Evanouski synthesis paper final 504 4173


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Evanouski synthesis paper final 504 4173

  1. 1. Training Employees in a 3-D Virtual EnvironmentLora EvanouskiBoise State UniversityEdTech 504-4173Dr. Ross PerkinsMay 7, 2010<br />Abstract<br />Online 3-D virtual environments (VEs) also known as virtual learning environments (VLEs) or immersive virtual worlds (IVWs) are gaining traction in the global corporate world for communication and training purposes. What role does the 3-D VE hold within our training environment? I will show a positive correlation of using a 3-D VE in a training context while utilizing the constructive learning environment. Combing a training environment with technology creates a more stimulating atmosphere. In order to accomplish higher order thinking skills needed for the global workplace, employers must adapt the training to a context rich and relevant environment that will better prepare an employee for their problem solving existence. Spatial and language learning skills have been shown to have a positive impact upon learning and training in a 3-D VE. Furthermore, the limitations that exist when using a 3-D VE will be examined. Limitations on bandwidth and cost coupled with a steep learning curve can lead to learner attrition. This paper describes some of the important issues in a 3-D VE: (a) virtual communities, (b) constructivism and 3-D VEs, (c) advantages and disadvantages of 3-D VEs, and (d) conclusions and recommendations. <br />Keywords: 3-D, virtual training, constructivism, spatial skills, context rich, avatars<br />Introduction<br />Virtual learning communities have changed the way in which we teach and learn. Learners can exchange ideas in a rich contextual experience. Because the world has turned into a global economy, communication and interpersonal skills are crucial in the business environment to sustain profitability and compete successfully. An underlying key to success of business professionals is the ability to put their domain knowledge into effective practice. 3-D virtual environments have the ability to create a virtual space that allows the learner to participate in and draw upon a socially immersive and creative experience in which the learner can practice and improve communication and interpersonal skills. Success in the modern workplace requires teamwork and collaboration. <br />Today, technology allows us to reach well beyond the traditional training methods of sitting in an office space for hours on end with a trainer, book, DVD presentations, or a conference call. Virtual worlds are a global computer networked community in virtual reality where the participants interact through simulated 3-D spaces using personal representations called avatars CITATION Dic05 t l 1033 (Dickey, 2005). 3-D virtual learning environments (VE, VLE or IVW) offer a unique pathway to train and educate employees that can take place anytime and anywhere. The goal of this paper is to examine 3-D virtual communities in respect to training and educating employees. Questions highlighted in this research are; what impact does constructivism have upon 3-D virtual communities? How are constructivism and 3-D VEs related to learning and training? What are some advantages and disadvantages of utilizing the 3-D virtual community for employee training? Solutions to the problems presented will be offered in the conclusions and recommendations sections.<br />Virtual Communities<br />With the dramatic advancement in technology and development of 3-D television, 3-D technology is gaining mainstream attention. Virtual reality was devised to enable people to deal with information more easily, and it has been successfully developed to facilitate learning and task performance for over 20 years in the U. S. Air Force CITATION Mor08 l 1033 (Mora, 2008). After the strategic development and use within the US military, Linden Lab has been a major architect in bringing about a shared experience where participants can not only inhabit a 3-D landscape but also build and experience the world around them. This virtual world is called Second Life. <br />Second Life is considered a safe and protective environment in which participants can learn with the use of an avatar. An avatar is a digital persona that the participant creates to move through the 3-D environment. In addition, Second Life accommodates communities of education, businesses, entrepreneurs, and nonprofits. Furthermore, it is open-ended allowing the trainer, educator, or company to build a realistic version of their infrastructure. Companies such as Coca-Cola, Calvin Klein, Intel, and AOL are immersed in Second Life. “A VE can provide a situated learning environment in which the students can exercise the necessary skills, experience their conditions, and learn to select the correct strategy” CITATION Rom01 p 271 l 1033 (Romano & Brna, 2001, p. 271). Another very popular VE platform is Active Worlds. Active Worlds has been in existence since ’95.<br />Moreover, virtual reality has been described as a community of like minded individuals with a unique language and culture. When applied to training employees for the work environment, it takes on unique characteristics of trainer and educator. Imagine a doctor using this virtual training center to learn how to: order and store vaccines, administer doses to patients, and bill for their services CITATION Har09 l 1033 (Harris, 2009). 