Teleconference #1 – Some Thoughts + Download

1 Comment

How to organise the teleconference
Yesterday we had 11 people in our first reading group teleconference. It was a very short call (30 minutes) and I struggled a bit to give it the right structure. It is hard to have 11 people on the phone who don’t know eachother and have very heterogenous needs. So let me ask you for your thoughts. How would you organise, structure and chair a 30 minute teleconference? Any ideas, please post them in the comments…

Recording of the teleconference
I recorded the session. Our teleconferencing system only pumps out .wmv files and I don’t have the time to convert them to .mp3. Feel free to do make the conversion yourself  and repost it if you think that is valuable:

Download/view Teleconference recording (4.8MB)

Daily email updates
Most of you have registered to receive the daily email with updates around the learning group. This email is delivered by a service called Feedburner. Feedburner gets its contents from three separate RSS feeds (one for recent delicious links with the lin3drg tag, one with the Twitter search results for the #lin3drg tag and one with the post of this blog) that I mash together using a trick in Google Reader. I am not completely happy with the results for two reasons:

  • The newest message is at the top instead of at the bottom
  • There seems to be a maximum of twenty messages that it will send out in the email description

If anybody has a different approach to solving this problem (allowing people to subscribe to the content over email), I would be glad to get some help!

Delicious links
We are starting to get a collection of links around particular chapters on Delicious. See this link for an example for chapter 1 of the book. Please make the effort to tag at least one link per chapter with lin3drg and chapterx. This could really be useful to other participants. It doens’t have to be new: what might be very obvious to you, might be very new and refreshing for somebody else.

“What is the problem?”
One part of the discussion yesterday focused on the fact that 3D virtual worlds is quite a technology push instead of a business/learning pull. Marcel asked which problem it is we are trying to solve with this technology. I think many of us have an answer to that (see for example Lawrence’s tweet), but we didn’t have time to really address this in the call. Let us use the comments in this post to try and explore what the problem is that 3D virtual worlds are here to solve.

One Comment (+add yours?)

  1. ronald.intvelt
    May 03, 2010 @ 14:31:55

    I do not think 3D Virtual worlds (VR) are going to solve one overarching problem (“the” problem) in learning or collaboration.

    I prefer to think in opportunities rather than problems (as the cliche goes)…

    Experiential learning
    In some cases, doing is a far more effective way of learning than reading or listening. What will teach you more: the fire drill where a fireman sets off a smoke bomb in the hallway and pulls the alarm, or a Powerpoint presentation on evacuation procedure? The drill, most likely. Of course, learning by doing is not always practical because of cost, safety or impact on day-to-day operations. Imagine pilots training for engine-out situations or water landings in real aircraft instead of simulators!

    VR is a great enabler for experiential learning in the health and safety (HSE) arena. The benefit: reduced cost, reduced travel and opportunity for remote learning, and a hazard-free training environment means that drills are safer, cheaper, and can be conducted far more often, by individuals or in groups. The first simulators of this nature focused on skills and reflexes (flight simulators), but recent ones commissioned by the military, fire brigades, and emergency response units shifted focus to behaviour and decision making skills. As a bonus, the same tool used to train students can be used to assess them as well.

    Question: are there other areas that would benefit from experiential learning in a VR environment? The obvious answer is to replace current real life exercises such as negotiation games and business simulations with VR versions, which would mostly be about cost savings. The real question is: are there courses currently being conducted in classrooms or via a VLE that would benefit from being done in VR? The objective would be to transorm those courses into an experience, in hopes that people actually do learn better from experience than from Powerpoints. On that last assumption, More Research is Needed ™.

    Collaboration, meeting, brainstorming
    I believe that VR has a niche to fill in virtual teamworking or virtual meetings.

    If we want to meet remotely with others, we currently have a few options like chat (instant messenger), teleconferencing, or videoconferencing. For fairly straightforward discussions, teleconferencing is a good option. If you want to get to know someone or bring a team closer together, videoconferencing does a decent job of putting two remote groups in the same room, more or less. So where does VR sit? I believe that VR in the collaboration space sits close to videoconferencing, offering two important opportunities:

    - Participate anywhere. Videoconferencing requires special equipment (though that is changing as I write this), and has a limited number of hookups (4 is the practical limit). In contrast, VR can run from any computer at any location, allowing participants to join from their workplace or even from home, instead of having to sit in a special conference room.

    - Co-creation. VR allows participants to create or manipulate 3d objects together. This has already been used on a small scale by a large consumer goods company: instead of looking at a proposed new product packaging on slides or a videoconference screen, marketing people and designers can look at, touch and modify the actual packaging together in a VR setting.

    Can meetings in a VR environment feel as “real” as a videoconference or even a face-to-face meeting? Note: here I am drawing from my (rather extensive) experience in meetings in immersive multiplayer games (*), so the following are my own observations rather than solid scientific conclusions:
    - An advantage of VR is that it puts everyone on an even footing. There is no divide between people in your own meeting room and the ones in the other room. This may contribute to the next point.
    - In VR meetings a larger part of the group contributed. Real meetings or videoconferences tend to be dominated by one or a few persons, VR meetings seemingly less so.
    - In VR meetings I felt “closer” to the other participants than in teleconferencing or even videoconferencing, even though VR lacks the facial epxressions you get over video. Perhaps this has to do with physically sitting in a comfortable environment (my own workplace or home) and virtually being in a pleasant setting, as opposed to sitting in a videoconference room that feels decidedly artificial and awkward.

    It is important to note that this feeling of “closeness” to the other participants came only when I myself was proficient at controlling my in-game avatar and comfortable with the notion of looking through my avatar’s eyes, in other words when I was used to immerse myself in the VR environment. This takes time! Today’s kids or the next generation will grow up with virtual worlds and most will probably be comfortable with them by the time they enter the work force, but the older generation lacks that advantage.

    I see this last point, together with the current technical immaturity of VR, as the main blockers for VR to enter mainstream usage in the workplace, especially when used for meeting and collaborating (i,e, the “Immerweb”). Our own experiments however do show that for special training courses, VR is usually readily adopted, even by people who have no affinity with learning or IT.


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