Whether you talk about VR, XR or AR, the fact remains: the era of the metaverse is coming. In fact, many would say it’s already here. At least for the believers. But is XR the new 3D? A fad that people will get over? Is it just for the gaming community – or is it, in fact, the most important thing to happen in the training space since Donald Blitzer launched PLATO?
XR (extended reality) learning is an umbrella term to include the immersive learning technologies of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR). Certainly, since remote working has become increasingly normalised, the quest for more immersive and interactive learning has gathered pace. And we know immersive learning, specifically VR or XR learning, can improve learning outcomes. Research cited by OFCOM in the UK highlighted that knowledge retention with virtual technologies can be as high as 90% vs the standard 20-30%.
The reason it works so well is because it mimics reality. Our experience of things is always filtered through what our senses perceive. What we see, hear, feel, smell, and taste makes up the reality our bodies recognize.
Take this “Walk the plank” game. Although players knew there was no risk, its immersive nature triggered a sense of real danger. Those with a fear of heights were unable to take the plunge, even knowing they were only a few centimeters off the ground.
In the same way, immersive VR learning experiences provide a safe, accessible space for users to experience challenging situations that feel real, test their decision making and practice procedural skills. Indeed, a wide ranging assessment showed that 75% of studies reported a positive increase in learning when VR was used.
But if there is a consensus building that immersive learning works, although we’re beginning to see traction in areas like healthcare, why is the approach not yet as pervasive as one might imagine?
Some may see talk of Apple’s new VR headsets retailing at $2,000-3,000 and think the answer is no? At that type of price tag even the most forward thinking, well-resourced organisations have to consider scalability. Maybe training for a few people at a time, in specialist areas, could work – but what about the hundreds, thousands or even tens of thousands of employees or students?
There’s also the question around the software – what platform will you use and what limitations are there? Do you want a CGI world or are you looking at VR as 180 or 360 video, or more? Video is obviously easier to produce but still requires a means of sharing, especially if you are looking at interactions.
And, if VR training or XR projects or products work within a closed system, with restricted access – whether due to the hardware OR software – the opportunity to share immersive learning at scale can be challenging.
Much of the VR software landscape, where access to content tends to be siloed, is app-based. Cost is often determined by tightly limiting user numbers and integration with wider learning management platforms is difficult.
However, while VR uptake in many organizations has been held back by the need to acquire headsets or by the current software landscape, there is hope for a more flexible future. Web VR / Web XR tech offers one of the most interesting opportunities for lowering the barrier to sharing content at scale.
Web VR or Web XR not only allows access, via the web, with the standard headsets – it also allows access through compatible mobile devices. And software options in this space are growing: opening the door to true scalability.
Meta, as Metaverse evangelists, have talked about their desire to see this technology become more widely adopted. And it certainly does open the door to making immersive, virtual learning more accessible and cost-efficient than any other similarly effective training method.
However, immersive XR content on its own is not the end of the story. Learning design, matching content to need, still has its part to play – the medium doesn’t change that – even if the scalability problem is on its way to being solved. You need to find the right tools to deliver the right results.
Are you looking for realistic VR simulations? Decision-based branching scenarios? Or is it more of a VR experience? Exploring a facility or workplace?
Certainly, adding interactions to VR for learning provides a safe and scalable means of creating learning simulations that closely mimic reality. With the right VR authoring tool or platform, creating virtual learning needn’t be something that is only for the future.
VR is a natural addition to the learning approach where scenario training is already well embedded. For example, in healthcare and emergency response learning. But VR needn’t be restricted to the more dramatic end of the spectrum, it has also been shown to be effective in fostering empathy and offers huge potential in areas like soft-skills. Even for sales training scenarios.
If immersive learning is a new area for you, understanding where and how XR can add value is obviously the first place to start. Create an outline for your intended goal and use this to define a flowchart that displays all your interactive scenarios and learning benchmarks.
And if you are looking to take small steps with a pilot project, start by storyboarding your concept and research what tech might be out there that can de-risk any trial around adoption. How will you measure success?
The potential of XR learning is huge but we are still only at the foothills of what is possible. For the learning and training community, understanding when it is most appropriate to use and how best to implement it will remain pertinent questions for a while yet. However, the evidence base is growing and there are already some signs of best practice. And with the right tools – XR learning can, indeed, be scalable.
If you’re interested in exploring how Near-Life can help you create and share interactive video and VR simulations at scale, you can book a demo to speak with one of their team.
Or, if you’re already confident it’s right for you, you can get started right away with a free trial.