Sunday, 23 October 2005

LearnLand Experiment

by Elliott Masie via Learning TRENDS

To help our collective learning along, The MASIE Center's Learning CONSORTIUM has invested in the creation of a Sandbox we are calling LearnLand. This will allow us and our organizational learning colleagues to experiment with how a virtual world might be used by learners, trainers and organizations.
We are "building" a variety of office structures, a retail structure and even some manufacturing layouts, all virtual, in a 3D World. (Second Life) We will experiment with putting live and avatar learning resources into these spaces and evolve design and engagement models.

Build a virtual environment and then wait for someone to create a learning situation to be used in the environment. I think this is the WRONG order of how good learning package/design can come out. It seems to me that Elliot is falling into the trap of technology-centric rather than learning-centric. OK, Elliot's is an experiment, but I still think he is promoting a wrong example.

My first question will be to ask why we want to replicate the real world in a virtual world. One of the answers may be: to provide a safe environment for people to experiment and test out.

In a later update of Learning TRENDS (#363 ), one of Elliot's reader raised an issue:
Were the discussions of learner's in a classroom dialogue about a topic like sexual harassment or manager competence "off the record" or "on the record"? How much safety could one of her trainer's give to the learners about their disclosures? If one of them talked about a time when they might had done some less than appropriate things, what were the implications?

If the discussion of sexual harassment (in fact any workplace related issues) had taken place in a virtual environment in the form of role playing, this would not have been an issue in the first place. The learners were experiencing and acting out in the protection of a persona and it would be clear that any discussion related to such issues were made in the roles the learners were playing.

So, we have established a case for creating a virtual environment. The next question I would ask is what sort of environment. Would that be "3-D virtual environment" or "imagined reality" environment? What are the relative merits of choosing anyone of these?

We have argued
that while rendered environments can contribute to learning, they are often too shallow for purposes such as fostering strategic thinking and problem solving. In such cases, non-rendered virtual worlds may be better in using and fostering the required imaginative capacities of learners.

Am I opposing 3-D virtual world? Definitely not! In League of Worlds 2 conference, a group of researchers and partitioners will be exploring the theme "Playing and Learning in Virtual Environment". (There are still a few places left, if you want to join, contact me or Roni Linser.) I will be reporting on the conference in that week. Please stay tuned.

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