AI in eLearning – Why Virtual Tutors with a Webcam Are the Better Coach

virtual tutor2017 has been called the year of Chatbots, futurists tell us how chatbots will revolutionise Learning & Development and your grandma probably started using Alexa in your living room. AI is being predicted by experts to become the leading driver of education by the 2020s. We know FAQ chatbots on websites and we are talking more to bots on our phones than people. But how can we use those virtual assistants and even AI in our next online course, micro-training session or MOOC?

Enter Intelligent Tutoring Systems. Finally, the tech is maturing above chatbots.

We are not talking about a pre-produced talking Avatar guiding you through your average online course. Nor are we talking about a voice assistant like Siri, Alexa or Cortana who searches Google on your command for knowledge from Wikipedia (and storing our data who-knows-where). We are talking about a virtual assistant, a chatbot, who is your interface to artificial intelligence, has a live animated face and body when needed (in Skype or virtual worlds) and is the best coach, trainer or teacher you can wish for. Yes, I am talking about an ideal world, but we are getting there!

Intelligent Tutoring Systems are the CUI for eLearning & Training

Conversational User Interfaces (CUI) are already starting to replace our good old Graphical UI (buttons, touch and click). We have known this for decades – Captain Kirk and his crew always talked to the Enterprise,  and that was in the nineteen sixties! These sophisticated chatbots are certainly an interesting addition to the toolbox of online learning designers. The tech is advancing fast: Botanic Technologies, for example, has already developed multimodal Avatars (text, voice and video) who act as an advisor to medical personnel or as your personal job interview coach on Skype. One digital coach — an animated character named Andi — actually does a sentiment and emotional analysis. During a Skype video chat, it processes via webcam your facial expressions, your tonality and your use of words in order to prepare you for a successful job interview. Here’s an example:

Watch Andi, the job interview coach in more detail on Vimeo.
Or rather: Let Andi watch and analyse how you are doing …

Your Personal Virtual Tutor: 24/7:
Never Tired, Never out of Office

That’s why the virtual all-knowing assistant is a better tutor. Think „personal mobile virtual coach“: Your personal learning tutor who lives in the net and assists your learning wherever you are – as a chatbot or voice assistant on your phone or as a 3D character in your favourite virtual learning environment. But the best thing is, those tutors don’t have office hours and thousands of students could benefit from on well-designed conversational bots. MOOC providers know what I am talking about – they’d give anything to clone good tutors for a 24/7 service.

But who can actually develop a chatbot for eLearning environments?

How does that even work? Most of the non-coding chatbot creation platforms (Chatfuel, Botsify) are offering marketing, faq and customer service templates. I’ve created my first virtual teachers with tiny avatars and synthetic voices more than 10 years ago (with Pikkubot in Second Life, sitepal and presenters with Mediasemantics) and unfortunately, I don’t see a lot of advancement in the educational area. To integrate a virtual tutor like the example in the video above you’d need to hire a company that creates your sophisticated coach – which is out of the question in most L&D projects. Or you did deeper and try to create your own dialogue flow in Flow.ai or with IBM Watson. But you already have a profession and who has time to build virtual tutors from scratch?

What to do? Well, I have chosen to take it one step at a time and I joined forces with an interesting company called SEED Vault. They want to make the world a better place by building a massive open-source bot economy based on the blockchain. Independent developers and learning designers need to have access to AI-powered virtual assistants with a variety of ready-to-go templates as well as to open, shared standards we can all use. It doesn’t make sense for a few companies to own the entire AI & CUI market (like Facebook, Alexa, Microsoft, Google, Apple … ). Also, educators need to be very aware of data privacy – which you don’t get from these big corporations. They store every word your students would utter in a black box in exchange for their services. Bots and AI need to be transparent and verified — and that is where blockchain technology comes in.

