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Using 3D Models in Online Course Development

Nowadays, one of the most effective ways to make e-learning experiences more interesting and interactive is to use 3D models

These digital representations of objects, concepts, or events offer a dynamic way to explore and understand complex subjects, and are, in this increasingly digital world, becoming irreplaceable educational tools.

So, how can you use 3D models to improve and enhance your online courses? Keep reading to find out.

Using 3D Models in Online Course Development

What Are 3D Models?

Before we discuss the wide-ranging benefits of using 3D models for online course development, let’s tackle the basics first: what exactly are 3D models?

In very simple terms, these are digital representations of practically anything you need – from objects to environments to scenes – to make your online course easier to understand as well as more interesting. 

They mimic real-life things, such as a human heart, a vehicle, or geographical features, in order to allow the student to interact with them virtually.

The goal, of course, is to present multiple points of view of an object/scene/structure and encourage learners to actively participate in the learning process. And the end result? Better comprehension as well as retention.

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Improving Online Course Development

Okay, so if 3D models can enhance understanding of a subject and, equally important, retention of knowledge, how can you use them to improve your courses?

Well, firstly, it pays to understand exactly how digital representations of real things help learners grasp things better. 

This is where the concept of top-down design comes in. This methodology, commonly used in computer-aided design (CAD), involves breaking down a complex system – whatever that system may be- into smaller, more manageable components.

Basically, when you’re trying to eat an elephant, so to speak, it makes more sense to eat it in small chunks instead of trying to swallow it whole.

By embracing top-down design, you break down complex subjects into detailed parts that are easier to understand, making your online courses easier to digest. 

This is where 3D models become invaluable since they deconstruct complex information into interactive modules or simulations. 

In essence, the top-down design can help you identify overarching learning objectives and the parts that make them, while 3D models can help you design those parts in an interactive way, allowing your learners to understand complex subjects more easily.

Practical Applications of 3D Models

3D models are incredibly versatile, making them ideal for all sorts of online course creators

Do you have STEM courses like engineering and physics? 3D models can definitely help make your courses better. Perhaps you sell art and history courses? Same thing; they can make your content more stimulating and easier to understand. 

How, you ask? By engaging all the senses, visual, auditory and/or kinesthetic, 3D models make the learning process – regardless of the subject – more interactive and effective.

For example, in a history course, students can explore ancient civilizations by virtually walking through reconstructed cities. 3D models can also be used to recreate historical artifacts. On the other hand, in a chemistry class, complex molecular structures can be visualized in 3D, allowing for a deeper understanding of chemical reactions. Physics course? Interactive 3D simulations can be used to illustrate key principles of motion in a dynamic and engaging way. The possibilities are endless.

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Making the Learning Experience More Fun

Beyond their educational value, which is in and of itself tremendous, 3D models also make learning more engaging and enjoyable. 

Instead of passively consuming information, learners actively interact with the content, which not only promotes deeper understanding of the subject, but also enriches the entire experience. To put it simply, 3D models can make any course more fun. 

On top of this, they cater to different learning styles. Visual learners can benefit from the lifelike representations, while kinesthetic learners can engage with the material through manipulation and interaction. 

Whether on a desktop computer, tablet, or smartphone, students can interact with models at their own pace, which encourages self-directed learning and accommodates individual learning styles.

As another bonus, it’s easy to update 3D models and customize them to suit the needs of different learners in order to offer a truly personalized learning experience for all.

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Incorporating 3D Models into Your Online Courses

Now that we’ve hopefully convinced you of the benefits of 3D models in e-learning, let’s talk about some practical ways you can incorporate them into your online courses to make them more effective.

Step 1: Identify Key Concepts

The first thing you want to do is identify the main topics or concepts in your course that would benefit the most from visual representations

This could be anything from the anatomy of a cell to the structure of a historical landmark. Whatever it is, make sure it’s a concept or topic that would benefit greatly from being shown from different angles.

The goal is to make learning easier and more interesting by not relying on written descriptions alone; of course, written analyses are indispensable but 3D models can take learning, especially learning about complex or dry subjects, to a whole new level by allowing students to interact with the physical object(s) they’re learning about. 

