VR is poised to make big waves in the world of learning and development, and it’s already gotten started. Training accounts for 62% of VR use within enterprise, and 82% of those organizations report that VR is meeting or surpassing their expectations. Recently, Walmart hopped on board in full force by purchasing over 17,000 headsets to train in-store customer service reps how to handle the Black Friday rush. These early adopters indicate a larger turn toward VR as a viable and powerful training tool: according to ABI, enterprise virtual reality training could generate more than $6 billion by 2022. So, what is it about VR for training that produces such strong endorsements and optimistic predictions? Why are businesses across the globe turning to this technology in particular to solve their most pressing L&D challenges?
VR is making an impression because it offers a distinct approach to training thanks to three vital superpowers: presence, immersion, and empathy. These superpowers, which are grounded by unique properties to scale and measure training, represent brand new training solutions for businesses of all kinds. In this three-part series, we’re going to take a look at how each of the three superpowers contributes to today’s revolutionary training tool.
Learning is a two-way street.
The most information-rich, compelling content will fail to make a difference if the workforce isn’t first engaged in the training program. Traditional training methods, such as e-learning and instructor-led lectures, contend with distracting cell phones, email inboxes, and even general listlessness, especially if trainees are in a crowded classroom or left on their own to complete self-paced courses.
VR for training, on the other hand, delivers an undeniable sense of immersion. By putting on a VR headset, users shut out distractions from the outside world and are placed in the center of an ideal learning environment. By eliminating the option to “multitask,” well made VR programs improve attention, sharpen focus, and engage mental, emotional, and physical faculties thanks to the compelling experience of an interactive, multi-sensory experience.
There are two essential types of VR for training: avatar-based animated experiences, which play like a video, and photo-realistic 360° interactive video. Avatar-based experiences offer maximum interactivity and personalization but are limited by cost constraints and sacrifice realism, which can take users out of the experience. Photorealistic experiences, while they don’t offer as many options for fine-motor control, are quick and inexpensive to produce and offer lifelike experiences which immerse the user to simulate real-world learning. By creating such immersive environments where users are necessarily engaged, “the retention level a year after a VR training session can be as much as 80%, compared to 20% retention after a week with traditional training,” says Dr. Narendra Kini, CEO at Miami Children’s Health System.
Immersive VR training can provide great value to businesses of all kinds by increasing user engagement and attention. Organizations that send employees to unique, dangerous, or inaccessible locations have an even greater incentive because VR allows users to explore these areas ahead of time: a team of caterers, for example, could study the layout of a ballroom to ensure perfect navigation from the very first moment of the event. Day-to-day businesses, on the other hand, can leverage VR’s immersive properties by exposing employees to complex processes or challenging interpersonal interactions in a consequence-free environment, allowing them to gain relevant, repeatable, and varied practice without fear of saying the wrong thing in front of a customer or damaging expensive equipment. This can all be accomplished without pulling the most experienced or highest-performing people away from their day-to-day duties, an unfortunate side-effect of social training. These benefits are ripe to be adopted by a wide range of businesses, spanning from baristas, warehouse workers, and retail associates, all the way to engineers on nuclear reactor sites.
With VR, trainees are transported to lifelike environments that provide rich opportunities to learn new skills and refine old ones. Whether the experience is delivered in a group setting, at an individual’s desk, or streaming from a cell phone at home, users are active and accountable in an engrossing virtual environment that’s materialized around them at any time, from anywhere around the globe. Gone are the days of fighting to maintain employee focus—with VR, they might not be able to look away.
Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 of this series, which will detail VR’s other superpowers: presence and empathy. In the meantime, get in touch with one of our VR experts to discuss how VR’s superpower of immersion can supercharge your organization’s training program.