Karl Kapp and Tony O’Driscoll have launched the age of virtual worlds in organizational learning by providing a thorough overview in their new book Learning in 3D. This is a comprehensive and eloquent book, covering the emerging opportunity in virtual worlds. Replete with conceptual models to provide structure to the discussion as well as pragmatic guidance to how to design and implement learning solutions, this book will help those trying to both get their minds around the possibilities and those who are ready to get their hands dirty.
Their enthusiasm for the opportunities is palpable, and helps bolster the reader through some initial heady material. The book is eloquently written, as you’d expect from two academics, but both also play in the real world, so it’s not too esoteric in language or concept. It’s just that the concepts are complex, and they don’t pander with overly simplistic presentations. They get it, and want you to, too.
Their opening chapters make a solid argument for social learning. They take us through the changes society is going through and the technology transformations of the internet to help us understand why social learning, formal and informal, is a powerful case. They point out the problems with existing formal learning, and identify how these can be addressed in virtual worlds.
What follows is a serious statement of the essential components of a virtual world for organizational learning, a series of models that attempt to capture and categorize learning in a 3D world. They similarly develop a series of useful ‘use cases’ (they term them “archetypes”), and place them in context. Overall, it’s a well thought out characterization of the space.
Coupled with the conceptual overviews are pragmatic support. There are a number of carefully detailed examples that help learners understand the business need and the outcomes as well as the design. There are war stories from a number of pioneers in the space. There is a systematic guide to design that should provide valuable support to readers who are eager to experiment, and the advice on vendors, adoption, and implementation is very practical and valuable.
The book is not without flaws: they set up a ‘straw man’ contrast to virtual world learning. While all too representative of corporate elearning, the contrast of good pedagogy versus bad pedagogy undermines the unique affordances of the virtual world. I note that their principles for virtual world learning design are not unique to virtual worlds, and are essentially no different (except socially) from those in Engaging Learning. And their 7 sensibilities doesn’t seem quite as conceptually accurate as my own take on virtual world affordances. But these are small concerns in the larger picture of communicating the opportunities.
This is a valuable book for those who want to understand what all the excitement is about in virtual worlds. I’ve been watching the space for a number of years now, and as the technology has matured have moved from thinking that the overhead was too high to where I believe that it is a valuable tool in the learning arsenal and only going to be more so. This book is the guide you need to being ready to capitalize on this opportunity. You can get a 20% discount purchasing it directly from Amazon. Recommended.