Alex Manchester has got me thinking about virtual worlds again. He responded to some cynicism regarding our SL experiement, it got me thinking about my opinion on virtual worlds. On this blog I’ve put a lot of time into discussing the merits or otherwise of virtual worlds, I finished my last post on the topic by saying that anyone should be at least considering virtual worlds if they need to deliver training to a geographically dispersed audience. I wrote that based on the success of our experiment but I still had not really figured out why it was any better than a Webinar. For me, listening to a presenter while looking at their slides and chatting with other participants is the same regardless of whether I do it in WebEx, Elluminate or Second Life, either way I’m sitting in front of a computer.
I realised a couple of weeks ago when sitting in our project review meeting that the visual representation of people adds nothing to the experiance for me but it does for many other people.
Finally I get it!
I am not a visual person, you only need to take one look at the interface of this blog to see that! In my previous job I managed the development of e-Learning programs. I was constantly told to send interactions back to the deveolopers becuase they were not asthetically pleasing enough. The learning desgin was great but they were ugly. After a while I realised that to lots of people poor design is a major barrier to learning, if I got the design wrong a big slab of the audience would not fully engage with the interaction. The same thing would happen in the classroom when I was a face to face trainer, as a matter of course I would present information in at least 2 if not 3 or 4 different ways, simply because people learn differently. Some will know exactly what you’re talking about if you tell them, others will need you to draw a picture and others won’t get it untill you let them do it themselves.
Virtual worlds are not for everyone; they are buggy, resource intensive, difficult to navigate and most people just won’t get them. However there is a growing audiance that are visually oriented who will find learning delivered via a virtual world is more engaging and effective than if it were delivered through a webinar or similar.