VIRTUAL WORLDS – an enhancement to learning or a distraction?

While the debate continues about the nature of learning and its place in modern organisations, technology does not stop and new solutions, tools and techniques appear every day. At the same time, macro-economic conditions and local budgetary issues exert a range of pressures on learning professionals and those who seek to service them with new tools that enhance the individual’s ability to learn.

The desire for experiential elements in learning design and delivery is built in to the training, armoury and philosophy of every trainer – whether working face to face or in purely virtual situations. Technology has brought a gleam in the eye and a smile to the faces of learning enablers historically constrained by the lack of available methodologies. The ubiquity of the 70-20-10 learning model is now widely accepted, opening the way for a synergy between the formal and the purely social in learning.

Requirements for demonstrated competence to prove compliance are critical to many sectors of business. Yet the assessment methodologies used are rarely much beyond the 19th century techniques of examination and interview.

The use of Virtual Worlds in which the “learner”, whoever they may be, has the chance to develop, practice, and perfect skills and demonstrate competence in an environment as close to real life as is possible is a tempting prospect. Empirical and evidential research provides strong evidence that immersion simulation speeds up the journey to competence and increases the enthusiasm and attention that participants give to learning interventions.

But there are issues – cost, the ability of technology to deliver realistic simulations, time to develop them, attitudes from management and regulatory bodies. Virtual Worlds have been around for a few years.  The technology has advanced along with our understanding of learning.  Has their time now finally come?

Judith Christian–Carter (@judithels) created this analysis to get our juices flowing


  • Life-like, interactive and immersive learning
  • Safe, experiential learning
  • Problem-solving and decision-making learning
  • Can be used for a wide range of subjects, topics, knowledge, skills and behaviours involving both people and objects
  • Instant, responsive feedback
  • Appropriate use of gamification design techniques enhances the learning experience
  • A variety of development tools, such as proprietary gaming engines, existing virtual worlds software, bespoke authoring software and common software tools, can be used
  • Many developed assets can be reused in other virtual worlds


  • Can be expensive to produce depending on the development tool used, eg proprietary gaming engines
  • Depending on the complexity and required learning outcomes can be both time-consuming to design and develop
  • The inappropriate use of gamification design techniques can reduce the learning experience

#chat2lrn on Thursday 26 April at 16.00 BST/11.00EST will explore the potential, the benefits and the hurdles that influence the use of everything that could be called a virtual world.

Some more places to look:

Gamification and Learning: Two Truths and a Lie –

Are Virtual Worlds (still) Relevant in Education? –

 3D Virtual Worlds are NOT Dead, Dying or Disappearing –

Immersive Learning Simulations 2008 – eLearning Guild Report

Want to have input into some Virtual Worlds development?

For those of you interested in Virtual Worlds, this is the environment being developed by DPG –  here is a link for you to watch and to help bring it to life –

This is something that @MikeCollins007 is working on developing with DPG and it looks like it’s got great potential to support existing programmes or to be used to provide low cost online events / conferences.

DPG are looking for willing volunteers to come and get involved in some virtual events or even host some virtual events absolutely free of charge. They are genuinely passionate about developing this tool and pushing the boundaries as to what they do in this space and want input from as many of the L&D community as want to be involved, and have some fun on the way 🙂

If anyone else is interested in taking a ‘spin’ and having a closer look then they should contact Mike at


People in the learning field regularly get tasked with things we aren’t too thrilled about. We’re told to implement a solution to a problem when we’re pretty sure that the stakeholder doesn’t have enough information about the problem to know what the solution is. We get told to build courses that have little chance of making a difference because they don’t address the real underlying problems. We’re asked to make amazing instruction out of horrible PowerPoint slides. And when we’re finally asked our opinion, our answer s are often ignored. Wait, maybe this is just my experience… or maybe not. That’s the topic of this Chat2lrn.

Cathy Moore, an eLearning thought-leader, posed the question, “Are instructional designers doormats? and wondered aloud how much of a spine instructional designers should have when working with stakeholders.

Until we started talking about the topic of this Chat2lrn, we didn’t realize that two of the Chat2lrn facilitators had independently blogged on this subject within a short while of each other. Patti Shank originally responded to Moore’s blog post with a posting of her own, “On being a doormat and having stakeholders (not) value our work,” and wondered why this seemed to be a universal experience in our field.

From Patti’s blog post: 

Imagine telling your lawyer how to practice law or your child’s orthodontist how to put together a treatment plan. But our stakeholders have no problem telling us how to do our work. That’s because (I think) our stakeholders think they only sort of need us. They know they can’t do it themselves but I think they don’t get what we bring to the table beyond the tools we use.

Judith Christian-Carter, another Chat2lrn facilitator, wrote a similar post, “I’m an Instructional Designer so respect me!,” and penned that many in her field

… feel unvalued, frustrated, demotivated, usurped and fed up. By nature, instructional designers are very good, if somewhat unassuming, team players, however for many a feeling of exclusion has become the norm.

Judith suggested that there are numerous reasons why we end up feeling undervalued, including project managers who don’t understand our jobs or who are too anxious to please clients at any cost, tools that dominate what can be accomplished, and situations where we are at the “bottom of the eLearning pecking order.”

The rationale for this R-E-S-P-E-C-T chat is to gather insights into the nature of and solutions to this problem. Reuben Tozman’s post, “Going Mainstream,” starts with the obvious:

… the only people that really care about our deeply talented pool of professionals and the wonderful things we can do for an organization is ourselves.

I encourage you to read what he has to say because I think it’s one core part of the solution. But there are obviously other parts of the solution… and that’s what we’ll be discussing on Thurs, 4/12/12 at 16.00BST/ 11.00EDT