SEED: A Garden Eden for Bot Builders, Designers, Deployers and Educators on Blockchain

SEED actually emanated from Botanic (the creators of Andi the interview coach) and other global bot communities are joining them as we speak. I’ve been working with Mark Stephen Meadows, founder of Botanic, years ago and have been following his work ever since. Now I’m excited to work with SEED to democratise AI, keeping my focus on education, eLearning and virtual training. I am responsible for managing Bot Community Initiatives – if you are a bot developer, dialogue designer or author please let me know – the SEED community needs you to speed up the evolution of conversational user interfaces so we can finally have ourselves a couple of wise-cracking charming virtual tutors in our next online course 🙂

SEED Token on Telegram  and on Twitter

Contact me on LinkedIn

XING

 

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Gamified Stamp

The Best Ways to Foster Motivation in Online Courses are More Fun than You Think

Was your last online course fun?  Well, today I participated in a research project by taking a short online course. The topic was social media safety for teens and it was boooring. It was all long texts, no visuals, no interaction, no fun. Here’s an example of one of the few inputs that were supposed to teach me something:

text lecture pixelated

One of the main lectures about Internet safety in social media. This is only half the page (I had to scroll). Am I supposed to learn something here? (pixelated to protect copyrights of the owner)

It was not the lack of technology

Since the eLearning platform behind it offers many professional features to make your course interesting and interactive it wasn’t the technology that failed.

It was not the lack of motivation

Nor was it the content – since I am developing an online course for iPad & iPhone safety for kids myself I was already interested in the topic (intrinsic motivation – yay!). And they did have a couple of pretty important facts in there that I would love to be able to recall now – but I can’t. Why? Because that course showed a total lack of learning design basics.

It was simply the lack of learning design

And I am not even talking about Gamification (yet), but about basic principles that learning psychology research has known for more than 20 years now. Plus the insights about online courses and mobile learning from the more recently.

Kind of important stuff when you design an online course is:

  • Chunk information into digestible bits
    Do not use long-winded, scrollable boring text deserts. Feed one spoon at a time to the hungry
  • Use visuals, interaction and variance
    Insert pictures, interesting formatting, drag & drop, more than one question type
  • Give the learner instant feedback
    Show real-time feedback for every single question that has been answered. Let the learner know immediately how they are doing and use that in the beginning for making them aware of where they had no idea what dangers are lurking on the Internet for their kids (then they want to know – they will be immediately intrinsically motivated to move on!)

Ok, and where is the fun part now?

That IS the fun part (ok, part of it): making any kind of online learning fun is much easier than you think. If the learning designer of the social media course only had followed the three very basic principles above their course would have been more fun already! Plus, I would have been able to recall some of the info they wanted to get across (learning impact). But of course, there’s more. Let’s look at the research. Ok, now I am talking about gamification. Soooorry.

Gamification? Isn’t that just points, badges and leaderboards?

Actually … no (*). There’s more. But even PBL (points, badges, and leaderboards) can make your online course more fun and therefore create a bigger learning impact if used wisely. That’s where I got interested in the research and dove into the „why“ and then „how“. Because, let’s be honest, even with a decent basic learning design you will still have problems: In online courses with many online learners, motivation and scarce social interaction are still problematic, due to the effects of isolation in a seemingly empty online environment. You’re looking at a screen for crying out loud! However, gamification has proven to encourage the development of motivation and engagement in online learning social contexts. So I analysed the gamification elements relevant to online learning in respect to their efficacy towards intrinsic motivation, competition and cooperation as well as to social learning. Turns out that research can sometimes come pretty handy.

Gamified Stamp

Tadaaa: Here’s the most important ingredients for your engaging online class. Seriously. It’s fun!

Spoiler alert: It’s NOT about the ingredients! The prerequisites to success are Game Thinking, freedom of choice and variety. Next, you add the other ingredients like the following two key components for gamification in online learning:

  • Freedom to fail
    Failing in games is fun, right? Turns out that is also true for learning!
  • Rapid Feedback
    realtime, unambiguous, visual, multimedia-based

The mindful reader (cool that you are still with me!) might recall that some of these matches the basic learning design principles I cited before, like variety, using visuals, interaction and real-time feedback.  But wait – there’s more!

So, the Gamification components with major effects on intrinsic motivation are

  • Freedom to fail (retry-button! Epic fails!)
  • storytelling (narrative)
  • meaningful goals
  • rapid feedback
  • challenges

The story element can be quite powerful: you don’t have to write an epic Hollywood plot – use cartoons, characters, themes and tonality to make your course a little more playful and therefore more fun.

So, this is what you need to gamify any online learning experience – be it a self-paced coding class or a company training with learning groups. Because:

„Fun is just another word for learning“

(Raph Koster, 2010)

For online courses with more than a handful people, you’ll need to look at social learning wisdom as well. But that is stuff for another post.

