Virtual Reality seems to have finally found its stride.
First, there was the early nineties fad, of which only the cult movie “The Lawnmower Man” remains. Then there was the early hype behind Oculus Rift (first announced in 2012), which took four more years to materialize.
It seems that third time’s the charm. We now have several consumer-friendly VR software available, while VR’s sibling, Augmented Reality enjoys support from major vendors such as Google and Apple.
There’s also renewed interest in enterprise uses of virtual reality, from virtual meetings (the conference call for the 21st century) to virtual reality eLearning. In this post, we’ll take a look at if and why companies need to start incorporating virtual reality in their training programs.
Teleconference sessions and webinars have been very popular in all kinds of commercial and enterprise training scenarios.
They allow learners to engage with their instructor and collaborate with each other through shared document editing, virtual whiteboards, chat, and other such options.
They provide the benefits of real-world classroom-based tutoring, with the reduced cost, extended reach and re-usability benefits of regular online training.
VR can help enhance this experience by having learners occupy an “actual” virtual classroom space, making their online session even more realistic and engaging.
Such VR experiences can help blur the distinction between classroom-based and online training, and provide a great alternative way to engage in hybrid-learning (mixing VR and regular online training, as opposed to classroom-based and online training).
Immersive learning experiences
Imitating a traditional classroom through VR is a nice, if conservative, first step in what VR has to offer that applies to all kinds of corporate settings.
Immersive learning experiences, a fuller realization of what VR has to offer, can transport learners into a virtual world that would be prohibitively costly or impossible to visit in reality.
An oil company, for example, could have employees visit a virtual oil rig or have them explore the construction of a deepwater well. In a medical setting, virtual reality training technology could be used to allow students to see the inside of the human body, or even watch DNA and enzymes in action.
In the engineering space such immersive technologies can be used to examine components in a simulated, but true-to-life fashion, allowing learners to better understand the inner workings of complex systems.
All in all, immersive VR experiences can apply to many kinds of training scenarios and help not only keep costs lower but also achieve impossible before levels of insight.
Besides virtual classrooms and immersive experiences, an even more exciting application of virtual reality training concerns reducing the risk of otherwise dangerous learning scenarios.
The military, of course, has taken advantage of this capability of virtual reality training for well over a decade, using it to train pilots and soldiers in combat scenarios. But the possibilities in industrial, engineering, and medical settings are even more.
Medical procedures like surgeries, for example, can be simulated with no actual harm. This means that medical students can start practicing them much earlier. Likewise, experienced doctors can try new procedures and techniques in a much more relaxed and less costly manner.
Similarly, training involving expensive machinery, or procedures where mistakes can be costly (like configuring and operating a factory assembly line) can be simulated very realistically through virtual reality.
Virtual reality training can also be applied to compliance and safety training scenarios. These often involve dangerous situations, such as operating heavy machinery, dealing with hazardous materials, and performing emergency procedures. With VR learners can safely practice such scenarios in a simulated environment.
There’s no doubt that forward-thinking businesses should begin investigating virtual reality training options.
There are lots of cost and effectiveness benefits from the adoption of virtual reality training in the enterprise space. VR can be used to simulate traditional classroom-based seminars, to safely perform compliance and safety training, and to explore complex virtual spaces.
That said, the market is still in its early stages, there are no clear winners, and no industry-wide standards have emerged yet. Thus some caution is advised before diving head-in. But as for dipping your toes and experimentally investing in VR training? By all means, go ahead!