3-D virtual meeting places allow the employer to facilitate a safe and secure learning environment in which to practice and develop techniques when dealing with problem situations. Customer service skills can be tried and tested through live presentations and collaborations in a safe and secure environment. Firefighters can make critical decisions based upon knowledge produced in a 3-D VE. Success was demonstrated for critical decision making in an experiment performed by Romano & Brna (2001) in which team members collaborated to resolve a problem resulting in improved performances compared to solo performances.<br />3-D VE triggers exploration and discovery which are key elements in constructivist teaching. The 3-D VE builds on learners’ real-world knowledge by providing a visual metaphor of the content CITATION Bro08 l 1033 (Bronack, Sanders, Cheney, Riedl, Tashner, & Matzen, 2008). By training an employee for a job in a 3-D VE, the employee can practice and develop the skill needed to sustain a productive work environment before entering the first day on the sales floor, in a medical office, constructing a building, or as an emergency responder. In particular, the employee is exposed to a wide and range of scenarios at a time and place convenient to the employee simultaneously with constant feedback CITATION Sav08 l 1033 (Savin-Baden, 2008). This approach creates a context and scaffolding event for interaction using 3-D presentations to engage and immerse the student into a situation for learning. Furthermore, as the employees move through the 3-D space, they intuitively understand the space and feel as if they are walking through a hallway or are engaged in discussions with others. By placing objects in a contextual 3-D framework, the employee has existing reference points and that creates a framework for interaction and communication CITATION Sav08 l 1033 (Savin-Baden, 2008).<br />Constructivism and the 3-D Virtual Environment<br />Key to a virtual community is the constructivist philosophy where learning is not passive. According to Dede’s (1995) investigations, VEs offer many benefits through experimentation without real-world repercussions, to learn by doing, and to personalize an environment. Furthermore, the theoretical constructs of constructivism recognize that knowledge is constructed, not transmitted allowing the learner to take an active role in the learning process CITATION Tay08 l 1033 (Taylor & Mackenney, 2008). The learner must be situated into an opportunity to create their own learning. Simulated 3-D environments are modeled on real places and objects and have the potential to provide a greater sense of realism and presence to the participant CITATION Dal10 l 1033 (Dalgarno & Lee, 2010). The role of the trainer is shifted from teacher to facilitator. According to Bronack et al. (2008), learners have multiple opportunities to turn interactions into artifacts and ways of knowing into expertise. Learning is a part of these activities which in turn contributes to meaningful knowledge to the learner. <br />Online communication lacks the face-to-face features of traditional meetings where a participant can read the gestures, tone of voice, and body language. Although the employee is not physically there, when a virtual learner enters the simulated reality of a 3-D VE the avatar is considered having the participant’s presence in the virtual world. Thus, the presence is felt by other avatars. As described by Bronack et al. (2008), virtual worlds provide opportunities to create spaces that support cognitive presence through the use of visuals and persistent spaces. Consistent with constructivism, presence allows peer to peer interaction whereupon encouraging knowledge building through role models, role reversal, and an appreciative audience CITATION Dic05 t l 1033 (Dickey, 2005). The ability to self define, lose ones’ self, and by adopting alternative roles affords the learner the opportunity to embrace multiple perspectives which is consistent with the principles of constructivism CITATION Dal10 l 1033 (Dalgarno & Lee, 2010). This peer to peer interaction is also known as collaboration. Collaboration is the synchronous activity with diverse parties working together towards a common goal CITATION Ser06 l 1033 (Serce & Yildirim, 2006). As described by Serce and Yildirim, synchronous activity is the simultaneous communication between participants. Therefore, the presence of the avatar is mediated by collaboration in the 3-D VE.<br /> Corporations have a wide range of needs to accommodate when training employees. Needs to be met include updating employees on new tools and products, offering services to customers, training on the new tools, raising educational levels of employees, and teaching the soft skills of corporate life CITATION von06 l 1033 (von Brevern & Synytsya, 2006). Moreover, the employee can explore firsthand about the job while simultaneously discovering about the corporate atmosphere CITATION Dal10 l 1033 (Dalgarno & Lee, 2010). Because the workplace is not usually a linear application, the key to learning in a 3-D VE is to be able to apply what the employee has learned through the investigative techniques in a 3-D VE to unpredictable situations that might occur over the course of a work life. Through interaction in virtual space, a learning community occurs. Participation and contribution within the community of practice both empowers and shapes learning among all members (Bronack et al., 2008). This type of learning is conducive to a constructive learning environment. In a study conducted by Zheng, Young, Wagner, and Brewer (2009) research has shown that students acquired language using a virtual shared space. Furthermore, the results suggest that the students are able to apply this learning because the students were provided a real life interaction and those skills may be transferred to the work place (Zheng et al., 2009). <br />Affordances play another critical role when describing a 3D VE. According to Dickey (2003), a learning affordance can be described as a set of contributions to learning that potentially arise from problem-oriented tasks afforded by such environments. Affordances can be described as: (a) the perceived emotions, (b) the physical being in the 3-D space, (c) a relationship between objects, or (d) how one interacts with the surrounding in a 3-D VE. Spatial knowledge is critically important in learning how to drive a car, perform medical procedures, or use dangerous equipment. In several studies cited by Dickey (2003), learners practiced their skill in a safe and secure 3-D environment to facilitate experiential learning tasks that led to meaningful outcomes that can be applied in a real world context. In addition, 3-D VEs offer transparency of knowledge representation which allows the learner to identify concepts as first-person and not as an abstract representation of reality CITATION dic03 t l 1033 (Dickey, 2003). Moreover, the affordances that are constructed through the 3-D medium allow the learner to be actively participating in the learning process, which is a central tenet to constructivism. Furthermore, in a study completed by Weiss, Naveh, and Katz (2003), 3-D VEs were used to help right sided hemispheric stroke patients learn how to cross a street. The results showed that the patients immersed into the 3-D VE were beneficial for both the cognitive and motor demands (Weiss et al., 2003). Even through the loss of motor and cognitive skills, these patients can now safely and securely negotiate a situation that was previously not afforded to them. The purposeful activity taught the learners in a safe and secure environment. In addition, repeated approaches and interventions allowed establishment of proper cognitive and motor movements. A realistic 3-D environment achieved what would be dangerous in a real setting. Lastly, in a study conducted in Active Worlds by Dickey (2005), the participants were able to create 3-D objects that afforded them to learn in a collaborative and supportive environment. Through situated learning in a 3-D VE, all the participants experienced and reflected on previous experiences actively creating new knowledge. The participants could apply the knowledge to realistic problems causing deeper and more authentic learning to occur.<br />Advantages and Disadvantages of 3-D VEs<br />According to Smith and Ragan (2005), Vygotsky’s Theory of Social Constructivism emphasizes the interactions between the social facilitation and the context. Underpinnings of this theory maintain knowledge construction through a context dependent environment. With a budget crisis and the threat of eliminating travel expenses, training an employee in 3-D VE engages the learner with a presence without the travel. Not only can a corporation train the employee but also maintain communication through virtual meetings. But, if teachers, students, trainers, employees, and employers are unwilling to participate and interact in the 3-D VE then no meaningful learning can be accomplished. According to Serce and Yildirim (2006), several studies have shown that the implementation of collaborative learning strategies resulted in higher student involvement in the course and more engagement in the learning process and are more effective than traditional methods. Brna and Aspin (1998) note that one of the strengths of 3-D VEs is that the student is free to find a frame of reference from which the problem can be viewed and subsequently solved more efficiently. Collaboration and reflection are key aspects to the constructivist environment. <br />In addition, using 3-D VEs allow the learner to understand when and how to implement certain behaviors by manipulating 3-D objects and interacting in conversations. According to Lave and Wenger (as cited by Delwiche, 2006), meaning is contextual and learning is what happens when an individual becomes increasingly involved as a participant in social communities of practice. Role playing activities that are common in 3-D virtual games have been shown to be vital in behavior, attitudes, and critical thinking skills CITATION Del06 l 1033 (Delwiche, 2006). <br />Another positive aspect to learning in a virtual environment is the safety of the environment. A 3-D VE experiment conducted by Romano and Brna (2001) reflects the non-risk of life threatening game scenarios which led to a feeling of higher state of presence suggesting that the learners were experiencing a real life situation. Because the 3-D VE allows the learner to build an accurate internal representation of the real environment, critical thinking skills can be actively deployed to resolve a life threatening situation. Furthermore, the 3-D VE can provide a situated learning environment in which the employee can exercise the necessary skills, experience the conditions, and learn to select the correct strategy CITATION Rom01 l 1033 (Romano & Brna, 2001). By placing the employee in a safe environment, a positive and creative attitude is conducive to letting the employee completely immerse into the 3-D environment which can lead to more meaningful learning. When using 3-D VEs, the ability to role play and view multiple perspectives helps the employee to improve their targeted skill. <br />In contrast, 3-D VEs have been criticized because they are: (a) tough to learn, (b) have technical limitations of platforms, (c) sometimes open to the public, (d) sometimes owned by a privately held company such as Second Life, (e) labor intensive for content, and (f) poor for a standard of communication. Noted in a study by Delwiche (2006), the learning curve is dramatic in the virtual world especially in virtual games such as Everquest. Because the learning curve is so dramatic, frustration and anxiety were frequent barriers cited in this study. Delwiche (2006) points out that how, when, and why particular e-spaces are used does bear further exploration. “This is because the type of e-space and the way in which it is used or not used to manage knowledge will affect the kinds of learning opportunities offered to students” CITATION Sav08 p 155 l 1033 (Savin-Baden, 2008, p. 155). Furthermore, moving from a linear learning pattern of learning to a non-linear pattern can be difficult for some learners. <br />In addition, immersive technology can inhibit learning because it can trigger nausea, dizziness, and visual difficulties CITATION Rom01 l 1033 (Romano & Brna, 2001). The study by Weiss et al. (2003) reflects on how stroke patients regained the mobility to walk through the use of immersive 3-D VEs but maintained that side effects such as eye strain, dizziness, and loss of balance are noted. The learners also note that the use of an avatar is not as realistic as full immersion.<br />Another drawback to 3-D VEs is when no other avatar is present then no collaboration exists, which limits social constructivist learning. Furthermore, the bandwidth is another unique issue when dealing with a large business. According to Linden Lab, the user must have 300 kilobits of internet bandwidth for basic functionality and 100 kilobits for better performance. In addition, participants can sometimes lose the distinction between 3-D VE and reality. Lastly, as cited by Harris (2009), there is no evidence of a strong demand from the corporate sector to date.<br />Conclusion<br />Today, the rapid advancements in technology are reshaping our society and the way in which we teach and train our employees. Organizations are diverse and have a need to adapt to changing situations whereby a 3-D VE holds the key to problems of diversity and logistics. Because we have access to such rich contextual environments, learning and transmitting information quickly can be achieved with dramatic success. By tailoring the training to a realistic setting, the employee has access to a contextually rich and socially immersive experience allowing them to improve their targeted skill. Training in this rich context allows the employee to learn a new procedure or a new language to speak to customers across the globe.<br />As laid out in this paper, there are positive and negative aspects in the 3-D VE. By adapting technology and considering how to train employees one must contemplate travel costs, expenses of labor, and logistics of training employees from radically differing locations. The main advantage of using a distributed learning and training system is that the immersive environment allows for global participation and networked team oriented collaboration. In an effort to build a positive training structure to be competitive, 21st century companies must maintain a cutting edge in order to be a dominant force for the future. But as with the positive aspects of integrating technology the main detractors of using a 3-D VE are twofold, cost and bandwidth. By balancing these positive and negative components, companies of the today can be the properly trained companies of tomorrow. The use of 3-D VE technology can and should be used to enhance and stimulate training. <br />Recommendations<br />Should organizations stick to the old paradigm of more training hours equals a more effectively trained staff? Because of recent mining accidents, oil rig explosions, and natural disasters, corporations as well as governments are looking at the effectiveness of training within companies. The benefit to having properly trained employees to employ proper problem-solving techniques can be a life saving motivation. Training in a 3-D VE can allow the participant to actively engage in solving problems as observed by Romano and Brna’s (2001) positive results when training fireman. But, a further paradigm shift may be needed in the learning and training cultures of corporations and governments which can lead to not only problem-solving but also problem-prevention.<br />Furthermore, whether a large corporation or a privately held firm considers training in a 3-D VE, the company must consider a winning strategy for their particular needs. When making use of remote data and tools for their participants and systems, one must consider the different characteristics of cultural backgrounds, technical experience, technological equipment, and physical and cognitive abilities. Despite the positive results in training fireman CITATION Rom01 l 1033 (Romano & Brna, 2001) and the stroke afflicted patients (Weiss et al., 2003) with spatial orientation and critical thinking skills, more research is needed. <br />Moreover, in Dickey’s (2005) study of language acquisition from a 3-D VE proved that limitations still exist in such a setting through miscommunications and misunderstandings. Although Dickey’s (2005) study demonstrated the innovational power of 3-D VEs potential to communicate across continents, much research is needed to fully understand the potential of distance and distributed learning. Finally, trainers in the field need to be trained on using technology to its fullest potential. An interesting aspect of this research brought to light that no studies were indicated on the impact of teaching the trainers to use technology.<br />References BIBLIOGRAPHY Brna, P., & Aspin, R. (1998). Collaboration in a virtual world: Support for conceptual learning? 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M., & Brewer, R. A. (2009). Negotiation for action: English language learning in game-based virtual worlds. The Modern Language Journal, 93(4), pp. 489-511. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-4781.2009.00927.x<br />