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Virtual Environments and the Acceleration of Experiential Learning

Chris Wild
75 (3)
International Statistical Review

Darius et al. (2007) and Nolan & Temple Lang (2007) give examples of virtual environments that can, for specific purposes, substitute for the real world. We are in the early stages of developments that could revolutionize statistics education by making it possible to capture efficiently important aspects of the thinking and practice of professional statisticians previously learned only from long years of experience. The ability of virtual environments to automate processes provides a potent weapon for tackling the tyranny that Time exercises over such modes of learning. We discuss the many new possibilities that are opened up by virtual environments together with cognitive and pedagogical imperatives to be addressed to ensure that environments actually do teach the lessons they were designed to teach. We echo Nolan and Temple Lang's call for the development of environments to be modular and open source. Taking the R-project as a model, this can lead to a growing repository of building blocks that make the construction of future environments less costly, thus facilitating the realization of more and more ambitious conceptions.