Training in the 21st Century

Death by PowerPoint in 3D? Oh, my…

I attended a professional association meeting recently, where I encountered a member who was very intrigued by the topic of experiential learning activities in 3D. But when I mentioned a specific 3D environment, the excitement in her face was replaced with the dull look of disappointment. I had to know what had led to the sudden change of demeanor and learned that, not long before, a member of her organization had looked into using 3D for Orientation Training, and attended a presentation in the very 3D world I had just mentioned. The presentation was a total bust! The reason? It had consisted of all the cute little avatars sitting in a virtual conference room to watch a talking-head PowerPoint presentation. Death by PowerPoint in 3D? Yes, it is all too possible.

I associate this kind of presentation in 3D environments to early movies. In the earliest years of “moving pictures,” stage and vaudeville professionals simply transferred routines and methods they’d used in live performances to the big screen. This worked well enough for a while: audiences were entranced by the medium itself. But soon, creative movie professionals began to explore new, more effective ways of writing, staging, filming, emoting and editing for the big screen. Over time, techniques and special effects unimaginable to early movie makers/goers have become standard fare.

This kind of evolution is at its beginning with 3D learning, but there is already an established body of knowledge and experience for creating effective learning events—utilizing capabilities that are impossible with any other forum or platform. These include simulations, treasure hunts, challenges and quests designed so that participants use what they’re learning, as they’re learning it, in dynamic ways that engage their interest.  A couple of excellent resources that offer insights into ways to make the most of 3D for training are Learning in 3D: Adding a New Dimension to Enterprise Learning and Collaboration, by Karl M. Kapp and Tony O’Driscoll; and Training and Collaboration with Virtual Worlds: How to Create Cost-Saving, Efficient and Engaging Programs, by Alex Heiphetz and Gary Woodill.

No doubt there are many other good resources about 3D learning  and training available (please share any that you know of by leaving a response to this blog). Also, keep in mind that the technology for 3D worlds is evolving as you read this, and what is possible/feasible is changing almost as rapidly. The biggest limitations for what can be done right now are the lack of knowledge and experience of those who create learning events, and the unwillingness of organizations to invest in development of this new and unfamiliar platform—what we might call “lagging indicators”—but these will also change rapidly as more people explore and develop the amazing possibilities.

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