Virtual Classroom Better than Real?

We can, at least for a very specific population, improve knowledge transfer and retention utilizing virtual classrooms instead of traditional classrooms.

I recently had the opportunity to attend a conference with Bob Gerard from Accenture.

Bob gave a presentation that really opened the audience’s eyes to the true value of the Virtual World Classroom based on some research he and his team had just concluded.  Bob wasn’t lost in the allure of Avatars and 3D worlds, his research was aimed at evaluating learner engagement and proving positive returns.


Their theory was that virtual world classrooms are more effective than audio & slide virtual classrooms.  Feedback from the participants in the pilots seemed to overwhelmingly reinforce this theory.  Employees stated that the virtual world experience was more enjoyable, engaging, and collaborative than audio & slide based virtual classrooms.  Importantly, students reported that they learned more and could apply the learned content better than after an audio & slide event.  This is obviously bad news for WebEx and their cohorts.

However, when evaluated against a traditional classroom event the results were inconclusive.  Each approach had advocates and detractors.  On the one hand, there was a general bias toward traditional classroom events.  On the other, the advocates were extremely biased to virtual world classrooms.

So here is where this gets interesting for me.  In much the same way that Merrill Lynch was able to show a strong positive return on an investment in Mobile Learning as one mode of delivery for compliance training, Bob Gerard’s findings suggest we can, at least for a very specific population, improve knowledge transfer and retention utilizing virtual world classrooms instead of traditional classrooms.  I can easily see road weary sales executives, with a bias toward technology, appreciating effective new product training delivered this way.

I am anxious to get your thoughts and experiences!?

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