*) Deterding et al. define Gamification as „the use of game design elements in non-game contexts.” (Deterding et al., 2011, p. 9). Or how eLearning guru and bestseller author Prof. Karl Kapp describes it: „Gamification encompasses the idea of adding game elements, game thinking, and game mechanics to learning content.” (Kapp, 2012, pos. 949).
Deterding, S., Dixon, D., Khaled, R., & Nacke, L. (2011). From Game Design Elements to Gamefulness: Defining “Gamification”. In Proceedings of the 15th International Academic MindTrek Conference on Envisioning Future Media Environments – MindTrek ’11 (S. 9–11). New York: ACM. http://doi.org/10.1145/2181037.2181040
Koster, R. (2010). Theory of Fun for Game Design [Kindle Edition]. Paraglyph. Phoenix: Paraglyph Press. http://doi.org/10.1007/s13398-014-0173-7.2
Slezák, G. K. Förderung von Motivation und sozialem Lernen in MOOCs mit Gamification. Available only at http://dx.doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.34376.21767

Global Collaborative Online Learning: Nucleus for the Future of Higher Ed and Lifelong Learning

This is an essay I’ve posted as part of a discussion on „Spatial-organizational strategies for serving the world’s (urban) majority“ in Globalizing Higher Education and Research for the ‘Knowledge Economy‘ I’ve included the replies as well. The Coursera course was a joint development of the University of Wisconsin Madison and the University of Bristol and all resources are available as an archive.

Online Learning CloudIn order to serve the world’s population better as a destination for high-quality education most higher ed institutions and organisations have to be getting serious about online learning. We need to reach learners wherever they are – independent of their physical location. And we’re not talking about eLearning – we’re talking about social, intercultural and highly individual learning experiences that in some cases lead to a Master’s Degree, in others to mastering a new skill or to acquire a specific qualification.

Here are some reasons for getting serious about online learning:

  • A next-generation kind of online learning which takes advantage of the technological developments of the recent past offers valuable opportunities to learners worldwide
  • intercultural social collaboration without having to travel around the globe
  • flexible schedules to serve lifelong learners, supporting work-life-balance
  • offering high-level educational resources to the economically, physically or politically challenged
  • the Generation Y (Millenials – born after 1981) is expecting all of the above

I’ll discuss four different aspects/areas:

  1. Massive Collaborative Open Online Learning
  2. Corporate Online Universities
  3. Serving Lifelong learners – the rise of the part-time MBA
  4. MOOCs and networked campuses for resource-constrained or rural universities

1) Massive Collaborative Open Online Learning

Coursera with over 100 universities from all over the world, Udemy with 16.000+ online courses, Udacity, iversity.org, Khan Academy, OpenUniversity, Futurelearn and edXthey all show the way in that they go out to the learners, wherever they are instead of requiring them to come to a physical place.

This is not only a US or UK phenomenon; Lecturio.de in Germany – where I live – offers flat-rates for medicinal or law students bundling several courses that lead to degrees and/or credit points at accredited universities and colleges. iversity.org, based in Berlin, started offering high-level MOOCs with international educators and 10.000 students enrolling in courses that don’t even offer credits. Spain is in the lead of MOOC providers in Europe (although I don’t know why – do you?). There is a growing number and a need for next generation MOOCs.

By next generation MOOC I refer to the next generation of online learning, incorporating the impact power of xMOOCs with the connectivist and constructivist didactical design of cMOOCs with recent research in neurosciences on learning processes – combining it with all the empirical experiences we and other early adopters have had with this kind of learning.

Other European examples:

France: FUN, MOOC platform by french Ministère de l’enseignement supérieur et de la recherche.

