3D Learning Environments

I was attending a conference about eLearning (okay, I even got to give an invited talk and stayed for the rest of the day, listening to some good talks, and then this). The last talk was about a 3D learning environment.

Okay, I had a diploma student do one of those once. It was a stupid idea of mine. Even if a 3D structure in program libraries is given, "flying" through the space is just not a viable concept, although the student did a good job implementing the thing.

So I thought I would see an interesting application. I admit that I was surfing a bit reading about Elonka Dunkin during the first slide so I thought I had misheard - they were doing a 3D learning environment for a course on "Media and the Law"?? I can see Hypertext in such a course, but 3D? Where is the 3rd dimension?

The guy went on and on about them modelling a Berlin courthouse (what on EARTH does a courthouse have to do with Media and the Law? The students are to learn about copyright and licenses and maybe how to set up a contract!). He went into a lot of detail about the Latin sayings that were on the wall and how they got the tables and chairs set up. I was lost, totally lost.

Then he opened up the thing to give us a demo, and while zooming through the halls he showed us there were paintings of famous laywers, you could click on them and get some supplemental material. The main material was hidden in the different courtrooms, "tacked" to the walls!

So they expect people to navigate, digging around for the material to read, never able to find it again before Windows crashes again on them. I leaned over to my neighbor to ask if I had missed some important aspect, they couldn't be serious about this, could they? They were. Since I had just ripped the previous speaker to shreds for his silly male countdown timers and point-scoring in an otherwise very nice explorative environment for learning Python, I asked my neighbor to ask my dreaded "value-added" question: What is the value added to the learning experience by using this multimedia technology?

He asked, very sweetly, and was told that this was for "motivation". The speaker did not seem to understand the criticism. A guy down front got out a big stick, figuratively, and tried bashing the speaker with this. He still did not understand that we all found this an extraordinary waste of taxpayer money. It seems, they wanted to do 3D and the only learning material they had at hand was a course on Media and the Law. So they used it.

If my only tool is a hammer, the entire world looks like a nail to me......

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