Locating learning in space

Virtual immersive environments (VIE's) provide lots of space for learners to move around within. Suddenly, designers of instruction are faced with a new issue: where to locate the learning experiences. It's no longer assumed to be found in front of seats in classrooms or at computer screens. The freedom of movement opens a whole new design opportunity. I had lots of fun contemplating this new "solution space" this morning. Here's some of the ideas that dawned on me.

Well defined path
We can locate learning experiences on a well defined path. Learners can then follow the path to come to the next experience. By following the path, they will get a sense of a sequence to their experiences. This may be a logical progression that builds from simple to complex or from a beginning to a conclusion. It might also provide a narrative sequence that sets up a payoff or builds to a climax through a sequence of scenes. 

Finding a path
We can create a challenge to finding which path to take. The learner can be moving through a maze or exploring a densely obstructed terrain. There may be paths that lead to dead ends, cliff edges or back to the beginning. The paths may include "forks in the road" which go off in different directions. By exploring these possible paths, the learners will get a sense of the difference between the right path and others as well as paths that lead where they want to go or and those that don't.

Random ordered stations
We can distribute the learning experiences at stations to be visited in any order. Those locations may provide information on the spot. However, they will be more captivating of the learners' imagination, curiosity and sense of adventure if the stations are portals. They may provide instant access to other spaces, tunnels that serve as shortcuts or entrances to higher vantage points which offer overviews of the terrain. By finding stations and exploring what they offer, learners may get a sense that there is a lot to be discovered in this space that offers more than meets the eye at first glance.

Hidden stations
We can hide the stations for learning experiences so they are difficult to find. The difficulties with locating them force the learners to get a better sense of the layout and to recognize where they have already explored. The adversity in locating stations increases the sense of satisfaction when one is located. After locating several, the learners may even get a sense of the pattern in how the places were hidden, the rationale in choosing where to hide them, or a hidden message in where or how the stations are hidden.

Sequenced stations
We can enforce a particular sequence to the stations by requiring key from the previous station to unlock the next one. Learners that find a station out of sequence can develop a sense of anticipation and urgency to find the intermediate stations. Their minds will formulate predictions about what to expect came before the one they found, as well as what may come after. This reasoning may deepen their comprehension of the components by assembling a big picture they fit into. 

Obstacle course
We can put obstacles in the path to the learning experiences that require the learners to find a way around, solve a problem or outsmart an adversary. Like the payoffs from hiding stations, an obstacle course can induce more confidence in the learner's approach to making progress and conquering adversity. Facing locked doors, washed out bridges, invisible walls, or many other obstacles -- require the learners to think strategically and creatively. Reacting by taking the evidence literally will get them nowhere. Learners will realize they are capable of being very resourceful when situations necessitate that level of response from them.

Distant destination
We can create a distant destination to be reached through a long ordeal. The learners may encounter previews of the coming attraction, promises of reward upon arrival, or excited visitors from the beneficial destination which all whet their appetites to arrive there. Access the destination may be achieved by a high or low road, a fast or slow road and an easy or challenging road. The choice of roads may self-select the level of difficulty for each learner or set up a reward schema where hard work pays more than easy work. Learners may get a sense of how rewarding it can become to be diligent and eager to take on challenges. 

Learning will be much more fun in VIE's judging from the fun I had imagining all these cool ways to locate learning in space :-)

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