Having a highly skilled workforce is what every company strives to achieve. Not only does the operations of the business grow to be more productive, it also provides the building blocks for each member to work towards the company’s vision, one step at a time. Training can come in all levels of effectiveness. Some organisations prefer seminars and keynote speakers whereas others are focused on providing practical courses. While this can guide the team towards achieving company wide goals, individuals can sometimes be left behind and this is where nothing comes close to providing effective on the job training.
This has always been difficult to master for even the largest of companies. The costs of providing on the job training can be straining, especially when another key employee has to take time out of their schedule to provide their expertise in training another staff member.
Fortunately, the world reshaping to make our lives more convenient and knowledge more accessible and it doesn’t end at simply absorbing the theoretical aspects of training. If you haven’t been paying attention over the last year or two, you may have missed the huge surge in virtual reality applications that are fast being adopted by organisations around the world. No longer the realm of gaming and entertainment, virtual reality has been found to be incredibly effective at developing just about any skill you can imagine and this is where companies have seen the wealth of opportunity created by the technology.
VR has been used in training for decades however it wasn’t until the growth of consumer headsets such as Oculus Rift and Gear VR that the medium really took off. What was once confined technology companies, academia and military is now being implemented in small to medium enterprises training a variety of staff at different levels throughout these organisations.
How Does VR Training Work?
Training in VR is groundbreaking in that there are virtually unlimited possibilities which can be simulated and interacted with. What this means is that a training program can be developed for just about task or scenario you could think of. Trainees are placed into a 3D environment which they are then given tasks to perform within the simulated space. This allows the user to respond to their computer generated environment in the same way that they might in physical reality.
Studies have shown that the brain responds to the virtual environment much the same way as it would when faced with those situations in real life. This means that the trainee can practice and develop their skills within the virtual environment which would translate directly to the real life environment with as little variables as possible. The trainee is essentially able to process these newfound skills and put them into action from day one.
One great example of this is a project Immerse Enterprise completed on behalf of the Endevour Foundation to assist young adults living with disabilities in developing workplace skills. The Virtual Reality simulation was designed to be an immersive 3D cafe environment modelled after the actual cafe within the Endeavour Foundation offices in Brisbane. The simulation allows users to take on the role of a barista, serving virtual customers in a comfortable, non threatening environment to prepare them for real life work.
The Power of Visual Learning
Virtual reality and it’s uses in training are far from a gimmick. It is well known that most of us are visual learners. We seek our visual stimulation to communicate ideas and to process our environments. Contrast this with learning by sitting through an 8 hour seminar and you can see how information can be much clearly conveyed when the trainee is immersed in an environment dedicated to communicating and developing those new skills.
3D environments can be incredibly flexible and dynamic meaning trainees can be immersed in worlds which are specifically tailored towards whatever subject matter the developers create. This not only keeps them engaged and alert it also gives trainers the opportunity to refine their training programs to be more effective. This is where VR training can really set itself apart from other mediums within the industry. Trainers and employers want to measure the effectiveness of their training programs and with seminars, courses and mentoring this can be a challenge. Vr programs can be be developed in a way to deliver key metrics and reports to administrators which display which tasks a trainee may find challenging or where they might excel.
Enables Safer Learning
For workplace environments that have an element of risk, training can incredibly costly and safety procedures can be a nightmare. Virtual reality plays a role in removing the risk factor while retaining the effectiveness of the training. For example in sectors such as manufacturing, mining, energy or defence, training can be difficult in finding the right balance of exposure versus safety. Through a 3D immersive scene, trainees are able to develop their skills in high risk scenarios without running the risk of putting themselves or others in danger yet still see the task to completion, even if they encounter failures. This inspires both confidence and a willingness to learn and understand risks when confronted with them day to day.
Heightens Retention and Recall
When considering the the various mediums of providing training to learners, one key metric stands out. Retention is the trainees ability to recall the information that they have been presented with and their ability to recall that information when putting their new skills into practice. VR triumphs in this area given that users are able to perform simple tasks in an immersive environment multiple times with essentially no consequences other the time spent within the program.
Virtual environments not only enhance visual memory as they are exposed to the 3D objects within the digital space, they are also activating muscle memory as they interact with those virtual objects. This means there is an almost seamless transfer of recollection between the virtual and real worlds as they put their training into practice.
What is Next for VR Training?
Over the next year we are going to see virtual reality training assert itself as the chosen medium for many companies and small businesses around the world. The technology is improving at an exponential rate and hardware is becoming more affordable for both personal users and corporate enterprises. The skills being built upon and communication of information through virtual reality are truly groundbreaking and 2019 is shaping up to the year to take advantage of what is on offer and the results are truly astounding.