1 December 2020

Video, eLearning and VR - and the 3 Fidelities

One design model I've always liked is Prof Bob Stone's "3 fidelities" for designing immersive 3D/VR experiences.  The three fidelities are:

  • Context/Environment Fidelity - how well do the surroundings model the real environment and context - but more is not necessarily better;
  • Task Fidelity - how well to the sequence of actions (and their consequences) model the real task;
  • Interaction Fidelity - how well do the manipulation and haptics mirror those experienced in real life.

My favourite example of Interaction Fidelity was talking to medics who gave students bananas to practice their incisions and suturing on - the bananas bruise and tear so easily it's easy to spot mistakes. Absolutely no context fidelity, and a part trainer so no real task fidelity needed, but a far better experience than trying to reproduce the activity in even the latest VR gear!

So I was wondering recently how do some of the current methods of distanced learning match on to the these fidelities. We know that it should be a case of blended learning - not one method to rule them all - but where do each of the current approaches have strengths or weaknesses?

The table below summaries our initial take as to how video, video-conferencing, eLearning and immersive 3D/VR map onto each of these fidelities.

Click image for a larger version

Note just how low eLearning scores against all of these - it may be OK for more "knowledge" based learning, but for learning that relates to places, physical tasks or interactions it really isn't a good fit.

Video can be very good for giving the sense of environment, but you can't explore beyond the frame. And whilst there is some great interactive branching video out there that explores the task dimension it is very costly to produce, and next to impossible to change.

Zoom style video conferencing can leverage some of the advantages of ordinary video - such as video tours or how-to, but again the leaner tends to be a fairly passive participant in these. Where it would score more strongly is the in the discussion/analysis phase of cementing learning.

Immersive 3D/VR can give a range of environmental fidelities, and is very good at modelling task fidelities and giving the user the options and agency to explore different routes. But like the others it fails on the interaction fidelity although we are beginning to see improvements in that area - whether it's thru haptics or features such as facial expression and body language - both of which contribute to the interaction.

So we hope that this has given you a different lens with which to look at different types of remote learning technology, and that it will help you choose the appropriate technologies for the learning task at hand.

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