Virtual reality (VR) seems like a futuristic idea, but the technology is finally coming into its own as we get into the 2020s.
Limited uses of VR for flight training simulations have been around for many years. Today, that same technology is training drivers, package handlers, engineers, surgeons, and more.
Although VR has been around since 1968, its development has been on a slow-moving path for the last fifty years. Meanwhile, the landscape of technology, like computers and mobile phones, has been rapidly changing, reaching a point where both are commonplace in our professional and personal lives. We have arrived at a convergence point between the two, where the next logical step is blending virtual reality with our existing technology infrastructure.
Widespread use of virtual reality opens the door to many possibilities for safer, more effective training scenarios.
Corporate training has been plagued with a struggle to improve learner retention and translate training into performance. Even well-designed corporate training programs have a bleak return on investment because employers’ most useful skills are often abstract and difficult to teach.
Virtual reality offers an opportunity to remove many of the barriers to learning. The most obvious benefit is that virtual learning can occur anywhere and anytime, so there is no need to pay for expensive travel and block time off to send employees to training retreats. Virtual reality can make high-end training programs more accessible to companies of all sizes and budgets.
Virtual reality also inherently encourages more engagement than traditional teaching methods. If the idea of attending a training event evokes negative feelings of boredom, confusion, or even fear, then the likelihood of an engaging, productive learning experience is very small. Virtual reality is new, interesting, and immersive. While bad graphics and computer glitches can derail your VR efforts, the platform offers the opportunity to bolster learner engagement.
Virtual or augmented reality also offers a safer environment to practice skills. If you consider high-risk jobs like surgeons or pilots, simulations are the safest learning tool available. That same technology is now making it possible to simulate public speaking engagements, negotiation skills, and sales pitches.
One of the biggest barriers to learning new job skills is the psychological fear of failure. Virtual reality provides a unique safe space to practice new skills with the look and feel of being on the job. Removing the psychological barrier to learning leads to faster learning, better retention, and a bigger return on investment.
Virtual reality may have fallen short of expectations in the video gaming industry. Still, it is making big waves in corporate training by delivering highly engaging, measurable, and effective training solutions for hard-to-teach job skills.
Modern and practical virtual reality applications are still relatively new in the corporate training space. Some big-name companies like Ford Motors and FedEx have taken the leap and invested in these platforms. At FedEx, the company uses virtual reality to train package handlers in a safe and controlled environment. Any high-turnover job can benefit from virtual reality training because it allows new hires to learn from experience in a completely safe environment.
Virtual reality for corporate training can take traditional role-play scenarios to the next level. Some companies have already embraced the technology to teach soft skills to managerial candidates or train their Human Resource staff to better assess job candidates.
UPS has revolutionized driver training using virtual reality to replace a less safe method that involved driving a real truck on the road with a touch screen tablet in hand. Now drivers can learn safe driving practices and spot potential hazards in a virtual space, blending on-the-job training with the classroom to accelerate learning and make sure what is learned in the classroom transfers to job skills.
While Fortune 500 companies lead the way towards widespread use of virtual reality for corporate training, some roadblocks make it difficult or not as practical for smaller companies. The most obvious barrier is the cost of investing in a virtual reality platform. The technology is still in its infancy, and quality headsets are pricey. Plus, the lack of cookie-cutter options means you will have to invest in designers and developers to build a custom solution from scratch.
VR for corporate training also comes with limitations like a lack of flexibility, increased security concerns, and an element of artificiality. With instructor-led training, the material is adjustable on the fly based on the audience’s needs and questions. In virtual environments, learners will have to complete all of the steps in sequence. While this will make sure that nothing is missed, it lacks the real-time feedback of teacher-led learning.
Virtual reality also presents some health concerns that may not be compatible with all users. While many developers are currently working to address this, as many as 40% of users currently experience motion sickness in virtual and augmented reality environments. Plus, excessive screen time encourages a sedentary lifestyle, increases anxiety and stress. Depending on the setup, there is even a potential for physical injury while wearing a VR headset.
There are dozens of examples of companies experiencing significant success in implementing virtual reality in their training programs. Metrics like learner engagement and retention outperform traditional virtual learning methods and easily go head-to-head with instructor-led training.
Our lives revolve around technology. Online-based informational resources and mobile phone apps are well-integrated into daily lives for most people. Allowing the same level of integration to help your employees do their jobs well only seems like the natural evolution of technology.
In enterprise learning and development, VR provides an easy transition to bridge classroom learning with on-the-job experience. Not only is VR the future of corporate training, but it seems like it is inevitable for all kinds of different types of job training. Soft skills, safety compliance, and driver training are a few ways VR is already changing the learning landscape in the corporate world.