Virtual reality is opening the doors to a whole new way of training employees.
Virtual reality was routinely dismissed as a far-fetched fantasy only a few years ago, yet recent developments have turned it into one of the most viable and popular of new products to grace the marketplace in the last few years. Now that consumers and investors alike are hooked on VR, we're going to see an explosion in immersive learning in classrooms, businesses, and learning centers around the country.
From the military to top-notch universities, virtually everyone can benefit from the wonders of virtual reality. Here's how VR and immersive learning will transform training of all sorts in the near future.
Learn by doing
Perhaps the most enticing element of VR training regimes is that they enable employees to learn valuable new skills by doing a task over and over again in a simulated virtual environment. This is excellent for businesses that are looking to prepare workers for new responsibilities but can't afford to put them in the field for a variety of reasons. While early critics of VR technology argued that it would never be effective nor cheap enough to become a widespread facet of workplace training regimes, those criticisms have seen been dispelled now that VR is more accessible than ever before.
An analysis of VR and workplace training put forward by NPR illustrates that there are still some flaws to overcome; simulating tiny but important details isn't always achievable, for instance, and some workers are more comfortable with the technology than others. Despite these minor setbacks, however, virtual reality has made impressive gains in the last few years and is now clearly capable of becoming more refined and affordable as time goes on and new entrants to the market introduce innovations that reshape the current technological landscape.
It's not only businesses that are benefiting from VR training; the United States military has long recognized virtual reality tools as being crucially important when it comes to training the next generation of service members. Virtual reality is already changing military training in no small part because the military has been making use of simulators for much longer than most people in the commercial arena. Search and rescue operations can be simulated, complex vehicle training can be conducted at next to nothing in terms of costs, and custom capabilities can always be introduced to ensure that any imaginable scenario can be implemented into a training regime that depends on VR.
Those companies looking to foster work at height training or similar high-stress scenario training will thus likely take a page from the military's book and conduct such training safely and cheaply with VR technology. By allowing individuals to encounter high-stress scenarios that permit them to learn without actually exposing them to danger, VR technology will drastically cut down on the amount of workplace training accidents that occur in the private and public areas alike.
A new way of learning
Why is VR effective when it comes to learning, anyway? Mostly because of the "immersive learning" effect, or the fact that human beings pick things up much quicker than they otherwise would if they’re immersed in a pro-learning environment that helps them achieve their objectives. VR technology has come a long way, and it wouldn't be accurate to describe them as clunky headsets that produce lackluster effects. The truth of the matter is that VR technology is now so advanced that it fully immerses users into a creative environment that stimulates their senses and enables them to absorb immense amounts of information in a relatively short period of time.
This is only possible because of advancements in artificial intelligence, which like VR was largely a sci-fi fiction just a decade ago but is now a regular facet of our economic system. By combining AI and VR, schools everywhere are personalizing learning to an unprecedented extent and enabling people of all ages to get more out of an educational experience than they ever could have before. Even those who typically don't like the classroom and shun formal learning methods may find themselves enthralled by VR technology and thus more open to new learning experiences.
Experiential learning, or coming to master something by doing it over and over again, will be made much easier now that VR technology is cheap and accessible to most companies. Classrooms often enable children to get hands-on experience, and formal company or military training regimes usually entail some sense of experiential learning. With portable VR technology, however, experiential learning can become the new norm at all times – people can gain hands-on experience not only when they're in the classroom or training workshop, but even when they’re at home by relying upon their VR headsets.
As experiential learning becomes accessible to anyone, anywhere, at any time, we can expect workers of the future to familiarize themselves with new topics or exercises much more quickly than we can expect these days. In other words, VR has effectively made it so that the classroom can follow you around wherever you go, which will ensure more frequent training occurs.
HR departments will adapt
These technological developments enabling VR to succeed like never before aren't happening in a vacuum; at the same moment that VR tech is plunging ahead at a breakneck pace, HR departments and training gurus across the world are also racing to update their training regimes. The future of employee training will be determined by those competent HR officials who are capable of familiarizing themselves with this new technology before it becomes commonplace. After this new generation of HR professionals comes into power, they'll be fostering VR-sponsored training efforts wherever they can, largely in an effort to cut costs while simultaneously bolstering the productivity of any given training program.
Divorcing employee training from physical space is thus going to be a regular facet of tomorrow's workplace training. New employees won't even have to show up at the office or factory to become skilled workers who know what to do – they'll simply have to download the latest training software and plug in from home to update themselves on the latest techniques and practices. HR departments will thus need to become more flexible than they currently are if they hope to remain relevant for long in this fast-changing world of ours.
The VR training market is going to swell to reach a mammoth $6.3 billion by 2022, according to ABI research, which puts into perspective just how important this industry will become in the next few months. After all, it was worth a mere $216 million in 2018, but the proven success of VR programs is now guaranteeing that companies, military officials, and private educators everywhere are scrambling to get their hands on VR training equipment as soon as possible. Those actors who don't get a head start on adapting to VR will thus find themselves left in the dust by their competitors sooner rather than later.
Will VR be applicable to every training program? While it may not become universally relied upon, VR technology is already digging its claws into a number of important industries, including the national security complex. As the next few years unfold, we’ll see that we're just standing at the beginning of a VR revolution that's going to keep disrupting our educational and training norms for decades to come.