Your Brain On 3D Learning

Help! I’ve been caught in an immersive 3D Learning Environment! Oh wait, this is just my office. I guess the book, Learning in 3D, has kind of rewired my brain. I’m sure this is an improvement.

According to the authors, Karl Kapp and Tony O’Driscoll, it’s just a matter of time until virtual immersive environments are commonly accepted as the learning mode of choice. So when 3D Learning invades your organization, will you be able to design or facilitate this type of experience?

If you understand the cognitive advantages underlying this approach, you’ll be way ahead of the game.

When Kapp and O’Driscoll refer to a 3D learning experience (3DLE), they’re talking about a rich interactive space in which the learner lives and interacts in real-time within an immersive virtual environment and community. The learners might collaborate to solve a problem, accomplish a task or overcome a challenge.

You may be surprised at the ways learning can potentially be transformed when people are engaged in a virtual immersive environment. Here are some of the key advantages to this approach that the authors highlight.

3D environment created in Thinking Worlds

Generative Learning

In a well-designed 3DLE, learning is transformed from a one-dimensional, directed and managed activity to a multi-dimensional collaborative activity. Learning is generative as it emerges from a participatory experience. Through this approach, peer-to-peer learners or a group of learners create shared meaning together.

Power of Being There

Learning in a virtual world creates the visceral effect of being present in that environment. This has the potential for increasing learning transfer because applying knowledge is more powerful than simply knowing something.

Accomplishing a series of tasks in a virtual environment creates an ideal learning experience. It connects the “visual and mental cues that make the recall and application of the learning” more effective.

Promotes Informal Learning

By now we’ve all heard that the majority of one’s learning occurs informally. Whether it’s  related to work, recreation or personal development, an immersive environment can be designed for creating the appropriate context and conditions for informal teaching moments. As in real life, the learning experience will depend on the knowledge and skills of the learner.

3D environment created in Thinking Worlds

Individualized Guidance

One might imagine a 3DLE where avatars run wild and nothing is accomplished. Not so. The effective 3DLE is designed to provide guidance as learners engage in discovery activities that facilitate the learning goals of the experience. Because individuals enter the experience at different levels, the guidance they are offered will naturally vary.

Ultimately, effective learning is dependent on creating experiences that facilitate the learner’s cognitive processing. Learning in an immersive environment appears to have many advantages, but these will only be achieved if the designer uses new paradigms to match this innovative approach.

What are the advantages or disadvantages to learning in a 3D Virtual Environment from your perspective?

Buy Learning in 3D from Wiley: Get a 20% discount. Use code L3D1 at the shopping cart.
Learning in 3D Site: Go to the book website to learn more.
Slideshare Presentation: Learning in 3D Thought Leader webinar.
Karl Kapp’s Resources: Good list of resources for 3DLE.
Tony O’Driscoll’s Nuggets: Get nuggets from the book here.
Buy from Amazon: Learning in 3D.

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  1. Tony ODriscoll says


    Thanks for such a thoughtful post. I particularly resonated with the notion of how applying knowledge is more powerful than simply knowing it. This is where I believe the sensibilities of virtual worlds can truly make a difference!

    Thanks for being part of our Blog Book tour….I REALLY like your site ; )

    All the Best.

  2. Karl Kapp says


    Thanks again for being a stop on the tour!! I would say that the advantages of learning in a 3D environment is that a person gets a sense of self when they become an avatar. A person can vest some energy in making the avatar reflect their personality. Something that can’t be done in a 2D virtual classroom with just a person’s name.

    Also, the 3D environment, as you point out, means that a person is present…they are there. As Randy says “its not about being there, its about doing there.” When interacting in a 3D environment, it really is like working side-by-side with another person.

    Finally, the advantage is the immersiveness of the learning. In a 3D environment a person is in the environment in which they learning ultimately the performance takes place. The visual and auditory cues can immerse the learner in the learning and help to solidify knowledge.

    Thanks again for being a great stop!

  3. Ryan says

    Virtual worlds have so much untapped potential, particularly in terms of situated learning. Thanks for pointing out this new book!

  4. Wencke says

    Hi Connie

    Thank you very much for this interesting article. I really enjoy reading your site and I have just recently wrote my master dissertation around promoting 3D virtul worlds for learning in the workplace.

    I do agree that 3D virtual worlds provide a learning environment that engages learners much more in their learning process by allowing the personal reflection onto an avatar. The immersiveness reduces (maybe even eliminates) the multitasking habbit participants of virtual classrooms have. However, my project has also shown that the ease of use of the 3D environment has a high impact on the adoption process of these environments for learning.

    I am very excited to see these environments being use more and more for learning and hope that its potential will not be wasted by only replicating what we do in the real world.


  5. ThreeDeeNut says

    I have not read this book yet, but look forward to do so. I had started my career in 3D animation when 3D was a number letter combination that made most people say huh, what? Since then I have made numerous animations for clients teaching prospective customers how and what machines of great complexity do for the customer (a form of e-learning in my opinion). I have personally witnessed the effect it has on understanding. A good artist can bring forth the operations in ways that just cant be done via other methods. Think of a running machine cutaway showing the layers of gears… then make it interactive. Nothing has ever even come close to this kind of worker machine interactivity. As we progress, I don’t believe we will be e-learning, instead we will be e-doing. The military has already begun with the drones, but the real application will be in the workplace. Wake up, get on your computer, log into your truck in Alaska, start your digging operation. It’s really not that far off and is probably one of the most realistic ways to reduce carbon emissions, gas consumption, and many other harmful bi-products of daily driving. Anyhow, just my 2 cents. Hope the book is good.

  6. Connie Malamed says

    Hey ThreeDee and thanks for your thoughtful comment. Yes, visuals bring abstract ideas, processes, concepts and procedures to life. Our brains are wired that way. I hope you like Kapp’s book. And I love your idea that e-learning will become e-doing. Awesome.



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