Why immersive learning works - Near-Life

Why immersive learning works

Woman with VR Headset and hand controllers
An in-depth look at how interactive video, VR, and gamification can transform your organisation

Immersive learning is no longer out of reach. According to a report from Global Market Insights, the e-learning market size surpassed 315  billion USD and is expected to observe a 20% CAGR by 2028. The global virtual reality in education market is expected to grow from $6.37 billion in 2021 to $8.66 billion in 2022, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 36% and $32.94 billion in 2026 with a CAGR of 39.7%. 

The technology needed to create interactive video and VR content grows more affordable and accessible with every passing year. While previously used exclusively for high-risk training, VR is now a popular solution for teaching soft skills, DE&I, leadership training, and more.

While 2021 numbers deemed upskilling and reskilling the main training priority for companies worldwide, 2022 surveys reveal 26% of companies value digital upskilling and transformation (a new survey response as of this year) above all others. 

Thanks to software like Near-Life’s – and other tools – immersive learning can be more effective and more affordable than traditional employee training.

What is immersive learning?

Immersive learning is more than just VR and XR. It’s any interactive, engaging learning experience that facilitates learning by invoking the feeling of presence.

This training format is more inclusive than people often assume. While virtual technologies like VR and XR are components of immersive learning, fancy equipment isn’t necessary to implement this learning strategy. Cognitive immersion occurs when content places learners as the protagonist in a narrative. Sensory simulations can strengthen this type of learning content (think audio with verbal instructions, sound effects that mimic real-life situations, and music that encourages users as they make decisions). 

Man with glasses works on laptop

VR, AR, and XR make up the technical side of immersive learning. These technologies use the same immersive narrative style, with the added layer of a virtual learning environment that helps participants suspend reality and adopt the perspective of protagonists in the virtual world. While a typical immersive learning video may show the learning environment, VR and XR present that same scene in a 180 or 360-degree format. The user can change their perspective and move throughout the virtual environment, creating an experience that closely resembles reality.

Immersive learning prepares employees for real-life situations. It gives the learner the experience necessary to contextualise textbook knowledge without high costs, scheduling difficulties, or associated risks.

Immersive learning experiences result in better active recall and help learners apply their skills and knowledge, whereas traditional learning leads to short-term recall and stops short of contextualising the information. 

The three pillars of immersive learning

Interactive video

Instead of sitting back and watching the learning video play out, learners pave their own way through a sequence of interactive hotspots, questions, and choices. By interacting with the content, users initiate motor movements and cognitive skills simultaneously.

  • Hotspots: Clickable spots throughout the video that allow the viewer to click onto another page or open a pop-up with more content within the video.
  • Branches: Provides alternate paths that allow the viewer to “choose their own adventure” (or simply choose the content path most relevant to their interests). 
  • 180/360 views: Allow the viewer to drag their screen to view the video content in all directions. 
  • Data inputs: Viewers can type information directly into the video. 
  • Quizzes: Buttons appear in response to questions. The viewer’s answers dictate their personalised result at the end. 


Interactive Video Features as icons



Information can be blended into a visual field, allowing the user to learn as they perform tasks. This strengthens connections formed within the brain, which leads to better long-term recall. The strong active recall is facilitated by the visual environment and the multi-sensory feedback it provides. 


This learning tactic employs emotionally engaging content that quiets the urge to multitask. Gamification elements increase learner motivation, engagement, and retention by triggering the release of dopamine (the neurotransmitter strongly associated with learning and memory).

  • Points: Learners earn reward points as they move through the content.
  • Leaderboards: Learners can see where they are in the course ranking, creating friendly competition.
  • Badges: Learners can earn badges to mark certain achievements. 
  • Rewards: Digital or physical rewards can be granted for reaching learning milestones.
  • Goal tracking: Progress trackers show learners how close they are to achieving certain goals. In a company setting, learners can see how their performance contributes to the company’s overall goals. 


Gamification Features as Icons - points, leaderboards, badges, rewards, and goal tracking


Why immersive learning works

Immersive learning combines the best of both worlds– it’s asynchronous and experiential. You get the benefits of a hands-on, learn-by-doing experience without the risk, cost, and inconvenience that real-life learning scenarios carry.

Tailored employee feedback 

Employee feedback is more impactful in real-time than at the end of a quarter. Immersive training experiences give managers concrete data from which they can tailor feedback. Real-time feedback is easier to apply and drives more change than traditional monthly, quarterly, or yearly performance evaluations. 

Safe space to practice high-risk decision-making

Immersive learning gives employees a safe space to develop skills in dangerous or high-risk environments, without fear of consequences. 

Employees can learn new techniques and flex their decision-making muscles, seeking guidance from management whenever they need it. In addition to eliminating physical risk, immersive learning also reduces the fear of failure that often stunts employee growth.

Instead of worrying about how their decision might look in future performance assessments, employees can take risks and learn from them in a safe, low-stakes environment. Managers can assess their performance and offer actionable feedback in real-time, which positively impacts confidence and growth. 

Immersive learning is also instrumental in teaching employees how it feels to respond in emergent scenarios. Employees can practice uncomfortable workplace conversations, de-escalating violent customer interactions, theft reactions, and even how to respond when witnessing harassment or racial injustice. 

Diversity, equality and inclusion training

While many of today’s companies are tackling DE&I, much of that progress centres around compliance rather than tangible organisational change. VR training is a step toward changing the way people act within the organisation by showing employees how certain scenarios might feel and how they should respond.