Italy: Uninettuno OpenupEd

More information about European Online Learning platforms: Open Education Europa

 

2) Corporate Campus: Online Universities for employees

Additionally, there’s a trend towards high-quality educational programs enforced and facilitated by corporations using the MOOC approach

  • to attract future high potentials as a skilled workforce for the ever-changing dynamic markets ahead
  • to nurture their future workforce and stifle innovation / innovative thinking by offering far more dynamic and praxis-relevant content to learners than the slow-moving HEIs Examples:
  • Udemy already offers with UFO a „corporate university in a box“: a white label platform for companies where they can build their own online academies with or without filled catalogues of online courses
  • Coursera and Udacity offer subscription-based plans for companies of all sizes to facilitate their in-house L & D needs
  • adidas has built a 21st-century online campus with MOOCs (Adidas Group Learning Campus) and Deutsche Telekom is trying to find answers with their www.Shareground.net initiative

 

3) Serving Lifelong Learners – rise of the part-time MBA

There’s another development that has to do with the changing demographics and faster changing (digital and global) world and markets: the lifelong learners need to be served and individuals, as well as corporations worldwide, begin to see innovative online courses with a connected design as a solution to their learning needs in different phases of their (work-) life.

The list of part-time Master programmes for full-time working executives is growing every day (here’s a US ranking of part-time MBA’s) and more people are interested in specialized and individualized master programmes

Older students prefer taking online classes from home and need more flexible schedules to cater to family needs.

 

4) MOOCs and networked campuses for resource-constrained or „far from hot-spots“ universities:

  • Advanced integrated second generation MOOCs will be one solution for resource constrained universities to attract and serve students globally without having to provide expensive campuses in urban areas
  • Low-cost satellite campuses (see a great post on this subject by Donnalee Donaldson) in different hubs/hot spots of the world like New York, London, Berlin, Shanghai, Tokyo, Barcelona or San Francisco could extend their reach even more if they offered complete Bachelor/Master degree courses online with short sessions in these physical campuses for live collaboration experiences, activities and exams in person (Blended Learning)
  • once they moved serious parts of their formal educational program online they can expand their reach even further by building a networked campus with other smaller HEIs in order to share resources and students. An example for this is the network of small universities „L’université Lorraine“ in Lorraine, France: See the post of Jonathan Pierrell

To incorporate and offer collaborative, networked online learning experiences with a diverse intercultural structure is the future – for universities as well as for corporations. To not only serve an urban majority of the population but also the people who otherwise have no access to high-level education or intercultural exchange for geographic, economic or political reasons.


Discussion (anonymized)

JP:

Nice post. Thanks for sharing the map indicating the number of MOOCS by countries in Europe. Quite interesting. (FYI, in France, the French National Education has started its own MOOC platform: FUN – http://www.france-universite-numerique.fr/ I thinkn the potential for changes in higher education is even more significant when universities are almost completely publicly founded…)


BJ:
Yes online learning is a way of the future. Nevertheless, I do have questions. I am certainly enjoying this course, much more than I thought I would.

Firstly, all the material caters for the typical  English speaker, I have no problem navigating my way around the site – it’s great! However, what if  I didn’t understand or indeed fully understand English? How could I access this information, how could I navigate my way around this site? The language of the internet is English and it is people with this knowledge who benefit most.
Also, online learning is great for people who have good bandwidth. Good bandwidth in many parts of the world costs money. If I can’t afford good bandwidth I am excluded from or it will be difficult for me to access online education.
Oh yes, I have my own laptop so I can interact with this material any time, any place. This laptop was not cheap and if I couldn’t afford this laptop then again my access would be restricted.
Yes, the way we are learning is changing and it is really exciting but at the end of the day it seems that it is still the same people who are denied access. Collaborative approaches as you mention are crucial, but I believe that collaborative approaches with a conscience are the future.


Hi BJ,
The map with the number of MOOCs in Europe does indicate that MOOCs do not only exist in English! If you didn’t speak English, you wouldn’t have joined this course and would have started some (maybe on a similar or other topic) in a language that you would understand. For sure, it’s less likely to have a MOOC in a regional language or a minority language, but there is linguistic variety out there. I would say, don’t think that all the info on the net is in English … (Maybe you have missed out a lot :p)As for the cost and accessibility, yes, bandwidth and other equipment is required, but what is more expensive: a laptop (with or without internet, since there are wifi hotspots in more and more places), or tuition fees? I believe that there are very few people who cannot afford a laptop and still end up in any HEI..


