A peak at “Learning in 3D”

I was happy to be asked to participate in a Blog Book Tour for the newly released book Learning in 3D: Adding a New Dimension to Enterprise Learning and Collaboration by Karl M. Kapp and Tony O’Driscoll. The idea of a book tour is to build a discussion around the concepts in a book and to bring thinking about 3D virtual worlds for learning and collaboration into the forefront of discussions in the e-learning space.

This is stop #14 on the tour.

When it comes to virtual worlds for learning, I’m most frequently asked, “who’s doing it?” and “is it working?” Corporations are slow to put resources in areas that are new and, although we’ve been talking about virtual worlds for awhile, they still are new in the world of corporate training. On that point, the authors note that the virtual learning marketplace is just now beginning an accelerated growth path.

I don’t have to look much further than our (Brandon Hall Research’s) Excellence in Learning Awards to see that. We didn’t even have a category for virtual worlds in prior to 2008 and that first year, had just two entries. For the most recent awards program, in 2009, we had 6 entries. Our members also started showing an interest in research about virtual worlds and in 2007 and 2008 we released several reports around the subject.

Chapter 6 in Learning in 3D highlights ten case studies from Microsoft/Sodexo, Cisco, Ernst & Young, U.S. Holocaust Museum, Catt Laboratory, Loyalist College, Ball State University, Penn State University, BP, and IBM. When it comes to the question “who’s doing it?”, you’ll find some great examples. I’ll add another, silver award winner, Vestas Organization and their “Vesta World,” focusing on effectiveness, i.e. “is it working?”

On the 5 different programs Vestas launched by the end of 2008 the pre-test showed an average knowledge and skills level of 37% (where the percentage equals the proportion of correct answers). The post-test showed an average knowledge and skills level of 83%. The average calculated increase in knowledge and skills was therefore 45% points and the average Total Learning achieved was 73%, where the ”Total Learning” refers to how much of the gap was filled between what was known by the learners before the training and a perfect score of 100% after the training. The average Total Learning for all measured classroom training in Vestas in 2008 was 59%.

E-learning Program Manager Peter Christensen said, “We set a very ambitious Total Learning target for e-learning programs in Vestas World. The target was 60 % which is higher than the standard target for effective classroom training. Reaching 73% is a real victory and it proves that we made the right choices in our implementation of the concept.”

What’s exciting about Vestas is that they embraced the uniqueness a virtual world offers and left behind the classic top-down learning style. They said this led to more effective learning.

The business needs and issues were met by building a unique Virtual World that introduced a visual style that all employees can relate to as a global, unified Vestas style. In addition to this a completely new tone of voice and learning style in Vestas World was introduced. This tone of voice was peer-to-peer based and meant that Vestas World set a very high quality standard for the e-learning programs to live up to. The effect of this quality level has been that it shows the learners that Vestas put great emphasis on learning which has also had a positive effect on learning effectiveness. The learners have basically been more motivated.

Here’s a trailer for Vestas World. I hope it will inspire you to explore virtual worlds.

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