This paper seeks to discuss how some of the key instructional design concepts behind “Second Life” can be employed to refine the learning strategy within SI. Specifically, the key attributes in Second life that are of interest include (a) the use of Virtual space as the interface for interactive learning, (b) how the virtual space can be leverage to incentivize learning and (c) how Robert Gagne’s nine events of instruction can be applied in the design of a virtual learning environment. This paper will discuss how these principles can be infused into the existing e-Learning platform in SI, called “My Learning Space” (MLS), the intent is not to replace MLS with Second Life but rather to introduce the learning attributes in second life that will further enhance existing design.
Current Situation – Learning in the 3G SAF Space:
2. As the SAF continues to develop itself into a technological advanced and sophisticated force, it is clear that the SAF will realize an increase of military hardware and software that will fuel this transformation effort. Underpinning these technological transformation, is the need for our service personnel to be better trained to operate these systems. The challenge to train and prepare the 3G SAF is not a trivial affair because of the following reasons:
a. Because of the various technologies and combat systems that are procured, trainees would have to learn new skills and competencies to handle such equipment. Progressively, these systems are also becoming more complex over time.
b. There is shorter time to train, mainly because of the reduction in NSF training time from 2.5 to 2 years and NS duration from 13 to 10 years.
c. The learning preferences of the Net-Gen learners will increasingly pose new challenges because of their training expectations given what they have been exposed and more accustomed within their schools prior to enlistment and home (smart school and a pervasive network environment). However, the potential of the Net-Gen learners should also be seen as a leverage for learning in the 3G SAF space.
Impetus for development in the Future
3. Development Potential of Second Life. Second life as a virtual world offers the flexibility that is ideal for creating instructional tools, such as games, problem based learning environments, simulation activities, and distance learning settings. Second Life is an open-ended environment in which players themselves design the world, its objects and their behaviors. Incorporating sophisticated three-dimensional modeling tools and a powerful scripting language, the game invites players to freely unleash their imaginations  . Users, through their representations in the space, called avatars, move around and interact with one another in Second Life. Users also can create buildings and materials in Second Life. Therefore, challenges and problem solving tasks can be created.
4. Limitations of Current Knowledge Portal. MLS is an in-house developed learning portal that provides a common user interface for trainees to gain access to a suite of training services and tools. From the digital training program, trainees can view a library of training videos and digital training manual that are relevant to their course. While these modules may be useful in many ways, it is still lacking and limited in scope to enable deeper learning because of the following reasons:
a. It is typically structured as a knowledge repository.
b. Does not facilitate implementation of cognitive strategy.
c. Conventional motivational schemes are hard to implement .
d. Hence, it becomes more a training media
Consideration for Learning in the Virtual World
5. The Key considerations for learning in the virtual environment are as follows:
Net Generation learners are very comfortable operating in this space (facebook, youtube, chat, etc)  .
Relatively easier to create motivation to learn, collaboration and experiential learning opportunities that may not be readily available in the real world.
No limit to the use of space.
Elaboration of the Nine instructional Events
Modeling after Robert Gagne’s nine events of instruction, the proposed MLS Ver 2.0 would incorporate the nine design attributes based on the information processing model of the mental events that occur when adults are presented with various stimuli. This is summarized in the table as follows:
Internal Mental Process
1. Gain attention
Stimuli activates receptors
2. Inform learners of objectives
Creates level of expectation for learning
3. Stimulate recall of prior learning
Retrieval and activation of short-term memory
4. Present the content
Selective perception of content
5. Provide “learning guidance”
Semantic encoding for storage long-term memory
6. Elicit performance (practice)
Responds to questions to enhance encoding and verification
7. Provide feedback
Reinforcement and assessment of correct performance
8. Assess performance
Retrieval and reinforcement of content as final evaluation
9. Enhance retention and transfer to the job
Retrieval and generalization of learned skill to new situation
a. Gain attention in Hi-Res 3D Virtual World Learning Environment (VWLE)
In order for any learning to take place, you must first capture the attention of the student. To this end, MLS 2.0 would be designed as a virtual replica of SI. The 3D interface accompanied by sound effects or music startles the senses with auditory or visual stimuli. From here, trainees can navigator and “explore” the various rooms within the building. Each room constitutes a new learning domain or subject and are only accessible based on the intended sequence of learning. Trainees can only access other rooms of “higher learning” only if they have attained the required standards.
