Virtual Learning: Being Authentic Versus Real

John Jamison ImagiLearning IncOn January 13, 2011, we are bringing together a panel of experts to discuss “Designing Immersive Learning Environments that Provide Extraordinary Results (8:00 – 8:50 am). John Jamison, CEO and Creative Director of ImagiLearning Inc., provides his perspective on authentic versus real for developing engaging and rewarding learning experiences.

John’s background includes 40 years of experience in change management, education, corporate training, game development, business management and distance learning. He earned his PhD through research conducted on studying the use of Second Life as a platform for introducing educators and business leaders to the emerging digital culture.

I remember a few years back when we used t he word “real” just way too much. The phrase was “for real”…usually followed by “man”, or “dude”, or something similar. While that phrase has gone the way of “far out” and “groovy”, we are still battering that “real” part around a lot. So we have decided to not use it anymore.


The discussion is usually about how virtual worlds and other online learning activities are not “real”, and are therefore somehow less than satisfactory. The conversations are academic, and typically a great thrill for the wordsmiths in the group. Theories are restated, big technical terms are thrown around, products are marketed, all in the debate over defining just what is “real”. At the end of it all….oh, that’s the point…there is no end to it all.

From our studies and practice at ImagiLearning, and from what we are learning from research shared by many others, whether something is “real” or not is not the point. The critical issue is if the participant’s experience is “authentic”, not “real”. “Real” is a physical qualification, while “authentic” is an experiential and mental qualification. “Authentic” suggests something about the actual quality and potential impact of something as it relates to thinking or processing…rather than simply being there “really”.

At ImagiLearning, we spend our real days and nights using virtual environments to create highly authentic experiences that create meaning for participants in exciting new ways. We are focusing on how to create learning experiences that authentically lead the learner to interact with, and reflect on the material to be learned. As we come to the Virtual Edge Summit, we are pleased to introduce our new TranceFormational Learning Model, an approach to designing and creating virtual and “real” activities that are “authentic” in the lives of the participants. “Real” or “virtual”, as long as the experience connects with the participant’s brain in a meaningful and “authentic” way we have accomplished our goal.

For real, dude!

About Donna Sanford

Donna Sanford | Founder and former Publisher of EXPO Magazine and Program Consultant for the Virtual Edge Summit