Instructional Design for Virtual Worlds

Learning in 3D Blog Tour Stop

Welcome to stop #10 on the blog book tour for Learning in 3D!

How does the instructional design process change when you’re working with virtual worlds and 3-D environments? That’s the question addressed in Chapter 7 of Learning in 3D by Karl Kapp and Tony O’Driscoll. The chapter is titled “Overcoming Being Addled by ADDIE.” For all the impressive visual and technical feats possible in virtual worlds, a foundation of good design is still critical. Karl and Tony argue that when learning in 3-D fails, “the lack of learning in these instances is not a result of the VIE [virtual immersive environment]; rather it is a result of poor instructional design” (p. 204).

3-D virtual environments can be very different from the typical kinds of learning experiences most of us design. You might think that this means the instructional design skills are completely different, but this chapter explains how to modify the traditional ADDIE process. To me, this chapter feels like a guidebook that says, “Don’t worry; you don’t have to throw away everything you already know about designing learning, and your skills are still needed. Here’s how to use your expertise in this new environment, and here’s the new skills you’ll need to learn.”

This chapter outlines six design principles for virtual worlds (the notes are mine):

  • Create the Right Context: Learning in 3-D requires design and planning in the environment and context in addition to designing the content.
  • Create Specific Objectives, but Don’t Tell the Learner: You need objectives and goals, but don’t put up a big sign spelling them out in a formal way.
  • Provide Minimal Guidelines: Karl and Tony explain it like this: “If you provide the right context and the right guidelines, people will learn from each other from the environment, and from the immersive experience.”
  • Encourage Collaboration: Of course, collaboration isn’t exclusive to virtual worlds, but it is an important component here as well.
  • Allow Opportunities to Demonstrate Learning: Take advantage of the ability to practice skills in the realistic environment a virtual world can provide.
  • Build in Incentives: We can learn from game developers to provide incentives that keep learners motivated.

If you’re fortunate enough to be able to work on a 3-D learning project, the step-by-step design process is a good section to review before starting to plan. Unfortunately, I think Brent Schlenker is right that we’re still a few years away from this being mainstream.

What do you think? In a few years, when the rest of us get caught up to the organizations profiled in the case studies in this book, do you think we’ll still be talking about ADDIE and these design principles? Or am I being too pessimistic and we’re just on the cusp of a wave of 3-D learning so we’ll all be able to jump in and try it out these ideas ourselves?


Back to the topic of incentives…

Each week during the blog book tour, Karl and Tony are giving away a signed copy of their book to someone who tweeted using the #lrn3d hashtag. I am happy to announce the winners for weeks one and two.

Congratulations Paul and Barry! Please email Karl (karlkapp AT gmail) with your physical address so they can send a signed book.

Remember that if you comment on every post in the tour that you will receive a white paper by Karl and Tony on virtual worlds and the technology hype cycle. So if you’re disappointed you didn’t win a book like Paul and Barry, start commenting!

4 thoughts on “Instructional Design for Virtual Worlds

  1. Christy,

    I think you did a really good job of summarizing Chapter 7. I am hoping that VIEs will quickly become the norm but I think there might be some delay. As instructional designers, we have a good foundation of skills to design 3D environments. If we focus on what makes training effective and what we’d like to do in the classroom but can’t because of physical constraints, then we can move those activities and exercises into virtual worlds.

    The key is to design an “environment” not just instructional content. The idea is have a VIE that serves as a catalyst for the learning within the space.

    Also congratulations to Barry and Paul. Thanks for the great Tweets from both of you.

    Thanks for being a great stop on the tour!

  2. Christy,

    Thanks for being on the blog book tour! I really appreciate how you honed in on the fact that Karl and I were very deliberate in wanting to send the message that a new technology such as VIE does NOT compensate in any way for solid instructional design.

    Chapter 7 is all about this. However, as Karl points out above, the design parameters are different when you get into the third dimension and context takes on at least as much weight as content. In designing the educational intervention we must think both of what content is required and the context within which it can be best consumed to drive retention and/or behavior change.

    So ADDIE is still ADDIE, it is just that 3D ADDIE includes the new dimension of Contextual Engineering to go along with Content Creation.

  3. Dear Karl and Tony,

    I’m really surprised and at the same time most thankful. I’m looking forward to receiving the book and reading it’s contents in full. I also hope to catch up with you live-online sometime in 2010, would be nice to discuss visions for a collaborative learning future immersed in 3D.

    Best wishes,
    Paul Simbeck-Hampson
    Innovation Consultant

  4. Paul,

    That would be great, check out the tour stops for some of the online events Tony and I will be attending in the near future. Thanks for your great comments and Tweats about virtual immersive environments!

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