Virtual classroom better than real?

I recently had the opportunity to attend a conference with Bob Gerard from Accenture.

Bob gave a presentation that really opened the audience’s eyes to the true value of the Virtual World Classroom based on some research he and his team had just concluded.  Bob wasn’t lost in the allure of Avatars and 3D worlds, his research was aimed at evaluating learner engagement and proving positive returns.


Their theory was that virtual world classrooms are more effective than audio & slide virtual classrooms.  Feedback from the participants in the pilots seemed to overwhelmingly reinforce this theory.  Employees stated that the virtual world experience was more enjoyable, engaging, and collaborative than audio & slide based virtual classrooms.  Importantly, students reported that they learned more and could apply the learned content better than after an audio & slide event.  This is obviously bad news for WebEx and their cohorts.

However, when evaluated against a traditional classroom event the results were inconclusive.  Each approach had advocates and detractors.  On the one hand, there was a general bias toward traditional classroom events.  On the other, the advocates were extremely biased to virtual world classrooms.

So here is where this gets interesting for me.  In much the same way that Merrill Lynch was able to show a strong positive return on an investment in Mobile Learning as one mode of delivery for compliance training, Bob Gerard’s findings suggest we can, at least for a very specific population, improve knowledge transfer and retention utilizing virtual world classrooms instead of traditional classrooms.  I can easily see road weary sales executives, with a bias toward technology, appreciating effective new product training delivered this way.

I am anxious to get your thoughts and experiences!?

  1 comment for “Virtual classroom better than real?

  1. March 5, 2010 at 11:26 am

    We often point out in the industry that virtual worlds are not there to replace real life interaction but there are clearly times when you cannot all be in one place at one time and there are also things that are needed to be shared and experienced that would be impractical to create in a physical environment.
    It seems obvious, but we have been training commercial pilots in virtual worlds (simulators) for years. We are able to adjust the parameters of what they experience to help rehearse.
    Likewise for other business and educational opportunities there are things that people can be immersed into, events that can be created.
    Whilst effective still for the sit and listen to a powerpoint it is the elements of place that really add to that. Unlike a webex people remember who they sat next to and where the presentation was (i.e. in the right hand corner of the office or by the tree) even if the content of the presentation is the same. That gives better human recall based on space and visual cues.
    If there is a suitable event, with good content then people will benefit from a richer form of engagement. Bad lessons, bad teachers, bad presenters etc tend not to be improved that much.
    So we have simulation and immersion in data and knowledge and we also have richer more human social interaction that removes some of the barriers imposed on us by the technology (such as the phone taking away our body language)
    None of this is perfect yet, it never will be but I know that done right VW interactions can lead to a whole lot more than would appear on the surface.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *