Immersive Learning: What is it and why does it work?
Immersive Learning: What is it and why does it work?
Immersive Learning and VR have taken the L&D and HR world by storm. Even with the significant changes to how our world works, Immersive Learning remains a cornerstone of corporate learning today and a foundation for where things are headed. Founded in behavioral and cognitive science, Immersive Learning with VR provides a memorable tool that accelerates employees’ proficiency in their roles through an immersive training environment.
Immersive Learning is an experiential training methodology that uses Virtual Reality (VR) to simulate real-world scenarios and train employees in a safe and engaging immersive training environment. It combines the sense of presence of VR with advanced learning theory, data science, and spatial design to improve effectiveness and user engagement.
The approach is based on decades of neuroscience research, which indicated that the brain treats VR experiences just like it would treat real life. In other words, performance in a virtual work environment is a close indicator of performance in a real work environment.
By using Immersive Learning with VR to immerse employees into “real” work situations, Immersive Learning capitalizes on proven best practices for behavioral learning. This helps improve learner engagement, preparedness, knowledge retention, and confidence.
As mentioned, what makes VR-powered Immersive Learning successful is the element of “presence,” or the feeling that one is really “there” in the virtual environment. Creating a truly immersive training environment that can be delivered virtually requires a synthesis of expertise from a vast range of fields, including:
Magic happens inside the headset. VR takes your brain to another place through complete immersion, which makes it an amazing tool for learning. When you put on the VR headset, you can look all around you and see and hear a virtual world nearly identical to real life. Mentally and emotionally, you feel like you are in that situation.
Thanks to this complete immersion, you can be “on the job” before you’re ever on the job. You can experience typical day-to-day job occurrences like the checkout counter, or more rare scenarios like a difficult conversation. Using Immersive Learning in VR, employees can practice and hone both operational and soft skills.
Today, there are two forms of enterprise VR content – 360-degree video and Computer-Generated Images (CGI). With 360-degree video, you can replicate actual environments because you film on-location. Nonetheless, both video and CGI are valuable for teaching situational awareness, operational procedures, safety, customer service, and soft skills.
- Embodiment: VR creates a full-body experience that increases learner engagement.
- Perceptual fidelity: Virtual interactions mimic the physical world to activate the same neural pathways in the brain.
- On-demand repetition: Learners can train as many times as needed for sufficient learning and proficiency on the job.
- Real-time feedback: In VR, learners make decisions just like they would in the real world, and those decisions have a direct impact on the experience.
- Emotional fidelity: VR invokes a sense of presence that creates realistic emotional responses.
One of those principles is the old “learning by doing” philosophy, but in a scalable manner. Experiences are designed for interactivity with the virtual environment to help the brain build the right connections for learning and knowledge retention. In addition, learners must apply what they’ve learned, make decisions, and experience the impact of their choices. This makes the learning stick.
Another key learning principle that Immersive Learning in VR can really maximize is a combination of attention and engagement known as arousal. It means that real emotional responses like stress, anxiety, and surprise are induced more authentically to make training memorable and impactful. Learn about how this was successful at Verizon and Walmart.
By incorporating proven learning principles into immersive interfaces for engagement and learning, many companies are realizing benefits like better on-the-job-performance, higher employee confidence, long-term knowledge retention, and faster training.
Immersive Learning with VR enables companies to access data that has gone largely untapped to this point. Learners’ actions are captured and the cumulative data collected provides insights into behavior that traditional training methods never have.
- Usage: training frequency, duration, and completion
- Performance: completion of tasks and correct answers to evaluate proficiency
- Attention & engagement: where and how learners pay attention, indicators of on-the-job performance
- Sentiment: qualitative feedback from participants
- Predictive analytics: A combination of immersive data mapped to real-world data to create a machine learning-based model
The principles of spatial design create and enhance the feeling of immersion for learners. When instituted properly, learners suspend their disbelief, engage with the virtual world as if it were real, and retain more knowledge.
- Spatial presence occurs when learners lose the sense that they are in a VR experience; it becomes real.
- Self presence makes learners believe they have agency within the virtual world – in other words, looking around and interacting because their actions actually have impact.
- Social presence provides learners with people to interact with and learn from in the experience. They act and speak like colleagues or managers that learners will meet on the job.
Across the HR and learning world, expectations are changing from “more content” to “more strategy” – a dramatic shift enabled by the growing capability to elevate and measure workforce performance through Immersive Learning in VR. Some of the largest companies are already making strategic staffing decisions leveraging immersive data from immersive training environments during hiring, onboarding, ongoing training, and upskilling.