Value from Using 3D Graphics in eLearning

3D graphics, simulations, and virtual reality are starting to cross the threshold into the eLearning industry. In this article, PulseLearning discusses how you can gain maximum value from using 3D graphics in eLearning.

3D Graphics In eLearning: Are They Really Worth Your Investment This Year?

The mid-2000s saw the mainstream boom of 3D software through multi-user environments such as Second Life, which brought the possibilities to the attention of Learning and Development professionals. Over the past decade, technology has significantly improved making 3D a more accessible medium. Although it offers huge educational potential, developing 3D learning is an investment and many can’t justify the return on expense. Here I discuss how you can gain maximum value from incorporating 3D graphics into your eLearning experiences. So, how to use 3D graphics in eLearning?

1. Assess The Educational Value-Add

Before pursuing a 3D eLearning solution, an important question to ask is “Will it enhance the learning experience?”. If you answered “No,” then your training budget might be better spent on a different delivery. 3D models can provide rich learning experiences for specific industries to train practical yet complex tasks. Imagine learning to assemble an engine by interacting with the exploded components and piecing them together. In the aviation sector, 3D simulators mean that trainee pilots are competent before they have even taken many real flights. Consider the task you are training and whether 3D will enhance the learning experience.

2. Don’t Go For Gimmicks

Going down the 3D interactive elearning just because it’s the latest trend isn’t advisable. Along with coming with a larger price tag than standard eLearning, 3D models and graphics can be time consuming to develop, requiring significant input from Subject Matter Experts, and a longer development timeframe. If the 3D graphics aren’t adding to the educational experience, it’s likely that you’re in gimmick territory where they can actually distract your learners from your core messages. Investing in a 3D character guide for content can fall into the gimmick category; often, photography of a real person is much more effective. Shaded 2D illustration can also give a similar effect at a fraction of the cost.

3. Determine The Expertise Required

A 3D expert proficient in using software such as 3DS Max, Maya, or Cinema 4D is not common in many in-house development teams, so you will need to factor in potential costs for outsourcing the 3D work to a contractor. Alternatively, you could engage an eLearning vendor that can produce the end-to-end product for you. Remember that high-quality rendering of 3D graphics requires power beyond the everyday PC, so even if you do have the skill within your team, you might not have the hardware. You’ll also need to factor in a strategy for maintenance of 3D components; if using an external vendor, put a maintenance plan in place from the start to avoid surprise costs.

4. Consider 3D Photography Instead

If your budget doesn’t stretch far enough, you can always “fake it until you make it”. There are companies who can provide barebones 3D environments onto which royalty-free photographic human models and objects can be composited to produce a set of images to freshen up your eLearning. You can also purchase 3D graphical environments from stock libraries for much less than a custom build.

As the generation of gamers becomes dominant in the workforce and with technology moving rapidly, the call for 3D is likely to increase. Used wisely, 3D can add significant value to your training while futureproofing it at the same time. If you’re seriously considering 3D, access the right expertise and seek advice  before launching into your project.

Final Word

Could 3D graphics or simulations add real value to your eLearning? PulseLearning can help determine a solution to satisfy your requirements and your budget. PulseLearning is an award-winning global learning provider experienced in learning consultancy and developing engaging and innovative eLearning and blended learning solutions.