Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) technologies are becoming increasingly mainstream, and the training and development industry is no exception to that growth. In fact, these technologies are offering a huge range of benefits to the learning environment, and it is almost certain that with time, their incorporation into training will grow beyond our current understanding.
What is AR?
In simple terms, augmented reality (AR) is an enhanced version of the real world that is achieved by using digital visual elements, sound, or other sensory stimuli. It essentially adds to the existing world by overlaying visual elements.
What is VR?
Virtual reality (VR) on the other hand creates an entirely virtual environment of its own. Often delivered using VR headsets, it puts an individual, in this case, a learner, into a virtual world that can be shaped and manipulated.
These immersive technologies have the potential to transform how we learn, and we can explore some of the most notable benefits and opportunities VR and AR offer learning environments…
Risk Reduction. In many industries, employees must be trained in operations and other processes before they can take on full responsibility. At times, these operations can be dangerous or risky when an individual is unskilled. AR and particularly VR offer new opportunities for simulations that create the perfect replica environment in which to train individuals without the risks of real danger.
These technologies can also be used to test and trial new situations or scenarios, reducing the risks from a hands-on experience can streamline the learning process.
Reduced Time and Memory Retention. It is widely understood that for many people and in many industries, hands-on learning encourages memory retention. Learning by doing allows one to master a skill sooner. Experiencing and practicing something helps us understand it better and allows it to become natural much faster. In this sense, offering VR and AR training can help familiarise individuals with the material much sooner, saving training time for both the individual and the business.
Cost Saving. Time saved is money saved. Of course, these new technologies can cost a business to purchase; set up, personalise, and maintain, but fast training cuts costs required to pay employees for their time spent learning on the job. This also reduces costs that may come from employee errors.
Moreover, this virtual style of training reduces costs related to hiring trainers and facilities for other types of hands-on training.
Increased Contextualisation. Gamification has become an increasingly popular tool in learning as it allows trainers to offer learners personalised and contextualised scenarios that are specifically catered to their jobs. Making learning relatable has been proven to improve engagement and knowledge retention.
These gamified processes often require learners to make decisions that create an outcome (either successful or unsuccessful) and allow them to put their learning into practice. VR and AR allow these contextual gamification opportunities to be taken to a new level of immersion, which makes them even more effective, creating higher success rates and reduced time.
It is difficult to list the benefits as they all work together and impact one another to create one another, for example how the streamlined process reduces time, which reduces costs, and so on. Ultimately, these technologies are growing in popularity in the training industry as a consequence of their immersive nature, ability to spread information in new and engaging ways, and the potential they offer in creating experiences that can alleviate the barriers of cost and/or distance.
How can VR/AR be used for training?
As mentioned briefly above, this tech can be used to immerse learners in situations that may be risky in real-life. It can also place them in locations that may be inaccessible. For example, VR is used in schools to allow students to “visit” historical or note-worthy locations that they otherwise could not experience.
These immersive scenarios are beneficial not only in how we benefit from hands-on learning but also because the technology itself is still novel and exciting, which can be massively engaging.
Moreover, VR does not have to involve headsets. A common way of using VR for training and education is through the “immersive classroom”, in which an environment is created by projecting onto all the walls of an indoor space.
Headsets or not, these immersive environments can be used to train and improve soft skills among employees. In the same way that they can be used for high-risk situations, they can be used to offer a safe space for practicing soft skills. For example, practicing a presentation.
There is also a growing interest in using VR for diversity and inclusion training. One company, Vantage Point are utilising VR to highlight the nuances of sexual harassment and make training around the subject more effective. This represents another way that placing an individual into a scenario they may otherwise never experience.
Customer service-based organisations can offer employees hands-on training for big events or busy situations by simulating them beforehand with VR to ensure everyone is prepared. This not only trains staff but also improves customer service experiences for patrons as staff are well-trained for specific scenarios.
Like VR, AR asks learners to become active participants in their learning.
As mentioned, AR technology typically uses a device’s camera and applies a virtual layer over the user’s real environment. Users, or learners, are then able to interact with what’s on their screen.
This tool is particularly useful in making classroom training more engaging. Learners can explore concepts in a visual way and through their own doing. This type of gamification adds an element of play whilst challenging learners to explore new ideas. Many museums and tourist hotspots are already incorporating AR into the visitor experience, making learning more fun and a more active, engaging practice.
Ultimately, AR doesn’t replace the traditional learning process, it boosts it by providing an alternative visual learning opportunity. For example, holding one’s camera over a drawing may bring it to life by appearing to lift it off the page and providing learners with an almost real (augmented) visual of the subject at hand. This can be useful in the virtual classroom, allowing learners from anywhere to visualise the same concepts or objects at the same time as though they were in their hands.
With e-learning on the rise in recent years, many businesses seek to ensure their e-learning courses are available on employees’ mobiles as well as laptop computers. This creates new opportunities for AR in e-learning. Utilising AR during e-learning courses not only creates new ways to personalise learning but in so doing can encourage higher levels of engagement through active participation.
VR technology is already allowing people from all over the world to feel as though they are in the same room, it is not unreasonable to imagine how learners, who in today’s day and age may experience classroom training on a video conference call could soon utilise VR to put them all in the same virtual space as though it were physical.
There is no way to quantify the benefits of these constantly evolving technologies and how they can be utilised in the classroom, but it is easy to understand how they can be useful in a myriad of ways to trainers in many different industries.
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