If you attended Learning Technologies last week, it would have been hard to miss exhibitors showing off their latest Virtual Reality (VR) technology. This isn’t surprising, as the excitement around the potential of VR in corporate training has been prominent over the last few years. All of this hype got me wondering, how many learning practitioners have successfully introduced VR as part of their digital learning offering?
The answer is, not as many as I originally thought. A few years ago Goldman Sachs predicted a staggering growth in the Virtual Reality market, so I was surprised to find out that there is little evidence that the adoption of VR in learning will increase significantly in the year ahead. For L&D at least, it would seem that this new technology hasn’t taken off as fast as originally predicted.
All of this hype and lack of implementation has probably left a lot of learning practitioners wondering if L&D is really ready for VR – or worse, if it’s simply another passing trend in the fast-moving world of learning tech.
Like with all new technology, there are a few setbacks like a lack of internal talent or the lack of reliable suppliers that can deliver high quality VR in learning. But I think it’s just taking a little longer than anticipated to get people onboard, because there is a staggering amount of research out there that proves the undeniable benefits VR would bring to corporate learning.
There are decades worth of research that proves VR experiences result in better learning. As far back as 1991, Clark and Paivo’s research explained how a multisensory experience creates a stronger memory. And in 2015, Stanford University proved that believing one has had a social interaction in a virtual environment can increase arousal, focus attention and improve learning.
The prospect of better learning is a strong pull for many organisations, as it could significantly impact the transfer of learning to the workplace. An example of this is the work Walmart have done to successfully implement VR training for their associates. Last year, they reported that the VR training has boosted confidence and retention of the learning, whilst improving the test scores of their people by 10-15%.
To sum it up, those who invest in VR for learning are likely to get a big return on investment, providing their people with a lifetime of valuable skills that they will keep bringing to the workplace.
Freedom to make mistakes in an otherwise unsafe environment is a game changer for larger, more complex organisations that deal with a lot of compliance and health and safety risks.
For example, there are huge opportunities for the use of VR training in the oil and gas sector. The need for highly trained people, who may have to work in harsh conditions whilst managing complex machinery like oil drilling platforms, is crucial to this industry. And providing these people with VR training that’s as good as the real thing will allow the learning to take place in a safe environment.
Learner engagement can feel a bit like gold dust in the modern workplace. For many organisations, engaging their learners and creating a learning culture is an uphill struggle. Learners are often ‘too busy to learn’ or find the digital solutions on offer clunky and frustrating to use compared with the high level of tech they’re used to.
VR is a great antidote for poor learner engagement, in fact, younger generations like Gen Z and Millennials are actually asking organisations to introduce more VR to the workplace.
Your learners are also more likely to focus better as the learning takes place. As soon as your learners enter the virtual experience, the world around them disappears and they are totally engaged. This itself is a bit of a novelty in our always switched on society, where constant notifications and distractions are an ordinary part of everyday life.
So, despite the slow uptake of VR in the world of learning technologies, I think it might just take a little longer than anticipated to become a frequent addition to digital learning in the workplace. The benefits after all, are undeniable.
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Stephanie Morgan FLPI, Director of Learning Solutions, Bray Leino Learning
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