Learning in 3D hits a home run

Welcome to the thirteenth Blog Tour stop for Learning in 3D: Adding a New Dimension to Enterprise Learning and Collaboration. With 22 more after this stop, I'll leave for others many topics I'm anxious to see explored from during this Blog Tour including: productive vs. generative learning, teachable moments, crossing the chasm and the "conceptual orienteering" archetype. Next stops after me are Janet Clarey followed by Cammy Bean. Meanwhile, I'll be focusing on the superb structure of this book from an Acquisitions Editor's viewpoint. What Karl Kapp and Tony O'Driscoll have included in this volume is going have wonderful effects on its readers. I can already speak from my own experience:
  • I've been rereading Part One of the book since I realized I wanted to think like Karl and Tony about the challenges and sensibilities involved with designing Virtual Immersive Environments (VIE's) for learning.
  • I've begun imagining how collaborative training departments could function better in 3D environments as I became inspired by the examples of roles plays and operating practice included in Part Two.
  • I've been incorporating ideas from Part Three for handling resistance to technology adoption as I'm developing a business model for giving college dropouts a second chance.
  • My imagination got so energized by the futuristic forecasts in Part Four that I've been envisioning avatars entering models of the cognitive states of people stuck delivering productive learning in classroom environments and changing their simulated minds with hands-on practices that induce generative learning.

Effects like these on readers is largely the result of a book's structure. What gets included between the covers and how it's sequenced can greatly impact what the readers think about, bring up in conversations and take action to make changes. Poorly structured books get very little response and often effect the readers negatively. It's obvious to me that the structure of Learning in 3D has hit a home run out of the park and paid a visit to all four bases.

When any book is purely academic, it's usually extremely conceptual, abstract and analytic. Readers find it to be boring, preachy and easily forgotten. However, when the academic competencies are combined with the pragmatic approaches, more value gets offered to the readers. The combination of knowledge and praxis enhances both approaches. The academic component defines the problems with the status quo, what's missing in current approaches and likely consequences of sticking with business as usual. The practical component then provides solutions to those problems, paths out of the mess that's been created and methods to face those similar problems effectively.

Karl and Tony originally conceived of their book answering a long series of questions. They then combined their conceptual prowess to define some very intriguing problems within conventional training functions and useful methods for solving them such as:
  • What will happen if the training department in organizations does nothing differently from their proven practices while the world around conventional training changes dramatically?
  • Why do some VIE's turn into ghost towns that offer no return on the initial investment?
  • What's missing in the sensibilities of training professionals to support their making full and effective use of VIE's after a career in "Flatland"?

When any book is purely pragmatic, it's usually comprised of tedious instructions, intimidating guidelines and sidebars with shortcuts for advanced users. Most readers find a "how-to" cookbook to be overwhelming, out of reach and far from user friendly. However when methods are combined with practitioner experiences, the readers benefit immensely. It becomes possible to picture how the methods apply to actual situations. The difficulties with putting techniques into practice appear easily handled in the case studies. The added dimensions of context and narrative make the methods seem so much more doable and valuable that the book gets reread several times.

Karl and Tony have included nine case studies that show us how varied the uses of VIE's can be and how captivating they can be when immersed in them. The design principles and archetypes come alive when put to use by different designers meeting diverse learning objectives.

When a book is filled with contributions from pioneers in the field, it usually reveals the state of the art to be highly compromised, under developed and plagued by obstacles. The readers find it discourages their motivation to personally advance the discipline. However, when the current field work gets combined with strategies for making changes and with visionary forecasts, the readers' passions get revived. The current state of the art gets contextualized with learning curves and change models. It becomes clear there is necessary groundwork prior to making faster progress in the field to fulfill its lofty dream.

Karl and Tony have asked some "change agents" in this field to answer some very insightful questions about overcoming resistance to Learning in 3D such as:
  • What are the most compelling ways to make the case for 3D learning within the enterprise? 
  • What are the keys to success in moving from concept to execution to avoid falling in the chasm? 
  • What are the most important issues to consider when you move from successful pilot to executing at scale?
Getting questions like these answered by experienced implementors move the reader from shaky to solid ground. Going in this "unpaved" direction looks more feasible by learning from the experiences and following the advice of the pioneers in this field.