Woman in wheelchair - VR can deepen emotional connections and create lasting impact

The emotional connection that results from experiencing the simulation firsthand can leave a lasting impact on both perception and future behaviour.

Better knowledge retention

Immersive learning utilises multi-sensory feedback to improve active recall, which is more effective for applying learned information on the job than traditional training’s short-term recall. 

More engaging

Immersive learning engages learners on all fronts. They use motor skills to interact with video elements, use cognitive skills to make decisions, and engage emotionally via gamification. 

Soft skills

Immersive learning is no longer reserved as an alternative for DICE (dangerous, impossible, counterproductive, or expensive) real-world scenarios. 

As technology becomes more affordable and accessible, many companies are using immersive learning to teach employees soft skills. Soft skills, while vital to a successful workforce, are notoriously difficult to teach. They are most often acquired through experiences that are difficult to replicate in a real-world training environment.

Kim Iorns, director of learning and development for H&R Block, responded to this conundrum by choosing VR training to build confidence and empathy among new call centre agents. 

Call centre agents in booths - data shows that VR learners absorbed information four times faster than classroom only learners

She created realistic job simulations that allowed new agents to practice soft skills while supporting virtual customers. Small groups of agents used software and webcams to interact with the customers (aka digital avatars). Agents dealt with commonly occurring problems and questions and even dealt with pushback from virtual customers. The agents received detailed performance feedback once finished. 

Iorns found that late-season hires who completed at least one VR training session performed just as well as agents hired at the start of the season. 1,780 new agents completed the training, resulting in a 50% reduction in time spent on hold and an overall decrease in dissatisfied clients. 

A 2019 PwC study found that VR simulations help employees become more confident in their ability to perform their jobs, learn faster, and create stronger emotional engagement with the training content. 

The realism and performance feedback helped people retain more information about soft skills. Employees trained via VR simulations learned four times faster than classroom learners and twice as fast as e-learners. Hour-long courses were cut to 20 minutes when held through VR. When learners are immersed in the training scenarios, learning is more concentrated and employees encounter fewer distractions. 

Where real-world role-playing has limits on both time and patience, virtual avatars can run the same scenario thousands of times without sacrificing efficiency or effectiveness.

Advanced behavioural metrics

Immersive learning platforms enable employee behavioural tracking at a much more advanced, detailed level than other training programs. The resulting insights go far beyond viewing whether or not someone completed a class.

You can observe the choices employees make during their learning experiences, which provides a clear look at where each employee is in their training, where they require improvement, and how you can support their growth and development. 

Sophisticated analytics reveal exactly how each employee interacts with the training program and can even point to how they apply their new skills. 

Women in meeting, smiling - Behavioural metrics can even reveal what motivates employees and makes them unique.

Employee engagement is typically hard to measure. Immersive learning tools show exactly how much time users spend on each page, how they interact with the module’s elements, the order in which they click, what questions they complete, how quickly they progress throughout the module, and how deeply they engage with the content. 

Behavioural metrics can even reveal what motivates employees and makes them unique. Understanding each employee’s personality can improve workforce dynamics and inform future collaboration initiatives. 

Analytics also reveal how often certain learning experiences are utilised, which helps direct the L&D budget toward the most impactful learning content. 

Addressing barriers to adoption

In the past, the only way to utilise immersive learning was to shell out money for hardware, complicated software, and custom simulation development. 

While hardware has become more affordable, it isn’t a necessary component of immersive learning. Companies can create an effective immersive learning program without investing in any headsets.

As for the software and content creation costs, SaaS solutions like our own present an affordable option for creating and running immersive learning experiences without shelling out money for expensive software and custom development.

Woman shows statistics on laptop - addressing barriers to adoption

Near-Life’s interactive video tool is easy to use and requires no coding. You can create your own VR simulations by uploading 180/360-degree video content and then adding interactive elements. Without headsets, these videos are accessible via computers and some mobile devices.

You can also create immersive learning content by adding interactive and gamification elements to 2D videos.

With that being said, a PwC study showed that one company’s investment in fully immersive, 3D VR content became more cost-effective than classroom learning once scaled beyond 375 learners. When the volume reached 3,000 learners, the custom-built VR course was 52% more cost-effective than classroom learning.

Give it a try for free

To sum it all up, here are the top five  reasons why immersive learning is a good value investment:

  • Lower costs: In-person learning experiences can get expensive. Lost productivity costs aside, organisations must pay to create training environments, hire educators, and travel expenses when applicable. Immersive learning is an affordable, scalable alternative. Pay for software and content creation, and you can run the same learning scenarios as much as needed. I
  • Time saved: No need to shut down equipment while employees learn how it works. No lost productivity time. The time and money saved by converting to immersive learning creates opportunities for new L&D initiatives. 
  • Flexibility: Because immersive learning can be asynchronous, organisations don’t have to worry about scheduling gymnastics. Users can partake in learning experiences according to their own schedules, without the need to coordinate or interrupt projects.
  • Improved retention: Research shows that immersive learning works and can substantially increase the impact of learning. 
  • Better feedback: When immersion brings interactions, those interactions can be tracked to provide further feedback to learners and offer deeper insights for content creators.

Book a demo to find out how Near-Life can support your next immersive learning project. 

Need to find out more? Get in touch with our team.

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