So, identify those topics that seem the hardest to grasp or most difficult to visualize and translate them into 3D models.

Step 2: Choose the Right Tool or Resources

One of the easiest ways to get a variety of 3D models is through online libraries and repositories. For example, websites like Sketchfab, CGTrader, and TurboSquid have huge collections of 3D models across a wide range of categories, so it’s definitely worth checking them out. 

This is true whether your courses are about science or art, engineering or history, these (and other) websites have both free and paid models, so it’s easy to find suitable options for every budget.

Likewise, NASA has a big collection of 3D models related to space exploration, which you may find invaluable for your science courses.

Now, if you want to actually create it from scratch, you’ll want to find the right tool for your needs. 

Luckily, there are plenty of user-friendly 3D modeling tools out there, so even if you’re a complete beginner, you should be able to find one that suits your needs. 

For instance, Blender or Tinkercad are great places to start for beginners, while Creo Parametric or Autodesk offer much more advanced features that are ideal for complex and intricate objects.

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Step 3 (Optional): Hire Designers or Artists

If your courses would benefit most from ultra-high-quality or highly specialized 3D models but you don’t have the time or expertise to create them, why not hire people to do it for you? Freelance designers or artists can be of immense help here.

Now, this step does involve additional costs, but if you hire a professional, you’ll get professional-grade models that are guaranteed to elevate the quality of your online courses

This is not required, of course. Oftentimes, even free 3D objects you can find in online libraries or museums can enhance a course greatly, but if you want to offer truly high-quality content to your audience, it’s worth considering.

Step 4: Optimize Your 3D Models for Web

Having high-quality, detailed 3D models is great but not enough – for your models to truly be useful to your students, they also have to be optimized for online delivery

This is true even if all your students have the right hardware and bandwidth to support uncompressed models (and bear in mind, you can never be 100% certain that they all do) because optimization leads to faster load times, smoother performance, and overall better user experience.

So how can you optimize your 3D models for the web? The basics are these: work on reducing file sizes, simplify geometry by reducing the number of polygons, optimize texture and UV mapping, and simplify your materials (whenever possible, don’t use multiple materials). 

Remember, the goal is to enhance the overall experience for your course students and that means having streamlined 3D models.

Step 5: Integrate Your Models into Course Content

Finally, when your 3D models are ready, it’s time to integrate them into your course in a strategic manner so they can maximize the impact of your content (hopefully making it unforgettable). 

Depending on your platform, you may be able to embed 3D objects directly into your lectures, or you can provide links to external repositories where students can access the models. Whatever works best for your course.

Whether you’re using visual aids, interactive simulations, or hands-on activities, the goal is to integrate them seamlessly into your course so they can reinforce key concepts and engage students. 

Ultimately, what you’re looking to do with 3D models is inspire curiosity and promote deeper understanding along with better knowledge retention.

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Potential Challenges and Considerations


While 3D models offer immense benefits in online course development, they also present some challenges that creators of courses need to address.

For example, how can they run smoothly at all times if a user doesn’t have a device with sufficient processing power or compatible software? This is a complex issue, but not impossible to solve. 

For such users, it’s important that course developers offer alternative formats for viewing content, such as static images or videos. Obviously, this is not an ideal solution, but it does help make the course more inclusive.

Likewise, interacting with 3D models may be too difficult (in the beginning) for some users, especially for those unfamiliar with the technology. But thankfully, detailed instructions and easy-to-follow tutorials within the course interface can easily solve this problem.

For this, it is necessary to emphasize the importance of the e-Learning platform chosen to host your online course.

For teaching to be facilitated and learning to be enjoyable, a well-built Learning Management System (LMS) is required.

Whats is a Learning Management System

Attending companies and professionals in more than 60 countries, is a dynamic and customizable LMS.

With a pleasant and intuitive layout, can be easily used by everyone, without needing any special knowledge for this.

To know more, visit our site, test the platform and start now creating and selling online courses.