2 November

VR in Training and eLearning: Everything You Need to Know

VR in Training & eLearning

Virtual reality has been referred to as the most disruptive technology of the next decade. But one industry that has been particularly disrupted by virtual reality, or VR, technology is the education and training sector.

In recent years, corporate L&D teams, universities and public schools have all been starting to take notice of the positive impacts that VR technology can have on learning. But what exactly is VR? And how can it be used to enhance training and learning experiences? 

In this article, we’ll answer those questions as well as provide you with all the information you need to get started availing of VR in your training and learning programs.

What is virtual reality?

Although VR has been receiving so much attention in the past few years, it is not a novel type of technology. In fact, some of the first VR technology prototypes go back to the 1960s, and have for many decades been important tools in space and aviation training. But what exactly is virtual reality? 

The term virtual reality refers to using computers to create three-dimensional simulated environments. And while virtual reality technology has been used for training in certain industries for decades, VR technology is recently becoming more accessible for both consumer and enterprise use. One industry that has particularly benefited from VR is the training and education sector.

Types of virtual reality

When it comes to virtual reality, there isn’t one singular type of environment or experience. There is actually a spectrum of virtual realities, which the engineering researcher, Paul Milgram, coined as the reality-virtuality continuum

When designing your VR training or eLearning experiences, you’ll want to consider which level of immersion is both achievable and suitable to meet your learning objectives. Below is an overview of the three types of VR on the continuum:

  • Non-immersive: When you control a character in a simulation, but the environment does not interact directly with you, this is non-immersive VR. Some examples are computer games or gaming consoles.
  • Semi-immersive: Environments where you have 3D visuals of the environment but no no physical movements are semi-immersive. An example of this type of VR would be a 3D museum tour.
  • Fully-immersive: When a user has the experience that they are physically within the virtual world, this is a fully-immersive experience. For this type of VR experience, you’ll need special technology such as a VR headset, gloves or body detectors.

Benefits of VR in training and eLearning

VR technology has already had a major impact on digital learning – and will most likely continue disrupting the industry. But why has there been such an uptake in VR technology in digital learning? And why is VR so advantageous as a learning tool? Below we dive into three of the most significant benefits from utilising VR in training and eLearning.

Increased learner engagement 

One of the top advantages of using VR in training and eLearning is the increase in levels of learner engagement. This is because of the simple reason that virtual reality provides learners with a more interactive and stimulating way to learn. Traditionally, the primary medium through which students formally learned was through reading texts. However, with VR, learners are able to use more of their senses – and more deeply engage with the material.

Greater knowledge retention

Another significant benefit of utilising VR technology in training and eLearning is that it has the ability to improve learners’ retention rates. Studies from the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya have shown that virtual reality can improve knowledge retention fourfold. A further study by the University of Maryland showed that virtual reality can improve knowledge recall by over 8%. Virtual reality isn’t only an enjoyable way to learn – but can also be more effective.

Higher rates of collaboration 

Although virtual reality technically puts learners in a digital world, this doesn’t mean they can’t still interact with other real-life learners within that world. And virtual reality tools can provide extensive opportunities for learners to collaborate in situations and environments in which they otherwise would not be able to. For example, distance learners can meet with each other in a virtual world and interact in hands-on ways that go beyond simple chat or video calls.

Uses of VR in training and eLearning

Now that we’ve covered some of the most significant benefits of VR in training and eLearning, you may be wondering what VR looks like in use. And there isn’t one singular method to avail of this technology. Depending on your industry, learners and learning objectives, how you apply VR may look different. To help you get started, below is a brief overview of three common uses of VR in training and eLearning:

Gamifications

Although all virtual reality simulations are essentially a game, adding additional gamification elements can make the experience more engaging, stimulating and motivating for the learner. Some examples of gamification elements include having the opportunity to obtain points or rewards, being timed or being able to compete with others. 

It also isn’t only active situations, such as emergency rescue training, that you can gamify. Many different types of simulations and training are capable of being made into a game. For example, if you’re using VR for empathy or soft skills training, you could enable learners to score points based on how they behave in certain situations that test those particular skills.

Training simulations

For certain industries and professions, real-life training is either not possible or the risk of failure is too high. For this reason, simulations have become such an integral component of training for a wide range of professions. Aviation, construction, emergency services, military and medicine are examples of fields that commonly use training simulations. 

In addition to high-risk training, many other types of training can also benefit from VR simulations. In business, you could provide simulated client pitches for your sales team to prepare before meeting real-life clients. One example of training simulations being used for business is the American retail chain, Walmart, using VR technology to prepare its staff for what to expect while working on Black Friday.

Digital classrooms

With the help of VR, the entire world can become a classroom – which is why this technology is becoming so popular in education. Teachers can transport students to Brazil to supplement a lesson plan on the rainforest biosphere. In history class, they could take a 3D tour of a renowned museum and view historical artefacts without even leaving their school. 

Although these types of VR lessons may not initially appear to have educational benefits, studies have shown that VR can actually be a highly valuable way to learn. One study showed that in contrast to a 2D video, a virtual field trip improved learners’ enjoyment, interest, and knowledge retention rates. 

Examples of VR tools for training and eLearning

Since VR is a type of technology, you will require special tools and hardware to start using it. Below are three examples of VR tools that are making inroads in the digital learning industry:

Metaverse

Since Facebook announced in 2021 that the company would be changing its name to Meta, there has been heightened interest in the concept of the metaverse. But what exactly is the metaverse? And how can it benefit digital learning? 

The metaverse is a network of virtual worlds that no one company owns and anyone can enter. You just need a VR headset, or in some cases a computer or smartphone. In terms of its use in digital learning, metaverse application developers have already begun releasing virtual environments for training and education purposes. 

As the metaverse is still very much in its inception, it will likely take an increasingly more prominent role in training and education within the next decade.

Nearpod VR

Nearpod VR is an educational tool used in schools to make lessons more interactive. Students are able to have an immersive experience with Nearpod headsets, or a non-immersive 3D experience using a device, such as a computer, smartphone or tablet. 

With Nearpod VR, students are able to take virtual field trips that allow them to really dive into the lesson content without having to leave their classroom. Nearpod VR includes hundreds of pre-made virtual reality lessons that teachers can choose from in order to supplement the curriculum. 

The Nearpod VR lesson library includes content from an array of school subjects, including maths, social studies, English language arts, and life skills. They even offer virtual reality college tours, so students can explore prospective colleges they are interested in.

Microsoft HoloLens

Released in 2019, HoloLens is an enterprise training tool that creates a semi-immersive training experience for learners. The HoloLens headset displays holographic images that the wearer can view while still being aware of their physical environment.

The HoloLens has been a particularly valuable training tool for the manufacturing, engineering and construction, healthcare and education industries. This is due to the headset’s ability to facilitate collaboration, reduce travel, increase efficiency and decrease training time.

According to Microsoft, the HoloLens was even able to reduce a three-hour university lesson plan into less than 30-minutes. It has also been shown to improve rates of knowledge retention in the education sector.

Final thoughts

VR has already been a game changer for the training and education industry. And with the continuing advancement in technology and uptake in use, it is set to make even a larger impact in the coming decade. Whether for corporate training, adult education or school instruction, VR can be a valuable tool to enhance the learning experience. 

If you’re interested in discovering more ways to apply VR to your eLearning instruction, gaining a Professional Diploma in Digital Learning Design is a great way to learn all about this disruptive digital learning technology.