The New Company Water Cooler: Use of 3D Virtual Immersive Worlds to Promote Networking and Professional Learning in Organizations

The New Company Water Cooler: Use of 3D Virtual Immersive Worlds to Promote Networking and Professional Learning in Organizations

Amelia W. Cheney (Appalachian State University, USA), Richard E. Riedl (Appalachian State University, USA), Robert L. Sanders (Appalachian State University, USA) and John H. Tashner (Appalachian State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-619-3.ch013
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Abstract

Employees gathered around the water cooler – the image is now a corporate cliché. This type of informal networking allows members of an organization to build – or break – personal and professional relationships in ways not possible in more formal settings or business situations. As companies become larger and more geographically dispersed, these types of opportunities and relationships are increasingly more difficult to create and maintain. Organizations must investigate new means of communications and technology. Three-dimensional (3D) immersive worlds offer a range of possibilities for accomplishing this goal. In this chapter, the authors will highlight their eight year experience using 3D virtual immersive worlds in graduate programs at Appalachian State University. Their experience based on feedback, observation, and survey results suggests that 3D virtual worlds developed for education support deep learning and can help learners make meaning and feel part of a learning community. The chapter will consider ways in which corporate organizations can draw upon the experience of higher education in the design, creation and utilization of virtual worlds to create opportunity for both purposeful and serendipitous interaction.
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Background

Eight years ago the Instructional Technology program at Appalachian State was wrestling with issues of how to move online. The program served middle career teachers throughout western North Carolina with cohort-based courses offered in locations convenient to students; course instructors traveled to those locations. At that time, the faculty of the program used a wide array of online tools to supplement coursework and was well aware of the advantages and disadvantages of each. Appalachian State was using WebCT as its online course management system, and the program instructors were leery of the typical pattern of breaking courses into ‘chunks’ of content with its attendant readings, quizzes, papers, and discussion board entries. These processes delivered content, but the faculty was not convinced they provided the types of learning experiences they desired.

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