Hi BJ, you make some very good points there and to answer your questions I’ve collected a few links for you:
1) Language variety
MOOCs are starting out worldwide and English is the most comon language as of yet but already you’ll find offers in many different languages as well:

  1. iversity.org (German MOOC provider, open education, you only pay for certificates): they just startet out last year and offer approx. 60% in German (rest in English) while the profs are from various countries. I’m currently studying a course on Gamification which is held by spanish lecturers in English, the students are diverse
  2. Coursera.org offers many different languages, take a look at their current course catalogue (i.e. 48 Chinese, 22 French, 17 Spanish, 4 Ukrainian…):
    coursera-languages.png

Coursera course catalogue as of April 13, 2014

2) Bandwith/Internet access for all

  • Project Loon by Google – Internet access for everyone in rural areas or after political/natural disasters
    http://www.google.com/loon/
  • Facebook’s project „SocialEdu“ at Internet.org (info available in different languages)
    Last month Internet.org announced partnerships with Rwandan government, Nokia, edX and Airtel for a a pilot project called SocialEDU, which will help provide students in Rwanda with free access to a collaborative online education experience.

I’m aware that this is only a humble start and I’m sure there are many similar projects out there I don’t know of (especially in languages I don’t understand and therefore couldn’t even google…) – but we are pioneers in this area and part of a spearhead eventually followed by unstoppable legions of the masses 🙂


I would like to see credentialing by online moocs on par with brick-and-mortar institutions, without an extravagant increase in price to the learner, which would defeat the purpose of making learning more accessible to more of the world’s population.

 

The Cause of Death of Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable by Clay Shirky

„When a 14-year-old kid can blow up your business in his spare time, not because he hates you but because he loves you [by copying and sharing your content], then you got a problem.”

The American intellectual, writer and NYU professor for new media Clay Shirky explains matter-of-factly what’s happening in publishing houses worldwide (ignorance; panic), why it’s happening (the world changes) and what they can do about it (nothing but adapt and get on with their lives, doing something else).

Some parts in this article especially resonate with me because some of my clients are the very large publishers who are caught in the middle of this revolution.

I’ll copy and share huge parts of his article here because that’s what people do nowadays and the author is cool with it (over 130 people worldwide have done the same so far and therefore spread his word, drawing attention to him and his work).

Shirky’s following observation made me laugh and sigh at the same time because part of my job over the last 8 years was to „bring innovation“ to old media structures and particularly to set up Innovation Departments for the news media:

„Leadership becomes faith-based, while employees who have the temerity to suggest that what seems to be happening is in fact happening are herded into Innovation Departments, where they can be ignored en masse.“

Here’s his post:

Clay Shirky: „(…) The unthinkable scenario unfolded something like this: The ability to share content wouldn’t shrink, it would grow. Walled gardens would prove unpopular. Digital advertising would reduce inefficiencies, and therefore profits. Dislike of micropayments would prevent widespread use. People would resist being educated to act against their own desires. Old habits of advertisers and readers would not transfer online. Even ferocious litigation would be inadequate to constrain massive, sustained law-breaking. (Prohibition redux.) Hardware and software vendors would not regard copyright holders as allies, nor would they regard customers as enemies. (…)  And, per Thompson, suing people who love something so much they want to share it would piss them off.

Revolutions create a curious inversion of perception. In ordinary times, people who do no more than describing the world around them are seen as pragmatists, while those who imagine fabulous alternative futures are viewed as radicals. The last couple of decades haven’t been ordinary, however. Inside the papers, the pragmatists were the ones simply looking out the window and noticing that the real world was increasingly resembling the unthinkable scenario. These people were treated as if they were barking mad. Meanwhile, the people spinning visions of popular walled gardens and enthusiastic micropayment adoption, visions unsupported by reality, were regarded not as charlatans but saviours.

When reality is labeled unthinkable, it creates a kind of sickness in an industry. Leadership becomes faith-based, while employees who have the temerity to suggest that what seems to be happening is in fact happening are herded into Innovation Departments, where they can be ignored en masse. This shunting aside of the realists in favor of the fabulists has different effects on different industries at different times. One of the effects on the newspapers is that many of their most passionate defenders are unable, even now, to plan for a world in which the industry they knew is visibly going away.

The curious thing about the various plans hatched in the ’90s is that they were, at the base, all the same plan: “Here’s how we’re going to preserve the old forms of organization in a world of cheap perfect copies!” The details differed, but the core assumption behind all imagined outcomes (save the unthinkable one) was that the organizational form of the newspaper, as a general-purpose vehicle for publishing a variety of news and opinion, was basically sound, and only needed a digital facelift. As a result, the conversation has degenerated into the enthusiastic grasping at straws, pursued by sceptical responses.