Following the diagram I've included, the book's structure can come full circle back to home plate. An analytical framework can serve as the means to appreciate the changes as the book's message takes effect. As the future becomes reality, Learning in 3D will enable us to value the sensibilities taking hold, the design principles getting applied, and the design archetypes finding new forms and effects on immersive experiences.

Thus the structure of the entire book is designed to effect readers in very valuable ways. It remains to be seen how deeply these insights, methods and strategies enter into the dialogue and praxis of training professionals around the world. Promoting their book "on steroids" suggests their message will get spread far and wide. Besides these 35 blog tour stops, the authors are presenting at conferences, speaking in podcasts,  providing: a website, a Facebook page, and a wiki for case studies, posting on Twitter with the hashtag #lrn3d, and offering a sample immersive experience of the archetypes in Protosphere. With so much going in the book's favor, Learning in 3D should rock the entire world like it did mine!


  1. Tom,

    Wow! Reading a review like this makes all those late nights so WORTH IT. I really appreciate that you picked up on one of the things Karl and I spent a LOT of time on before even putting pen to paper: The structure of the book.

    In general we wanted it to go from being Descriptive (What are VIEs and Why Should I care) to Expository (What are people doing to solve Business Problems with VIEs today) to Prescriptive (How do I go about designing and implementing VIEs in my own organization).

    I love the graphic you included here and I will be sure to use it if I ever get around to doing another book ; ) We were really looking for the sweet spot between Descriptive/Prescriptive and Academic/Pragmatic, if your experience is shared by others, then our goal will have been met!

    Thanks for being part of the blog tour, and more importantly for sharing your insights on what makes a great book ; )

  2. Tony
    I'm glad my framework resonated with you, like your book resonated with me. It's helpful to see the "Descriptive, Expository, Prescriptive" model you used to come up with such a great structure.

    You're very welcome ;-)

  3. Tom,

    Ditto on the "wow" and the late nights:)

    Thanks for your thoughtful post, I really like the way you describe the unfolding of a well written book in a professional field such as "learning technologies." The framework you describe is excellent and to echo Tony's thoughts I will use that model in the future as well.

    Tony and I spent a good deal of time developing the book's outline and thinking about what people working in 3D, new to working with 3D or thinking about 3D for learning and collaboration would want to know. We tried to address the concerns of CEOs, instructional designers and line managers as well as front-line employee about what was happening with 3D for learning and collaboration.

    We didn't have your model but, in retrospect, the model brings to light several discussions and ideas that we had that we "lucked" into as we designed the book to answer questions we thought others would have about virtual immersive environments (VIEs).

    It also helped to have a co-author to bounce ideas off of and to talk out the right structure and approach. The give and take in the writing process helped to hone the message of the book and make it as inclusive as possible without oversimplifying or over complicating our message (which I hope we didn't do).

    So, again, thanks for your insightful look at the structure of the book. I am glad we were able to hit the bases with our coverage of the topic.

    That's what I love about the book tour, it brings up some many nuances and ideas that would never or rarely or widely be shared in another venue such as a face-to-face tour.

    Thanks for such a great stop on the tour.

  4. Karl:
    Thanks for all this transparency into your collaborative process for developing the book! Your addressing concerns of different subgroups of readers may have been a key element in your "hitting all four bases". Another contributing factor in your "lucking into" a great structure may have been the stellar quality of the diverse contributors who show up in your text boxes, case studies or the rules for revolutionaries. Considering their many viewpoints prior to the start of writing could have facilitated your speaking to the full range of CEO's, instructional designers and line managers effectively. You've created a wonderful example of "being smarter together".

    I am also dazzled by the richness of the blog tour this time around. We each have such different lenses for looking at the book itself, the blog tour, your writing process, the foreseeable uses for the book's message(s) etc. It's also putting "conversations with the authors" into RSS feeds, blog archives, and tweets that likely would have been lost to the world during a F2F bookstore tour. This conversational process seems very useful for opening up the space for others to begin thinking more seriously about using VIE's for learning and collaborating.

    Thanks for writing soooo useful a book for all of us ;-)