Is Virtual Reality the Future of Training?



Is Virtual Reality the Future of Training?

 

We’ve finally achieved what science fiction dreamed of. Virtual reality, the ability to create computerised worlds that feel like our own, is a very real and available technology. The first way we can imagine it transforming our lives is by providing entertainment, but how about the uses of virtual reality training for education?

Virtual Reality Training and its Uses in the Modern Workplace

Many companies are already experimenting with using virtual reality for training. A quick search for the term ‘virtual reality training’ shows plenty of businesses providing some sort of virtual reality development service. One such company boasts: “We can recreate any environment or product in a 3D virtual world that your learners can interact with.”

Plenty of institutions are already seeing the potential of VR. US police departments, for example, use it to provide simulations of situations where officers may be required to use deadly force. Proponents say it provides a much more realistic scenario than the typical shooting range. Hospitals use it, too, to simulate potentially stressful medical operations and procedures. NASA, meanwhile, use VR to provide an approximation of one of the strangest parts of space travel – spacewalking, where the astronaut leaves the spacecraft to access the outside, normally to carry out repairs. It is impossible to adequately describe what people can expect when spacewalking, but VR helps prepare astronauts for the new environment, reducing the risk of errors.

All these are examples of dangerous, out of the ordinary scenarios that would be difficult to simulate in real life. But virtual reality is also being deployed in more ‘normal’ situations as well. One of the most commonly referenced examples is supermarket giant Walmart. They are beginning to use VR to help staff improve their customer service skills, something which is especially useful to prepare for once-a-year events like Black Friday, with its frenzy of crazed shoppers trying to shop till they drop. Restaurant chain Honeygrow uses VR to train new employees by providing a representation of one of their typical locations, complete with workers carrying out their tasks and their founder explaining their values. Both companies say that using VR increases retention and engagement.

 

virtual reality training

 

It’s clear that virtual reality training is great for helping employees learn skills in practical environments. Could it also work for the traditional training course? One of the benefits the founder of Honeygrow gives for VR is that he only has to record his performance once. Hundreds of employees can meet his virtual equivalent and every time he can deliver the same standard of training. Imagine if a trainer could do the same. No more off days, consistently the same high quality of teaching.

VR could also be used to mimic a classroom environment for those who can’t attend a classroom course, or are unable to get in-house training, but would like to experience its benefits. Virtual classrooms are common amongst training providers, but at present the ‘classroom’ aspect is the ability to communicate between students and trainer. What if the virtual classroom was just that – a classroom environment complete with virtual desks and chairs, where you could learn just as you would during face to face training?

With that said, when you’re using a technology in which it’s possible to simulate almost any environment, would you really choose something as standard as a classroom? Project management training could involve an actual project office environment. Health and Safety training could simulate potentially dangerous work situations without any actual risk.

Training using virtual reality still has a long way to go to reach mass adoption. Full systems like those used by police departments, with multiple screens surrounding the user, are very expensive. Consumer VR systems like the Oculus Rift or the headsets created by phone companies like Samsung and Google are more in reach, but many users experience motion sickness while using them, making them impossible to use for any longer than 15 minutes. As a result, many VR programs are currently limited to little more than short tech demos. But with companies reporting good results from their experiments with VR, it’s clear that more and more workplaces will seek to include it as part of their training programs.

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