b. Inform learners of objectives
Early in each lesson students would be given a list of learning objectives. This initiates the internal process of expectancy and helps motivate the learner to complete the lesson. These objectives form the basis for assessment, and structured based on Mager’s model of Performance, condition and Criterion. Beyond these stated objectives, trainees would be asked to identify 3 other personal objectives that he/she would like to achieve by the end of the course. Trainees will have a real time view of their progress in the attainment of these objectives so that they can chart their own learning progress. This makes learning relevant to the trainees.
Stimulate recall of prior learning
Associating new information with prior knowledge can facilitate the learning process. It is easier for learners to encode and store information in long-term memory when there are links to personal experience and knowledge. To stimulate this, every learning module would start by asking questions about previous experiences, an understanding of previous concepts, or a body of content. To ensure that the pre-requisite modules are covered in the correct sequence, the module would reiterate the essential modules and will also highlight those that have been left out before allow trainees to proceed further.
d. Present the content
This event of instruction is where the new content is actually presented to the learner. To appeal to different learning modalities, a variety of media would be used. These include text, graphics, audio narration, and training videos. The training videos are organized in a “youtube” fashion and related videos are grouped in a coherent order. To extend the scope of learning, other “related videos” that are relevant to the topic would also be “suggested” and made for easy access. These training videos are deliberately kept short to maintain the attention span of the trainees.
e. Provide “learning guidance”
To help learners encode information for long-term storage, additional guidance in the form of a learning map will be provided along with the presentation of new content. Guidance strategies include the use of examples, non-examples, case studies, graphical representations, mnemonics, and analogies. This learning map serves to provide the higher level overview and also memory aid to help retain the knowledge gained.
f. Elicit performance (practice)
Eliciting performance provides an opportunity for learners to confirm their correct understanding, and the repetition further increases the likelihood of retention. To achieve this outcome, the use of MLS is coupled with the other aspects of a blended learning approach. Building upon the knowledge acquired in these learning module, the trainees would be asked to perform simple task (e.g. practical hands-on to set up an equipment), and short quizzes.
g. Provide feedback
As learners practice new behavior it is important to provide specific and immediate feedback of their performance. To achieve this, the on-line learning quizzes would provide scores as a proxy towards the overall course performance. Besides the instantaneous feedback, the scores serve to reflect the “Top 3 scorers” across the cohort.
h. Assess performance
Upon completing instructional modules, all trainees would be subjected to an-of-module test. This may come in the form of a paper quiz taken on-line or a practical exam depending on the nature of the skills requirement. On top of this, the real-time accrual of the individual scores helps to elicit the weaker performances from the better performances. This allows instructors to scope their lesson and customize them to meet individual trainee’s deficiency.
i. Enhance retention and transfer to the job
To help in the retention of knowledge, a daily electronic journal is maintained by each trainee. This seeks to help trainee recap what they have gain over the course of their training. To aid in the effective retention, a mind-map will be drawn by the trainees at the end of each module. This pictorial representation would be shared across the groups to help in the indexing of knowledge.
Longer Term Implementation Approach
7. MLS cannot be used in isolation, it has to be organized with existing didactic approach of learning to form a blended methodology. This Blended learning gives learners and instructors an environment to learn and teach more effectively. Learners can select the best activities to suit their own pace, learning style and level, as well as time and place. Learners can be more independent and self-reliant in their own learning. They can also be more able to take decisions, think creatively and critically, investigate and explore as well as solve problems they face in learning and real life. Meanwhile, instructors can be facilitators, supervisors, assessors, organizers and managers of learning activities, and so should be creative and able to support learners and provide various learning materials in different formats. In SI, the blended approach we adopt is captured in the diagram below:
8. Adopting the learning object in Second Life to create a virtual world learning environment (VWLE) applied in a blended learning environment is a new pedagogy the SAF hopes to leverage upon to meet the training needs of the 3G SAF soldiers.