In recent years, an increasing number of organizations have adopted immersive technologies such as extended reality (XR), virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR) to train their workforce. In Part 5 of our Enterprise Learning and Development series, experts Sandeep Choudhari, Godfrey Fernandes, and Karan Sharma explain various prime scenarios in which to implement immersive solutions, as well as the 4 stages of implementation.
Despite these promising figures, immersive technologies still face barriers to adoption. To ensure effective use of these technologies for training and workforce development, Immersive Learning Consultants can help organizations overcome barriers as they embark on their journey to implement immersive solutions. There are several scenarios where immersive technologies can be leveraged as effective learning solutions. These include:
- Dangerous environments: Immersive technologies can be particularly effective in situations where conventional modes of training pose a safety risk to trainees. VR solutions provide a fail-safe environment where learners can be assessed on their reactions and behavior when faced with simulated hazardous situations. For example, health and safety compliance training for the workforce in oil and gas, mining industry; Safety at work onboarding for workforce in manufacturing and automobile industries; and vehicle driver safety compliance training in the logistics industries.
- Conditioning tasks: When the workforce needs to be trained on standard operating procedures to work with complex processes, equipment, and tools. VR technologies can simulate complex processes and expensive equipment effectively. This training can help build psychomotor skills and confidence in the workforce before they can work with actual processes and equipment.
- What-if scenarios: Immersive technologies can also be used to simulate imaginary situations where learners can be assessed on their ability to apply their knowledge to make decisions and achieve specific outcomes. For instance, training customer support staff on how to manage interactions with disgruntled customers in a VR setting can help assess their response to emotions and communication skills needed to handle difficult and demanding situations.
- Learning in the flow of work: Immersive technologies are particularly effective when training and information is made available to the workforce on the job to make them more productive. For example, Augmented reality (AR) learning solutions can be used for warehouse operators when handling inventory, and for maintenance technicians when troubleshooting issues with hi-tech equipment. These solutions provide just-in-time and just-enough information to improve their performance and productivity.
Replicating these scenarios in real-life would be considerably expensive and time consuming. Immersive solutions provide a cost-effective alternative that creates learning experiences that increases knowledge retention and enhances skill acquisition. Any one or a combination of these scenarios are potential use cases where training interventions can be designed with immersive learning technologies like AR/VR/MR/XR. Stages of implementation Organizations can be classified into four broad categories based on their stage of implementing immersive solutions.
Stage 1- Lagging
Considering Rogers’ five-stage model of technology adoption, as of 2020, only innovators (i.e. roughly 2.5 percent of organizations) would have started their adoption journey of VR/AR. The remaining organizations might not have considered these technologies for their training and development initiatives. One primary reason for this trend is the lack of awareness of the technology and of potential use cases where immersive technologies can be leveraged for training purposes. For organizations that are in the Lagging stage, consultants can help raise awareness of immersive technologies and help identify the best fit use cases to apply immersive learning solutions.
Stage 2- Exploring
At this stage, Learning & Development managers in the organization are considering immersive solutions for their learning needs. However, they may face barriers, such as justifying the high initial investment cost to develop the VR simulation, procuring and maintaining devices such as VR headsets and AR glasses, and maintaining the extended reality systems. Although these solutions come at a cost, it’s worth noting that with technological advancements, the cost of hardware for immersive devices and software authoring tools is becoming more affordable. Moreover, the potential benefits of training employees using immersive learning technologies outweigh the investment costs of implementing these solutions. For organizations at this stage of adoption, experienced Immersive Learning consultants can perform a cost-benefit analysis of immersive solutions, considering the long-term economic benefits compared to traditional learning methods.
Stage 3 – Evolving
Organizations at this stage have already implemented immersive learning solutions, but are not utilizing the solutions effectively, and in most cases have not yet measured the benefits and outcomes of the implemented solutions. Realizing the full potential of immersive learning technologies in most cases are hindered by the lack of initiatives to scale the solution to include a growing number of use cases over time. The initial investments on headsets and devices, as well as the creation of soft assets such as 3D models of environments, objects, and avatars can be reused in different training use cases, which could help control the initial investment costs. Some approaches to scaling a VR solution are:
For organizations that are at the evolving stage of adoption, it is essential for immersive learning consultants to ensure that they bring in the expertise of instructional design, experience design, technology, and domain knowledge in all phases of the project. Involving these experts in ideation, development, testing, and deployment results in a high-quality solution that will achieve high adoption rates among end-users.
Stage 4 – Maturing
Some organizations from different sectors such as Oil and Gas, Healthcare, Manufacturing, Retail, Logistics, and so on have fully developed immersive learning capabilities and many successful use cases of immersive technologies in workforce training and development. Although such organizations have already benefited immensely from these technologies, they are always looking for ways to improve and innovate their immersive learning interventions. Incorporating haptic and advanced remote controllers, Artificial Intelligence, and data analytics integrations with immersive solutions can take these solutions to the next level and make the immersive learning experience even more personalized for learners. Experienced Immersive Learning Consultants can help these organizations by identifying and recommending the latest trends and design solutions that integrate the latest technologies to suit the needs of these maturing organizations.
Immersive solutions are just not developing and implementing a technology solution. It must be driven by a well-thought-out strategy that is aligned with organizational needs, based on specific use cases and expected learning outcomes. As the maturity of organizations to leverage immersive learning solutions evolves, consultants and solution providers have a vital role to provide solutions and recommendations that help the organizations on their journey to adopt of immersive technologies in their workforce training and development functions.