February 27, 2017


Here is an insightful chart, which succinctly summarizes what we know to date about the instructional effectiveness of 3D (and to a lesser extent VR and HD visualization technologies):

It is interesting to note that the buzzwords of ‘engagement’ and ‘retention’ – the low-lying fruit—are  the most frequently and popularly employed terms for marketers and business development managers. For educators, however, the remaining categories are the findings that really draw their attention. The Good-Better-Best findings are very important to experienced teachers and educational leaders alike.

In the last few years, there has been a flurry of activity on the research front for 3D VR, and visualization technologies. But these reports and findings have little traction in the press, often replaced by more populist sound bites preferred by reporters and editors.  

For me, all types of research matter. I am not a purist. For example, when the European LiFe studies were first released---many experts I spoke with mocked them, due to their lack of rigor.  Not me. I prefer to read and report on all of it.

Each study, survey, action research effort, or anecdotal collection provide us with the clues, contacts, and stepping stones to learn more. Each enables us to grow wiser, gather fresh insight, and seize upon new perspective. Each grows our database of knowledge. 

February 20, 2017

The Research Chase

One of first questions people ask me about 3D (and sometimes VR or HD visualization technologies) is about instructional effectiveness and research. “What is the difference some of these technologies make in learning?” “How effective are these technologies with young learners?” they ask.

Of course, a key issue is “What kind of research are you talking about?” In school environments, there are many types of formal and informal research. There are survey data, focus group reporting, and case studies. There is also anecdotal evidence, which can provide very useful empirical insight, when collected well and over time. There is action research, informal classroom research, and even research on fidelity of implementation—how to implement well.  There is industry-conducted  research, sponsored external research, and independent research (if the latter exists!) There is also planned research, which is also quite insightful, because we get pre-knowledge about the upcoming purpose or key research questions being asked in an upcoming study.

Then, of course there is capital ‘R’ Research—the gold standard—with control groups and rigorous evaluative processes.  The most expensive kind, I must add. And let’s not forget my favorite type of research: the meta-analysis, or the compilation or big picture of what we have learned from many dozens of previous research studies.

But back to my kick-off sentence:  Regarding modern visualization technologies, the first question educators typically ask me is “How much does it cost?” But the second question invariably targets the effectiveness, or research, question. Of course, providing an answer for this question in the spare seconds that the listener is willing to offer becomes a difficult proposition, to say the least. I usually offer to send the requester an insightful chart, which succinctly summarizes what we know to date about the instructional effectiveness of 3D (and to a lesser extent VR and HD visualization technologies). I'll show you this chart in next week's post.

February 13, 2017


One of the newest and most interesting arrivals at this year’s ed-tech expo halls is Mursion, a company that designs customized training simulations held in virtual space. A San-Francisco-based company with a satellite office in Orlando, Mursion does not produce off-the-shelf content for virtual reality. Instead, they use their simulation engine to customize specific solutions for their customers. In my interview with Brentt Brown, Mursion’s Director of Business Strategy, he explained his company’s footprint in this way: “We focus on creating a virtual environment where professionals practice and rehearse fundamental interpersonal skills for high-stakes careers.” Here are a few examples showing how that actually works
In Education. Many of their customers asked them to develop virtual reality simulations enabling prospective teachers to practice classroom management (classroom discipline) skills. Others employ their engine to build VR simulations for rehearsing essential teaching techniques, such as how to more effectively use questions to elicit deeper student thinking. 
In Hospitality. Best Western Resorts and Hotels recently used Mursion to train and provide performance assessment for their globally distributed workforce of more than 15,000 front desk staff, focusing on front-line customer service acumen conducted via live simulation role playing. 
In Medicine. Another customer is using the Mursion simulation engine to help medical and hospital staff rehearse in a realistic VR environment the delivery of information to patients receiving unfortunate findings from recent diagnostic tests. 
In Industry. Mursion helps clients create multi-avatar environments that enable trainees practice facilitating team meetings or manage interpersonal conflict that is impeding job performance
And there’s much more in the works. In the near future, Mursion will enable the creation of a simulation that populates a virtual classroom with student avatars with differing learning challenges, including language-diverse, ADHD-diagnosed, and autistic-spectrum students; a simulation that helps educators improve how they communicate with parents; and a simulation for autistic students that will help them practice their social skills.

Using its modular and cost efficient simulation engine, Mursion offers their customers a cost/benefit ratio that appears noteworthy. According to Brown, “most simulations require three-hundred hours of design work to produce one hour of simulation for classroom delivery.” With the use of the Mursion development templates, however, "the cost of designing most simulations is less than $1000 (or about eight hours of development time)." Mursion is also aiming to organize a marketplace or clearinghouse of role-playing simulations (designed by current clients) to offer even more cost avoidance to future customers.
Consistent with a trend I’ve been seeing across the education spectrum, Mursion is preparing for the immersive VR world as well. While most of Mursion's current clients experience simulations on a 2D screen (usually a flat screen TV or a laptop), all of Mursion's simulators can easily be rendered to run in 3D via a head-mounted display (HMD), such as the Oculus Rift. Mursion expects that over the next few years the majority of its clients will transition to fully immersive experiences on HMDs.