Recently I have found myself reading a number of articles about 3d printing. They range from the Royal Mail printing trinkets for you, 3d printers in space to entire houses being printed in China. This made me think, how could e-Learning developers use this burgeoning technology in the future?
3D e-Learning courseware
One of the problems with e-Learning is that, almost by definition, it is just the learner and their PC. This creates a barrier between the content and the learners. No matter how engaging our content is there is still this separation. But with 3D printing we could add the ability to touch and feel. The ability to print off course content for learners to inspect themselves could add to this greatly. It would bring the principles to life in a way that just isn’t possible through a screen.
Interactions are the keystone to an e-Learning course but they still are not the same as holding something in your hands. For example, if you were designing a course about how a solar eclipse happens. You could have the learner print off a model of the moon, earth and sun. The learner could then arrange them in the different position to physically see and feel why an eclipse happens. This extra level of interactivity would surely keep people engaged and learning.
Character based e-Learning is not a new idea. Thousands of courses use characters. I have played around with a course where the learner chooses his character at the beginning, including clothes, glasses, hair etc. The idea of combining this idea with 3D printing could be great as the learner could print off their personalised character and keep it as a souvenir and a constant reminder of that course they passed with flying colours! This would work particularly well with younger learners.
With gamification having cemented their place in the e-Learning world, we can start thinking about growing these ideas. Many courses implement achievements or badges as a way to keep learners motivated. With 3D printers these badges wouldn’t just be a variable stored in a learning management system, but they could be physical badges. This is so much better that a printable certificate or an email confirmation.
Are you sold?
OK, I admit it, this is a little bit Sci-Fi as 3D printers are still quite far away from being in every town, let alone homes and offices. But how cool would it be to be able to pull off even one of these? The idea of adding a 3rd dimension to my e-Learning could be good fun, I just hope this can happen. If you have any other ideas just leave them as a comment below…