Virtual reality (VR) is gaining popularity. It is used in games, in museums and even in sales presentations. But there’s more. VR can also be of good use in L&D. In virtual reality scenarios can be trained that would be impossible or right-out dangerous to train in the real world. By simulating the work environment, training becomes more realistic and practical. Next to that, some organizations find VR better engages learners. However, there are also a few drawbacks to consider when using VR. First, let’s have a closer look at what VR is.
In virtual reality you can immerse yourself in a virtual world using a headset and motion tracking. The headset lets you look around a virtual space as if you're actually there and the motion tracking enables you to move around. VR enables users to explore and interact with a virtual surrounding in a way that approximates reality.
The simplest form of VR offers the possibility to interactively explore a 3D image on a personal computer. By using keys or mouse you are able to move the image or zoom in and out. More sophisticated efforts involve such approaches as wraparound display screens, or haptic devices that let users "feel" the virtual images.
Virtual Reality has a little brother called Augmented Reality (AR). AR superimposes computer-generated images over the real world. It adds some virtual components to your actual surroundings. VR does not use your actual surroundings; it takes you to a virtual world entirely. Together, these techniques are called extended reality or XR.
Some organisations are very enthusiastic about using VR when training employees. Why don’t we all start using it? Experts believe there are two barriers to immersive technology adoption that are preventing widespread use.
The first barrier is a physical one. When using VR, some people experience physical discomfort similar to motion sickness. It is called vergence-accommodation conflict, or VAC. VAC occurs when your brain gets conflicting cues for estimating distance. Like your eyes focussing on the screen right in front of you while the object you are looking at appears to be further away. It is a well-known side-effect of VR that quickly wears off when you exit the virtual experience.
The second barrier is a financial one. Since VR is relatively new and not used too often yet, there is no content library that organizations can use. In other words, organizations must invest in custom content development if they want to use virtual reality for training purposes. Add up the costs for VR hardware and other technology requirements, such as an integration work. These expenses are causing many companies to drop VR for now. In the future these costs will come down for sure making VR available for more and more organisations.
There are many ways in which you can use VR for L&D. These are five of the most promising.
1. High-risk training
In high-risk trainings learners put themselves or others at risk as they learn new tasks. Learning simulations lower those risks. This is where VR's benefits shine. A great example is pilots who learn to fly in a flight simulation. But there are many other examples.
VR enables medical personnel to train without endangering real patients. Utility and electrical workers can use VR to practice skills without using live electrical wires.
If it's too difficult, too expensive, or too dangerous to do the training in the real world, immersive training is a good fit.
2. High-complexity training
Virtual reality also enables training for scenarios that would be almost impossible to recreate in the real world. Astronaut training is a good example, the costs and complexities involved with real life training make VR a great alternative.
3. Institutional knowledge transfer
Many organizations are struggling with how to record baby boomers' knowledge before that generation retires. VR training could help organizations capture aging workers' institutional knowledge.
For example, a 30-year veteran of a company is likely to possess a considerable amount of wisdom relating to their position, and if they retire they take their wisdom with them.
While virtual reality could also help with another type of knowledge transfer: teaching customers how to use a company's product. For example, VR could help teach a customer how to replace a refrigerator component, put in a new faucet or assemble a piece of furniture in a virtual space rather than through paper instructions or videos.
4. Empathy lessons
VR can also potentially help to increase employees' empathy by immersing employees in situations they would otherwise be unable to experience. Employees can live through situations their customers may face, which could give the employees more empathy toward a customer calling with a problem.
For example, healthcare workers or 112 operators can experience a migraine headache simulated in VR, complete with the condition's visual aura and auditory hallucinations.
5. Soft skills training
Soft skills are an increasingly valued part of an employee's skill set. Virtual reality can simulate real-life scenarios, complete with facial expressions and body expressions. It can help employees develop and practice soft skills, such as active listening, conflict resolution and negotiation.
We can conclude that virtual reality offers many new opportunities for L&D. It is exciting, engaging, and interactive. It can make learning more realistic and practical. Of course, reading about VR is much different than experiencing it first-hand. If you want to know more, we can help you to get in touch with VR experts.
Ariane van Rossem