Maybe I get it….

1 December, 2008

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.


3 Responses to “Maybe I get it….”

  1. Bingo! That’s why it appeals to me …. and why I spend so much time on the *look* of my slides when I do a presentation and so little time on writing out the words. I have an extremely visual, not so text-based, learning style.

    I’m guessing that for you it’s about text – can I find where the online text chat is happening? Yup – OK so I’m getting what I want – don’t care what is happening in what is background for me….

    Whereas to me, if there is no person’s image accompanying their text, I am spending brain space imagining what they look like as they are typing the text, what is in the background, what they are wearing. With Second Life this bit is “drawn” for me, so I can get on with the text/voice interaction just fine.

    …and if they are talking to me while on a pony and wearing green elven wings, then it *means* something to me – in the same way a vanilla-style blog design *means* something to me. Often I will click through from my RSS reader to someone’s blog only because I want to see more of what they look like – at least through their blog…

    I can usually tell the very visual learners in my workshops, who will get a lot out of Second Life. They are the ones who are spending their time creating their avatar’s appearance regardless of what we are *meant* to be covering at the time.

    I’ve had experiences of showing Second Life on a big screen where someone in the audience had to turn away because they were getting motion sick – and for them probably the very intense visual environment is too much…

    Wheras iPods? Don’t own one. Don’t need to have music on all the time. Find podcasts interesting background, but need to be doing something else – usually involving looking at something – to be able to focus on one at all the way through….

  2. Good point, Mick. To a certain degree it will come down to how you want to view information or participate in an event. I can imagine in the future, you log on to an event website and are greeted with a dashboard of options – audio, audio/visual, webinar style, virtual world, and pick which one suits you and the technology at your disposal.

    I’m quite a visual person in the way I like to take information on board. Slides ticking past on a computer screen and assisted by voice is alright, but I can take an hour at the most before I need a break, and the presentations need to be very good to keep you coming back. Many people make this work OK, but I think as virtual environments become more robust and easier to use (and even more sophisticated in terms of look and style), we’re bound to see an uptake in their popularity.

  3. Mick Leyden Says:

    @Katherine – That’s an interesting point about avatars, one again I must admit I don’t normally think about but I imagine many people do!

    @Alex – I love the dashboard idea. Choose the style that works for you! The other factor that will lead to further adoption is ease of entry, one of our biggest challenges was getting PCs that had access to log in to SL. I imagine within not too many years you’ll be able to dive in to a virtual with a simple browser plugin (Lively but easier?). I reckon once we hit this point that’s when we’ll see the big moves in adoption.

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