While text and graphics form the main part of most sets of training materials, there are applications and circumstances for which simple (or complex) words aren’t enough – and even pictures can’t fully communicate, or achieve the desired effect. In situations like these, 3D learning presents a viable alternative.
What is 3D Learning?
Visual or 3D learning is an interactive technique which supplements instructor-led or facilitated training with learner experience and observation within a simulated 3D environment. It’s an internet-enabled process that uses digital technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to create a platform for learning activities.
The Case For Immersion
Instead of a simple “Show and Tell” from an instructor, 3D learning takes students into their subject matter visually. Advanced systems may even include tactile or haptic feedback, so that learners get the impression of actually touching objects in the simulated environment or of being touched as objects react to them.
A digital platform and related 3D technologies make it possible to design learning experiences that immerse trainees in environments which would otherwise be inaccessible due to the costs of travel, remoteness of locations involved, physical scale, or hazardous circumstances. So learners can be transported to the far side of the universe, to the heart of a nuclear reactor, or into the human brain.
Such deep immersion into a learning environment is an interactive experience which greatly increases learner engagement with the training process. It also promotes a greater involvement with the subject matter, which leads to increased knowledge retention.
Tools And Hardware
3D learning kits range from cinema-style arrangements with stereoscopic screens and students wearing “3D goggles” to fully immersive set-ups with wraparound headsets, microphones, and haptic sensors. Their scale can range from individual kits for single-person training to classroom sets or larger configurations for lecture halls and auditoriums.
Commercial packages tailored as a complement to formal educational curricula are available, and custom-made solutions for institutional, industrial or corporate applications may be constructed on a case by case basis.
The Right-brained Learner
Formal education and conventional training in corporate settings have traditionally been tailored towards text-centric and logically based exercises – areas typically associated with the left-hand portion of the brain. But visual, creative, and “out of the box” thinkers tend to use the right-hand side of the brain, and may miss out on the benefits of such training – or even appear to be incapable of responding well to it.
3D learning techniques are ideally suited to such “right-brained” thinkers – and at the early stages of learner development they can be instrumental in enabling learners whom the formal education system may mistakenly brand as “slow” or “developmentally delayed” to keep pace with their peers, and even excel.
Other Special Circumstances
Those who may be living with dyslexia (an inherited genetic condition that makes it extremely hard for learners to cope with text-based information even in their native language – despite being of average intelligence or above) have also been known to benefit from a 3D learning approach.
So too have bright or even exceptionally intelligent individuals whose primary method of information intake and processing occurs in the right-brain hemisphere – those whom the experts at 3DLearning.com describe as “Gifted Operating with a Learning Difference or GOLD Students™”.
Making STEM Take Root
In the USA, 3D learning technology has been extensively used in the formal sector to enable students to gain insights and experiences that would be otherwise impossible in illustrating the core concepts and techniques of disciplines based on science, technology, engineering and mathematics – the so-called “STEM” subjects.
Traditionally, STEM education in schools has had a theoretical focus which often confuses and alienates learners and denies them practical experience or experimentation with what’s being taught. 3D learning allows for the creation of STEM-based virtual environments in which students can see and hear as intangible ideas are made tangible.
Extending Learning To Developing World Communities
A group of researchers working out of the Department of Computer Science of the COMSATS Institute of Information Technology in Pakistan have hit upon the idea of using 3D learning and virtual technologies to extend learning opportunities in countries where the majority of the adult population are considered to be functionally illiterate.
It’s proposed that using visual, immersive, and non-verbal techniques distributed via mobile phone technology in regions where cellular networks are gaining increased levels of penetration is the way forward for increasing educational outreach in developing world communities – which includes several of the nations identified by UNESCO as having a functionally illiterate adult population of over 60%.
Corporate Skills Acquisition And Training
In the corporate and professional sectors, 3D learning applications are increasingly being used to enhance skills acquisition and training programmes at all levels. Areas such as Health and Safety or compliance training can especially benefit, as immersive simulations can test learner knowledge and communicate information and concepts during practical exercises conducted in virtual environments free of disease or hazardous material risks to the trainee.
If you’d like to see some 3D learning in action, there’s a YouTube video from Gaia which illustrates the benefits it has for classroom education.