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3D e-Learning, Closer Than You May Think

By Christopher Palm, media artist

Chris Palm - Media Artist

What are you missing out on by ignoring 3D? When and why would it take your e-learning from a 3 to a 5 star experience? What makes some movies so much better in 3D and some just pointless? Why does it make sense for Avatar, but falls flat as part of Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience?

It’s not going to help your accounting software training, but it could totally reinvent your engine repair training. Tasks that require visual acuity or manual dexterity come to mind.

engine repair trainingI didn't say what kind of engine.

This could be a very effective approach for safety training, scavenger hunts, or workplace simulations. Maybe your training is all about identifying hazards in a scene—what better way to locate those hazards than in a fully immersive environment that the learner can explore freely?

safety trainingCan you find the three safety hazards in this scene?

Maybe this level of interactive 3D has always felt out of your reach—but not anymore!

Unity 3D, simply put, is an awesome tool that is available to help you create that blockbuster training—not to mention you can get started in it for free! Unity is a game development engine for interactive 3D that publishes to multiple platforms—including mobile. To get started, you’ll want to visit their site at unity3d.com, click on the Download button in the top right corner of the page, and you’re basically ready to go.

Harassment trainingHarassment training will never be the same again.

“Hold on a minute,” you may be saying. “How do I even use this software?” For some people, jumping straight in and figuring things out on the go may be the way to proceed. But in order to unlock all of its potential, Unity has put together a great learning resource under their “Learn” tab. There you’ll find a number of great, easy-to-follow, video tutorials (narrated by a voice that sounds like Jude Law's). There is also documentation available, as well as an entire community to reach out to.

Ideally, to take full advantage of creating e-learning using this software, you’d want to have someone talented in 3D modeling on your team with their own 3D software, such as 3DS Max, Maya, or Cinema 4D (my personal choice) as well as a Programmer well-versed in C#. What 3D software, if any, does your team utilize?

No 3D artist available? Don’t head back to the dollar theater with your Orville Redenbacher hidden beneath your jacket just yet! Unity offers an Asset Store where you can purchase finished models to bring into your scene. Turbosquid is also a great resource in finding cheap, free models all the way to expensive professional-grade models used in film and television.

creating e-learningI’ll take all of them, please.

Ignoring the potential of 3D is self-limiting, but simply making something 3D just for the sake of making it 3D is also the wrong approach. You should employ the same best practices you would normally use when creating an e-learning course. Make solid e-learning instructional design and content the highest priority, then ask, "How could this be better with 3D?" Most of the time the answer is probably "it wouldn't be better" but every now and then, there may be a great opportunity to create something exceptionally memorable.

Unity also exports to a number of platforms (some of which require a paid version) and can even be embedded straight into a webpage. Check out AngryBots if you’ve got time to spare—and if your boss catches you playing, you can try to convince them that it’s for research, but I take no responsibility!

Unity 3D for elearning

I’d love to hear your ideas. How have you used 3D in your training? Do you think your training could benefit by delving into an interactive 3D tool such as Unity?

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