More and more organisations are discovering how powerful immersive technologies like VR can be for training – and for good reason. Simply put, people remember experiences better than they remember more traditional ‘book-learning’ – in fact, studies suggest an 8.8% increase in learning effectiveness with VR.
Technology experts Jason Lovell and Adam Beardmore, shared a few of their thoughts on the use cases for immersive technologies, and where they might be leading.
1. Explore the unsafe, safely
What makes VR training such an effective tool is the first-hand experience the user gets. That direct, active participation builds memories in a way more passive learning methods can’t compete with. And obviously, this can be particularly useful to test hazardous environments.
Although the technology has exploded, the concept is nothing new – flight simulators operate in the same way, and they’ve been used to train pilots since the 1920s. With the added realism that’s come with new tech breakthroughs, simulation provides a valuable opportunity for organisations with hazardous environments. And by using VR to recreate workplaces, trainees are able to acclimatise, learn and ‘fail forward’ without the risk of hurting themselves or others.
Operating in a high-hazard industry, Centrica Storage has been trialling VR for training by using the Microsoft HoloLens 2 affixed to a hard hat for use on-site. With so much specific asset knowledge required within the oil & gas environment, VR orients the team and provides them the opportunity to get used to the operations required on the job.
‘These days, the digital experience is so good that trainees get a realistic experience that truly familiarises them with both the environment and the processes.’ Adam Beardmore, Business Development Lead, Centrica Storage Limited.
Working with EDF Energy, we developed a 360 video experience to help onboard their new-hires. The experience took the user on an immersive journey inside a nuclear reactor to see how nuclear power is produced, giving a greater understanding of the process. It was so successful as an internal piece that they released it on YouTube – to over 13.7 million views.
2. Save time and money by experiencing environments remotely
But VR doesn’t just provide a safer place for users to learn – it also makes it easier to access difficult or impossible locations. Whether it’s distance, practicality or cost, there are many different reasons to substitute a VR experience for an on-site visit.
And with VR headsets getting easier and easier to obtain, these experiences can be held in an office, a training facility or even a trainee’s own home. By mapping out an environment, users get a realistic sense of the space, and you don’t have to worry about the logistics of transporting trainees physically to a location.
‘“VR experiences can now be so immersive and engaging that the user feels a real sense of presence in their virtual space. This means that organisations are now finding it increasingly hard to justify actual on-site visits.’” Jason Lovell, Head of Strategy, PwC UK
We’ve helped demonstrate the usefulness of remote environments first-hand. We’re currently working on a project with a large mining company recreating the potential dangers in their working environment. This allows workers to practice their reactions to very dangerous situations, and to teach them to change their behaviour if needed – something that wouldn’t be necessary without a virtual environment. You can see the environment that we built in VR below.
3. Training in responsive environments
Until recently, VR experiences were limited to pre-set experiences. That is, everything that happens in the experience needs to be preprogrammed to happen. Now they’re becoming more flexible.
With the rise of Artificial Intelligence, experiences are built around real-time responses generated artificially. This means the experience takes on a life of its own – potentially a new encounter each time. By building interaction mechanisms that work off the user’s responses, the trainee has more agency, contributing to a deeper sense of realism.
In turn, this leads to better empathy from the trainee. Because VR is the only medium that allows users to see the world from someone else’s perspective, this kind of emotional stimulation can be a powerful teaching tool – specifically for difficult situations in leadership training.
‘It can create press conferences or high-pressure presentations. VR can put you on stage, with all eyes on you. And it can remove the need for role-play, reducing costs and making training experiences more convenient and quicker to access.’ Sarah Potter, Immersive Design Leader, Learning & Development, PwC UK.
Examples of this can cover letting a difficult employee go, experiencing situations from the position of a different culture/gender oror experiencing bad leadership and what not to do. By putting the trainee in the first person, they get a better understanding of how they’ll be perceived in those situations in real life – leading to real behavioural change.
‘Behavioural change doesn’t happen easily – it requires a deep personal realisation from each individual in your organisation. VR offers such a unique and powerful insight into another world. There’s your realisation: there’s your behavioural change.’ Stefano Marrone, Managing Director, Nucco Brain.
Lifesaver, a project we worked on with Unit9, put users in the hotseat of a ‘live’ emergency through VR. Immersed in a high-pressure environment where a life was hanging in the balance, users learned to perform CPR using Google Cardboard and a pillow. And the results were staggering – teenagers’ confidence in performing CPR jumped from 38% to 55%.
VR and your organisation
Developments in immersive technologies are progressing at an incredible rate, being used in new and innovative ways. But it’s important not to just use technology for its own sake – it has to be rooted in your organisation’s specific needs.
That’s why we’ve built a team of experts who get to know you and your organisation to make sure we combine the right technology to meet your needs – and deliver your training goals.
Interested in finding out if VR could support your training programme? Talk to our experts today.