger Hunt or Guided Tour activities listed by Kapp and O'Driscoll (2010), could then be experienced through Google Cardboard.
Learning experiences in virtual reality have already shown significant gains in learning outcomes. There are proven design principles and activities that allows participants to expand their networks and knowledge base, and learn by doing. As technology continues to involve, the potential for learning will grow. Researchers, practitioners, and instructional designers need to continue to find new ways to use virtual reality to engage learners, satisfy learning and organizational needs, all the while saving stakeholders time and money.
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- By User:Davepape (own work (self-photograph using timer)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia
- By User:Davepape (own work (self-photograph using timer)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia