April 14 2010

A Place for 3D Web Conferencing in e-Learning?

Written by Shevy Levy

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Many organizations, when implementing an e-Learning solution such as an Online Course or courseware in a Moodle framework, ask us to integrate web conferencing software, such as Dim Dim, elluminate or Adobe Connect into the course. Web Conferencing software, is used to conduct live web meetings between instructors and learners. Integrating such software, as well as videos, into a dynamic online course, is ideal for organizations that need to keep a "real-time lesson" portion of their training programs intact, while still taking advantage of all the other features that e-Learning has to offer.

The Shift towards 3D

While traditional web conferencing software solutions are very effective and very popular, it seems like the big innovation lately in the web conferencing, web meeting and webinar industry, is 3D web conferencing, or web conferencing via virtual worlds. This relatively new concept merges the technology of a traditional meeting over the web, with the physical cues one would get from a face to face meeting. Content is still administered over the web, but via 3D avatars, or 3D character versions of participants. The concept is sort of like a video game, that's used for social interaction and collaboration.

At Lambda Solutions, the concept of virtual worlds for eLearning, is nothing new to us. In the past, we've adapted 3D technology to fit within various applications, including 3D games, learning activities, interactivities and more. However, the application of 3D virtual worlds to web conferencing is an entirely new concept and one which may have some potential in its application for online learning.

There has been a surge of new products popping up lately, all specializing in providing 3D presentation technology for businesses. Venuegen, for example, is one such product, which I recently discovered. With venuegen, you upload your face shot and it is placed on a 3d version of yourself. You can customize your clothes etc. and then attend the webinar or web meeting and interact with other avatars and listen in on a presentation, being administered by the presenter via a lead avatar. There are several other products like Venuegen on the market, all with similar solutions. Some of these include:

  • »Tixeo
  • »Assemb'Live
  • »Croquet
  • »Edusim
  • »Forterra OLIVE
  • »OpenSim
  • »Protosphere
  • »Second Life
  • »Teleplace

The Advantages of 3D Technology for e-Learning

Theoretically, because physical cues play such an important role in how we interact, retain information and learn, the idea of 3D web conferencing could be a vast improvement over traditional web conferencing software, for online learning. 3D web conferencing would not only improve how we learn and teach, but would still be more affordable than a face to face solution, saving instructors and presenters travel costs and accommodation costs, among other things.

As well, perhaps as the technology advances, in the future, participants of a web meeting will be able to do more than just learn, participate and ask questions. Maybe in the future, the technology will allow them to work with one another, interact in real time and collaborate, in a dynamic new way. The concept could very well change the way we participate in online classrooms!


The Drawbacks of 3D Technology for e-Learning

Unfortunately, the technology is still relatively new and has not yet been thoroughly explored, tried out and tested. This might make it a tough sell for businesses in the short term. After all, organizations want solutions that have been tested, proven to work and proven to achieve results, before spending the money implementing and using them. However, despite the short term struggles, the future could be a bright one for the 3D web conferencing industry, especially for e-Learning.

Do you think there's a place for virtual worlds in the future of web conferencing? What about eLearning?


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