Round and round this goes, with the people committed to saving newspapers demanding to know “If the old model is broken, what will work in its place?” To which the answer is: Nothing. Nothing will work. There is no general model for newspapers to replace the one the internet just broke.

With the old economics destroyed, organizational forms perfected for industrial production have to be replaced with structures optimized for digital data. It makes increasingly less sense even to talk about a publishing industry because the core problem publishing solves — the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public — has stopped being a problem.

(…)

That is what real revolutions are like. The old stuff gets broken faster than the new stuff is put in its place. The importance of any given experiment isn’t apparent at the moment it appears; big changes stall, small changes spread. Even the revolutionaries can’t predict what will happen. Agreements on all sides that core institutions must be protected are rendered meaningless by the very people doing the agreeing. (Luther and the Church both insisted, for years, that whatever else happened, no one was talking about a schism.) Ancient social bargains, once disrupted, can neither be mended nor quickly replaced, since any such bargain takes decades to solidify.

And so it is today. When someone demands to know how we are going to replace newspapers, they are really demanding to be told that we are not living through a revolution. They are demanding to be told that old systems won’t break before new systems are in place.

They are demanding to be told that ancient social bargains aren’t in peril, core institutions will be spared, new methods of spreading information will improve previous practice rather than ending it. They are demanding to be lied to.

There are fewer and fewer people who can convincingly tell such a lie.

If you want to know why newspapers are in such trouble, the most salient fact is this: Printing presses are terrifically expensive to set up and to run. (…)

The old difficulties and costs of printing forced everyone doing it into a similar set of organizational models; it was this similarity that made us regard Daily Racing Form and L’Osservatore Romano as being in the same business. That the relationship between advertisers, publishers, and journalists has been ratified by a century of cultural practice doesn’t make it any less accidental.

Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism. For a century, the imperatives to strengthen journalism and to strengthen newspapers have been so tightly wound as to be indistinguishable.

That’s been a fine accident to have, but when that accident stops, as it is stopping before our eyes, we’re going to need lots of other ways to strengthen journalism instead.

When we shift our attention from ’save newspapers’ to ’save society’, the imperative changes from ‘preserve the current institutions’ to ‘do whatever works.’ And what works today isn’t the same as what used to work.

We don’t know who the Aldus Manutius of the current age is. It could be Craig Newmark or Caterina Fake. It could be Martin Nisenholtz or Emily Bell. It could be some 19-year-old kid few of us have heard of, working on something we won’t recognize as vital until a decade hence.

Any experiment, though, designed to provide new models for journalism is going to be an improvement over hiding from the real, especially in a year when, for many papers, the unthinkable future is already in the past.

For the next few decades, journalism will be made up of overlapping special cases. Many of these models will rely on amateurs as researchers and writers. Many of these models will rely on sponsorship or grants or endowments instead of revenues. Many of these models will rely on excitable 14-year-olds distributing the results. Many of these models will fail. No one experiment is going to replace what we are now losing with the demise of news on paper, but over time, the collection of new experiments that do work might give us the reporting we need.“

Read the whole article here: Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable

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Really effective: There’s nothing virtual about virtual meetings

voiceoverip meeting

Amanda Van Nuis, Enterprise Marketing Director at Linden Lab, wrote about her first virtual meeting experience with her colleagues in Second Life and about how she „wasn’t 100% convinced that working in virtual worlds really works.“ It sounds like an authentic record of her experiences and some commentators have contributed little stories about how valuable immersive environments for meetings and brainstormings are for them. While it seems natural that people working in the virtual world industry use their own products in their everyday office life many people from the most innovative industries still don’t „see“ how virtual meetings with the third dimension add any value.

Dennis Shiao posted a list of efficiencies he’s seen with virtual office meetings (please read his article where he elaborates on every point):

  1. Lower overhead to start a meeting
  2. Facilitates ad hoc, spur of the moment collaboration
  3. Material related to the meeting is at your fingertips (or a mouse-click away)
  4. Immediacy
  5. True facial expressions

I’d add another two points to that list:

6. Social bonding (by having fun)

7. Inspiration & motivation (by having fun experiences)

Karl Kapp listed some advantages of 3D environments for learning the other day and we had a discussion about the „fun“ factor that’s an important ingredient in any learning situation. I believe this is true for meetings in an immersive environment, too.

