In recent years, virtual reality (VR) has become the preferred training method for many businesses across the UK and beyond. As an immersive alternative, it bypasses the limitations of traditional training by offering a distractionless environment to achieve impressive levels of retention, engagement and employee satisfaction.
In fact, according to a study shared by PwC, VR training can reduce training time by 40% and improve employee performance by 70%. This is due to a higher emotional connection created by an (almost) real-life experience, where learners become more focused, driven and committed to learning.
And as the training landscape continues to shift from traditional to virtual training, more and more employers have never been more tempted to ditch the classroom for good.
Let’s find out why…
Is VR poised to play a bigger part in workplace training?
COVID-19 has been a catalyst for accelerated thinking in how corporate training is delivered. With in-person training no longer an option, many employers have turned to VR as a pandemic-proof way of upskilling their workforce without geographical restrictions.
In fact, according to LinkedIn’s 2021 Workplace Learning Report, 79% of learning and development professionals are shifting budgets from instructor-led training to online learning.
This is due to wide-ranging hard and soft skills modules available through a VR headset. Whether it’s empathy and inclusion training or complex engineering modules, VR has become the training tool of choice for a host of industries.
Among many other ways VR is incorporated into corporate training programmes, some examples include:
An immersive, first-person experience where learners can apply their knowledge to potential scenarios encountered in the workplace.
Implement health and safety procedures in a hazardous environment – all without the risk.
Dismantle, examine and assemble components using handheld controls to pick up various objects.
Apply theory to high-risk military, aviation and law enforcement situations, all from the comfort of your couch.
With every scenario, VR learning doesn’t have to be an individual experience. Multi-participant options allow different users to partake in the same scenario, regardless of geographical boundaries.
When is it right for businesses to switch to VR training?
While some business owners may be reluctant to abandon traditional training methods, there’s too much to be said for the power of VR.
In a study conducted by the US Learning and Development Innovation team at PwC, researchers assessed the impact of using VR to train new managers on inclusive leadership, diversity and inclusion. Selected managers from a group of new managers across 12 US locations took the same training in one of two other modalities: e-learn or classroom. To ensure results were as accurate as possible, the research team surveyed and provided learners with pre-assessment and post-assessment immediately after the course had finished. New managers also completed a third assessment 30 days from completion to assess retention and any possible additional learnings. The summary of learnings was comprehensive, demonstrating v-learning was more effective than e-learning and classroom-based learning.
In summary, new managers who had learned through VR were 275% more confident to apply new skills – 40% more than e-learners and classroom-based learners. The study also showed v-learners were up to four times more focused than e-learners and completed training four times faster than those learning in a classroom.
It makes sense, really. In an immersive VR, your attention is absorbed by 3D simulation. There is a limited chance of distractions you might associate with a classroom-based learning environment. Researchers also concluded v-learners were 3.75 times more emotionally connected to the content than classroom learners and 2.3 times more than e-learners.
And if that’s not enough to persuade you technology is the future, VR was the most cost-effective modality for delivering training on this scale. Even if business owners don’t want to ditch the classroom for good, these results suggest VR should be considered as a means for blended curriculum learning – at the very minimum.
VR learning: key findings at a glance
- 275% more confident to act on what they learned after training
- 4 x faster than classroom training on average
- 4 x more focused than e-learners
- 3.75 x more emotionally connected to content than classroom learners
Of course, we mustn’t get too carried away with these results. Learning is an individual experience and, although some learners may prefer virtual methods, others may prefer the familiarity of a classroom. But moving on from PwC’s study, how can a business incorporate v-learning into its training programme? As an example, let’s take a look at the recruiting and onboarding process for new employees.
By accessing an interview simulation through a VR headset, HR staff and new managers can develop their ability to ask questions and identify key skills in a safe and comfortable environment. As part of the onboarding process, VR can serve a completely different purpose by giving successful candidates a tour of their new office building or introducing them to team members – all without leaving the house.
Key differences between VR training and traditional training
Compared to traditional training methods, VR alternatives can appear to be technology before its time. Some of the main differences include:
According to PwC’s study, 78% of learners prefer v-learning to traditional methods. That’s because VR is a fully immersive, fun and different experience from any other training method.
Learners feel the experience is worthwhile and valuable to their progression, which results in higher levels of engagement, enjoyment and retainment.
And if employees feel training is effective, they are more likely to feel connected to their role and become a more valuable member of your business.
It’s a win-win.
Instead of suffering the costly, stressful and time-consuming task of travelling to a designated training centre, v-learners can instantly access virtual learning from any location through a VR headset.
It means less time is spent on commuting and more time is spent on upskilling in any given module relevant to the learner’s role.
Preferred learning environment
As well as the typical distractions that come with traditional teaching methods, classroom-based learning might be more limiting than you think.
For example, in a classroom of 20 learners, it’s unlikely the content will be delivered to cater to every preferred learning style. Where some learners prefer a kinaesthetic and auditory approach, less hands-on learners might favour a theoretical approach. But with limiting forms of delivery available through traditional training, some learners will retain content, whereas others might feel lost and frustrated.
A VR headset is a portal to rich content that demands your full attention. Due to its immersive 3D simulation, learners demonstrate higher levels of focus, engagement and commitment to learning.
It’s the reason why so many VR learners absorb four times more information in the same amount of time as traditional learners who suffer the distractions of a traditional training environment.
Where classroom-based learners might have one chance to apply newly learned theory, v-learners can build confidence and understanding through limitless trial and error.
What’s more, VR doesn’t come with the risk of embarrassment of getting something wrong in front of peers.
Instead, it’s a discreet, immersive and fully supported environment where learners are encouraged to apply theory in a comfortable and risk-free practical setting.
It wasn’t so long ago that the idea of VR was nothing more than a sci-fi concept. And for some educational traditionalists, that could still be the case.
But through our own research, coupled with PwC’s study, it’s beyond question that VR has earned its stripes in the world of education. And although it may be considered a dramatic technological shift from traditional training, it holds too many benefits to be sidelined by a resentment of change.
Not only do 78% of learners prefer VR, but it also quadruples levels of focus and learning, leaving participants feeling 275% more confident to act on new knowledge. That’s some serious numberage!
But, at this stage, it’s also worth noting VR training and traditional training can quite happily co-exist within the same training programme. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. By blending the classroom with simulation, learners are presented with a range of multi-sensory content tailored to individual learning styles.
It also means those who are apprehensive about wearing a headset can dip their toe into a virtual world without fully committing.
Want to swap the traditional training for a VR headset? Book a demo with us today to experience the benefits VR can bring to your business.