Survey: Educators want to easily create 3D environments, exercises

Press release: Daden release results of its Authoring Tools for Immersive Training survey

Birmingham, UK — The results of an Authoring Tools for Immersive Training survey have been released by Daden Limited (Daden). The survey indicated that educators want to be able to easily create 3D training exercises themselves without needing the help of technologists nor expert knowledge of how to build the “sets” in their chosen virtual world. The survey asked questions about current uses of immersive worlds for learning, experiences of PIVOTE (Daden’s existing system) and users’ requirements for the future development of authoring tools.

Nearly 47% of the respondents were from education, 15% from the health professional training sector and interestingly 19% were from the corporate sector – especially as there’s little sign of a significant uptake of immersive training in that area. Second Life, OpenSim and Unity were the top three platforms and Second Life, despite the removal of the educational discount, dominates still with 39% respondents using it.

Of those using immersive worlds for learning, 44% were using them at least monthly with about 17% regularly using them on a daily or weekly basis and over 58% on a quarterly basis. Encouragingly most sessions were between half an hour and two hours – matching typical lesson durations. This all suggests that tutors are really using them, not just dabbling or doing proofs-of-concept.

PIVOTE has been used in a wide variety of immersive learning projects including bereavement training. (Image courtesy Daden Ltd.)

Existing PIVOTE users generally valued the product and thought it was heading in the right direction and liked the “ability to create learning exercises with little scripting”. Top of respondent’s wish list for improvements to PIVOTE included making it even easier to use, improved user interfaces, and smoother incorporation of media. Daden are currently developing a Second Generation Immersive Learning Authoring Tool, known as OPAL. The requirements for the future section of the survey was to gauge opinions on functionality and features for this.

The top four functions rated as “vital” importance for an authoring tool for virtual worlds were the ability to “set up rules/logic for actions” (48%), “allow multiple choice questions” (40%), “can choose from a library of objects for an exercise” (39%) and be “object orientated” (select an object to set a behaviour) (38%) – all of which will be available in OPAL. Users felt it was also vital, in terms of “deploy and play functions” that the authoring tool has the flexibility to support multiple virtual worlds and that exercises can be played and tested in 2D on the web. PIVOTE already has this, and OPAL will further improve on this functionality.

The ability to log all student and group actions was rated the most important reporting and integration feature of an authoring tool. Being able to pass student results back to Virtual Learning Environments (VLE’s) and Learning Management Systems (LMS) were also high on the agenda. Both features will be present in the first release of OPAL.

David Burden

“We hope that OPAL will give educators and trainers working in immersive environments (and those new to such environments) a powerful tool with which to create immersive experiences in a cost-effective way,” said David Burden, Daden’s Managing Director.

The survey results confirmed that OPAL will address most if not all the requirements expressed by the respondents in its first release – planned for March 2012. Users want a good, easy to use and flexible authoring tool for the standard delivery of immersive learning exercises to PC’s on their chosen platform.

The survey can be downloaded from Daden’s website at

Daden Limited specialise in delivering innovative solutions in immersive learning, visual analytics, building visualisations and creating interactive virtual personalities (chatbots). Daden’s national and international clients range from the private sector to central and local government, education, public safety, health including the Ministry of Defence, the City of New York, Birmingham City Council and almost two dozen universities in the UK and abroad. Founded in 2004, Daden are based at Birmingham Science Park Aston, in Birmingham UK. Daden are members of Intellect the Trade Association for the UK Technology Industry.

Developed by Daden originally for the JISC funded PREVIEW project. PIVOTE lets you create learning exercises on the internet using simple forms-based interface. These exercises can be played in Second Life, OpenSim, on the web or even on a mobile phone. They can also be ported between virtual worlds and student performace data can be exported for use in Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs). The initial focus was on developing training simulations for Paramedic students. Since then Daden and others have used PIVOTE to deliver a wide variety of immersive learning projects, including: training emergency shelter managers; exercises for bereavement training; teaching inner-city kids about knife-crime; simulations of genetic labatory equipment; and processes to learning visualisations of accounting and finance. PIVOTE based projects have won awards including: 2009 Times Higher Education (THE) Awards and US Federal Virtual Worlds Challenge (FVWC) 2010 & 2011.