We know that highly immersive virtual learning environments (VLE) work. Have you ever wondered why? Research and experience reveal why immersive VLEs are so effective.
Transfer of Knowledge – For one thing, skill transfer from learning to application is a shorter leap if the learning environment closely simulates the application environment. And in a VLE, learners select avatars that put them in the midst of the action in a very personal way.
The presentation “Effective Learning and the Virtual Learning Environment” (M.J. Stiles, The Learning Development Centre, Staffordshire University, UK) presents factors of effective learning that are abundantly present in immersive VLE experiences: “…learning as an active process, … learning activities [that are] ‘authentic’ - normal to the culture in question and involve its tools and artifacts, … the interaction of learners and experts within [the activities], … both learning activity and assessment [that are] clearly related to [learning objectives] and to reward understanding, … [matching] assessment, content and resources to the learner’s current level….”
The value of reality simulation is a key element for VLE training by the military and other first responders. Participants in the Interservice/Industry Training Simulation and Education Conference have for several years presented findings on the importance of near-reality for quick and accurate transfer of learning to tasks that often require rapid and life-saving decision-making by the learners. For example, the 2007 presentation “Designing and evaluating the transfer of learning through a game-based simulation for Combat Medics” described and demonstrated an “immersive, 3D game-based simulations to help train Army Combat Medics … to immerse students into scenario driven events in order to teach and evaluate a student’s knowledge regarding the essential tactics, techniques and procedures required to successfully perform as an Army Combat Medic in a battlefield environment.” Learner perform mance results help increase the game’s effectiveness with each update.
Enhanced Retention – Game-play enhances retention through the brain-chemistry related to competition and from the immediate feedback intrinsic to the game’s scoring system. Also, during game-play, learners apply multiple learning modalities simultaneously – visual, auditory, kinesthetic. Competition, immediate feedback, and multi-sensory activity intensify the learning and enhance memory.
EDUCAUSE, in its presentation Second Life: Educational Possibilities of Massively Multiplayer Virtual Worlds asserts that “Games represent active, immersive learning environments where users integrate information to solve a problem. Learning in this manner incorporates discovery, analysis, interpretation, and performance as well as physical and mental activity.”
The keynote address for the Enriching Scholarship ’09 conference was titled “Epic Win: Why Gaming is the Future of Learning” by Dr. Jane McGonigal, Director of Game Research & Development at the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, California. Dr. McGonigal points out that “In the best-designed games, our human experience is perfectly optimized: we have important work to do, we’re surrounded by potential collaborators, and we learn quickly and in a low-risk environment. When we’re playing a good online game, we get constant useful feedback, we turbo-charge the neurochemistry that makes challenge fun, and we feel an insatiable curiosity about the world around us. None of this is by accident. In fact, game developers have spent three decades figuring out how to make us happier and more collaborative, how to make learning more fun and social, and how to satisfy our hunger for meaning and success. And all of these game-world insights can be applied directly to amplify and augment the way we teach, learn, and do research in the real world.”
In 2008, Forrester Research’s “Serious Gaming” Set To Take Off report predicted that the use of serious games will increase dramatically in the next seven years. Michigan State University offers a master’s degree in serious game design, and Coventry University in the UK hosts the Serious Games Institute. Forrester sees the military and first-responder markets providing the broadest early opportunity for innovation, with academic and corporate sectors ramping up in their wake. Why? Because early VLEs like “America’s Army” will have blazed a trail of effectiveness that others will be eager to follow.
What does your own experience with immersive VLE games tell you? Has your organization measured the real-world performance of learners using VLE games versus that of learners using traditional classroom or e-learning methods?
What you do think? Please share your comments.