Jasmin Cowin, Ed.D.
Assistant Professor, TESOL and Bilingual Programs
Graduate School of Education
The Fork in the Road
It started with Minecraft and my son. His fascination and hours of focus on and in Minecraft, paying little attention to all the lovingly displayed books on his bedroom bookshelf drove me to shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. Realizing that I would not win this particular battle, I decided to join him on his Minecraft, Mario and Pokémon forays. His total focus, relentless research into different winning or creation strategies, and astonishingly deft manipulation of objects in 3D environments, created an increasing fascination of these gaming technologies, nascent virtual spaces, open simulation environments and their possible future impact on institutions of learning, teachers, and learners.
Attractive Online Programs
As higher education is under increasing demographic and financial pressure, the forecast looks grim. The survey How Enrollment Challenges Can Spur Change released by the Chronicle of Higher Education, January 2018, found that 52 percent of private colleges and 44 percent of public colleges didn’t meet their enrollment goals in fall 2017. Thriving in a competitive atmosphere for student enrollment “the most popular responses to enrollment and revenue shortfalls remained the same: Start attractive new programs, improve enrollment strategies, and pump up marketing.”
Attractive online programs are not aggregations of online courses filled with PDF documents, short video clips and discussion boards all housed in modules, featuring standardized learning objectives, extensive rubrics (and possibly chatbots in the future). In such environments individualized student teaching and learning is sacrificed on the altar of efficiency and standardization. Attractive online learning programs need to connect with students through better tools to support experiential learning, “the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. Knowledge results from the combinations of grasping and transforming the experience.” (Kolb) While the current ed tech field is populated with many contenders (and expensive losers), I chose to focus on six current trends at the forefront of teaching and training simulations.
Dr. J’s Six Trends
Augmented Analytics focuses on a specific area of augmented intelligence, using machine learning (ML) to transform how analytics content is developed, consumed and shared. One day, data storytelling might become ubiquitous in Virtual Worlds (VW’s) democratizing “data visualization with narrative techniques across multiple experiences and channels.” https://www.gartner.com/webinar/3900998?pcp=wb_ddc&srcId=1-3478922220
360° photos are controllable panoramic images that surround the original point from which the shot was taken. Essentially, they are situating the learner in the shoes of a photographer, allowing a look around a photographed setting as if in the middle of it. 360-degree photograph
360° videos, a fairly recent technology, enables learners to not only look around and interact with the setting, as in the case of 360° photos, but place “the viewer within the context of a scene or event rather than presenting them as an outside observer, and giving the viewer the ability to control the orientation of the scene and viewing direction.” https://studio.knightlab.com/results/storytelling-layers-on-360-video/an-introduction-to-360-video/
3D simulations are computer-generated environments, recreating lifelike experiences where learners freely interact with objects in the 3D simulation. Learners “gain hands-on training to quickly master new knowledge needed to perform certain tasks, either completely new or part of increased job responsibilities.” https://blog.matrixlms.com/5-types-immersive-technology-training/
Virtual Reality (VR) needs a VR headset which immerses the learner in the 3D environment, a Virtual World (VW). VW’s are becoming increasingly popular not only for gaming but also for teaching and learning in schools, professional environments, colleges and universities worldwide. According to Educational Virtual Environments “Virtual Reality (VR) immersive technologies support the creation of synthetic, highly interactive three dimensional (3D) spatial environments that represent real or non-real situations” (Mikropoulos and Natsis, 2010, p. 769).
MR (Mixed Reality) takes VR a step even further, as it introduces elements of Augmented Reality (AR) in learning environments. AR’s “primary objective is to provide a rich audiovisual experience. AR works by employing computerized simulation and techniques such as image and speech recognition, animation, head-mounted and hand-held devices and powered display environments to add a virtual display on top of real images and surroundings.” https://www.techopedia.com/definition/4776/augmented-reality-ar
Richly conceived 3D environments feature all 7 e-learning affordances and lend themselves to a more communicative approach and the flipped classroom model. Unique technological characteristics such as the creation of 3D spatial representations, multisensory channels for user interaction and intuitive interaction through natural manipulations in real time enable more holistic teaching and learning experiences. While the field is not quite there yet in terms of full online immersion teaching spaces, it is at the cusp of viability. Working in beta spaces carries risks and rewards. Risks are limited functionality, tech issues, and a learning curve for institutions, facilitators and students. However, creating novel tech experiences in 3D environments prepares not only students but also institutions for the Fourth Industrial Revolution which according to Klaus Schwab ” is characterized by a range of new technologies that are fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, impacting all disciplines, economies and industries, and even challenging ideas about what it means to be human.”
B, Livia. “5 Types of Immersive Technology for Training.” MATRIX Blog, MATRIX, 19 Mar. 2018, blog.matrixlms.com/5-types-immersive-technology-training/.
Carlson, Scott. “How Enrollment Challenges Can Spur Change.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 21 Jan. 2018, http://www.chronicle.com/article/How-Enrollment-Challenges-Can/242276.
“Data Storytelling With Multiexperiences.” Gartner IT Glossary, Gartner, Inc., http://www.gartner.com/webinar/3900998?pcp=wb_ddc&srcId=1-3478922220.
“The Fourth Industrial Revolution, by Klaus Schwab.” World Economic Forum, http://www.weforum.org/about/the-fourth-industrial-revolution-by-klaus-schwab.
Kolb, David A. Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Pearson Education, Inc., 2015.
Mikropoulos, Tassos A., and Antonis Natsis. “Educational Virtual Environments: A Ten-Year Review of Empirical Research (1999–2009).” Computers & Education, vol. 56, no. 3, 2011, pp. 769–780., doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2010.10.020.
Shukla, Umang, et al. “An Introduction to 360° Video.” Knight Lab Studio, studio.knightlab.com/results/storytelling-layers-on-360-video/an-introduction-to-360-video/.
Taylor, Stephen. “The Fork In The Road.” PoemHunter.com, 15 Feb. 2009, http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-fork-in-the-road-2/.
“What Is 360-Degree Photograph? – Definition from WhatIs.com.” WhatIs.com, whatis.techtarget.com/definition/360-degree-photograph.