In addition to the social „water cooler effect“ 3D environments (and in some cases even 2.5D) add value because people are having fun with it. Here’s why.

Laughing together not only builds a better rapport and therefore improves the corporate climate, but it also motivates and inspires people. Since people tend to loosen up in virtual meetings (try not to if you’re sitting across a giant turtle – your graphics designer – or the Wizard of Oz, who happens to be your technical director) and things get a little more playful if you’re able to „magically“ materialize anything you have in mind (or on your desktop). Psychologically speaking those are the basic ingredients for new ideas, group inspiration and motivation.

What’s astonishing even for me is that these effects also happen in 2.5D spaces.

Just yesterday I evaluated the Meetsee.com beta again and I invited a colleague of mine, who is working in another city. Meetsee is a virtual office solution with 2.5D or isometric views. My colleague is no geek and she refuses to use Second Life; a web browser is as far as she would go.

Usually we Skype (with and without video) but now I tried the web-based Meetsee solution with her. She was in-world within seconds after I sent her the link and scribbled a note on the virtual blackboard before we even said a word. So we have zero accessibility issues here (in stark contrast to Second Life or others). We had one of the most productive meetings in a long time. It was almost as effective as our face-to-face meetings but without even leaving our desks and driving for 6 hours. And that was no thanks to Meetsee’s technical features because the most basic stuff like a whiteboard, voice- and video conference didn’t even work (it’s still in beta).

UPDATE: Their staff has seen this post and in fact fixed the video conferencing and whiteboard feature – thanks to Nikki Santoro (Meetsee CEO)!

The reason was that we both had the sense of being there together, pointing at important information like we’d do in a real meeting room and having fun by using the emoticons to get our message across. At one point we even discussed a new layout of chairs (by moving them around together in the virtual room and try-sit on it) for our next workshop. Now that is something you can’t do in WebEx or Go2Meeting. The only thing that would have topped this would have been the true sense of proximity that you only get in 3D environments with real individual avatars and real three dimensions. Well, like in real life 😉

Meetsee

Simple virtual office solution for classrooms, meetings, web conferences or panel discussions. If video, audio and whiteboards would work, that is. Meetsee still has to work on its technology and become much more reliable and stable. If you want to meet me in my offices to try it out please IM me at LaConsiliera on Skype.

Advantages of 3D for Learning – And the Secret Ingredient

Karl Kapp’s listed today some of the advantages of 3D environments (virtual worlds) for learning. Take a look at this list if someone (your boss, client) asks you why they should allow you to set up the next employee-training or any other course in a 3D world.

Although Kapp, one of TrainingIndustry.com’s 2007 „Top 20 Most Influential Training Professionals“, sums the advantages up pretty nicely, I’d like to add the following two aspects that in my experience had the most impact on successful and sustainable learning situations:

1) One of the most important aspects in any learning environment: fun. Having fun is the most emotional engagement you can get (and that secures sustainable learning). Students have fun in 3D environments, especially if they’re designed to include casual games or playful training situations. But the three dimensional, immersive online environment is already so much fun for youth that this alone works to your advantage.

UPDATE: Jacob Everist has a background in dealing with East Asians from living in Korea Taiwan and China and writes in his blog that „Particularly in East Asia, education is considered hard work. If something is fun, it is not taken seriously. “ Interesting aspect that could also be said about some „typical“ Germans (I am German, but lived abroad a lot) 🙂

2) The water cooler effect. This is true for business trainings or meetings; studies show that the informal socializing in-between or after sessions is as important in virtual worlds as in the real world. Only that you don’t need to pay for airline tickets, hotels and catering.

My Sky Campus in Second Life: Example of a 3D learning environment with extensive multimedia capabilities (YouTube screen, 10 m high presentation screen, interactive web displays) and a recreational area with bean bags, cocktail bar and many fun features you can’t experience in real life classrooms or seminar settings

If we still missed some aspects (I added some in the comments) please comment here or in Karl Kapp’s blog!

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