by John Blackmon, CTO of eLearning Brothers
Virtual reality (VR) sometimes seems like an element of a far-off future society or a quaint niche feature of a video game arcade. In actuality, VR content is already all around us, even though we may not always recognize it for what it is.
There are plenty of VR consumer experiences. Virtual tours, shared online experiences, and viewing digital furniture in a physical space are a few that come to mind. A lesser-known but extremely valuable application is being embraced by business owners around the globe. On the cusp of widespread adoption, VR is an increasingly accessible way to train workers for experiences that are difficult to teach any other way.
As more and more professionals see the vast potential in VR to solve corporate training problems, the competition is heating up. Mammoth brands like UPS, Walmart, Hilton, and the US Airforce already use VR tools for training. As VR creation tools become more accessible, small businesses should take note. Companies who don’t adopt VR training in the next few years will quickly be left behind.
Of course, VR isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Like any other training, spending time and money on a VR course only makes sense if it fits the scenario. Here are a few situations where an extended reality (XR) experience is superior to the real thing:
When Practical Training is Dangerous.
Anything that can be taught through books, presentations, or videos can be taught better through actual experience. But learning through doing isn’t always plausible.
For example, training truck drivers to watch for obstacles such as children crossing the street isn’t a real-life scenario anyone is interested in orchestrating. But put that scenario in a digitally immersive format, and you’ve got an incredibly powerful teaching tool.
VR simulations can be used to expose emergency responders to adrenaline-inducing disasters from the safety of their home or office. Medical professionals can practice surgery on virtual patients without dire consequences. Factory workers can see and interact with large-scale machinery to learn how accidents happen without actually causing harm.
If workers can be put into an immersive training experience before they face dangerous situations, work-related injuries can be reduced, team members can do their jobs more effectively, and everyone can focus on the task at hand with the confidence of knowing their coworkers have been properly trained and are ready for anything.
When Workers Need to Step Into Someone Else’s Shoes.
Sensitivity training is essential in many industries, both to foster an inclusive office culture and in some cases to comply with state and federal laws. Despite its importance, it is one of the most difficult topics to truly teach.
Telling is never as effective as showing. Virtual reality is an amazing tool to allow learners to actually experience someone else’s perspective. Stanford University demonstrated this through an experiment in 2018 where they asked participants to sign an affordable housing petition. Participants who were guided through a VR experience were 29% more likely to sign the petition than those who were shown a 2D video.
When empathy is needed, providing an experience can make a huge difference in workers understanding and acting on the information that is presented.
When It’s Less Costly Than Reality.
Many businesses have a knee-jerk reaction to the suggestion of VR use — isn’t it too expensive?
There are a variety of virtual experiences available, most less costly than you might think. Further, in many scenarios, VR technology is actually much less expensive than the real thing.
Consider the costs involved in sending employees to far-off locations for hands-on training, building special training facilities, or the wear and tear on specialized equipment. Sure, purchasing equipment and developing a VR course aren’t free, but compared to the price of any of the above examples, it is a far more efficient option.
As VR technology rapidly evolves, the costs involved will continue to drop, and the number of situations where it makes sense to train digitally instead of physically will exponentially increase.
The advantages of immersive technology as a teaching tool are almost limitless.
In strategic business planning, having a VR content strategy on both the consumer and training sides is essential to future success. That strategy should include a training plan, particularly when it’s essential that workers learn in a safe environment, need to understand another person’s point of view, or physical training would be cost-prohibitive. VR is no longer out of reach for emerging companies. On the contrary, it is rapidly becoming essential.
John Blackmon brings decades of engineering and management expertise in the eLearning industry to his role as CTO of eLearning Brothers, a global provider of templates, custom design, authoring and learning management tools, and training for professionals everywhere. Previously CEO of Trivantis, John also led the development of the leading authoring tool Lectora and the virtual reality course builder CenarioVR. His efforts led to the filing of two separate patents in software and Responsive Course Design.