Best Practices for Deploying Immersive Learning Programs


June 22, 2020 - Dom Barnard

There are several key areas you need to think about when deploying an immersive learning program, including how to allocate resources, integrate with existing training, the logistics of rolling out the program, and how to increase learner adoption.

Note: An immersive learning program typically includes either virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR), where learners are immersed in a digital world, either completely (with VR) or partially (with AR).

Finding a need and setting objectives

The first step is identifying an important need within your organisation that can be effectively addressed and benefit from an immersive training program. Ideally, this need has a measurable goal, which can be tracked with analytics and data from the training so you can track ROI and success of the project.

When thinking about the outcome of an immersive training program, you should consider tangible objectives such as cost savings, scalability, and learner success, as well as less tangible ones such as confidence, engagement and repeatability.

Rollout and adoption

The time frame for rolling out immersive training depends on your learning objectives and usage goals, internal buy-in, how many learners you have, and specific use case. You want to capture the right amount of training data to demonstrate real impact.

Rollout and adoption is about achieving your rollout plan and gathering immersive training data. You can only assess the impact of immersive learning if you have the right data for your organisation and enough of it. By generating excitement and wide adoption, you will have built an excellent training data set and be able to measure the success of the program with more accurate results.

Focus first on a small number of stakeholders for whom the training topic area is mission-critical as they will be your biggest supporters. This will speed up buy-in, facilitate ad-hoc deployment and greatly help with the collection of feedback, and subsequently larger rollout.

Learning Methods comparison grid

Learning methods comparison grid comparing benefits of each. Credit: Uptale

Location of people

If you’re rolling out the program to a large group of people who are widely distributed, you’ll need to plan for having VR and AR headsets in each location. These headsets can be shared amongst employees or students, so you don’t need a 1-to-1 match of users and headsets.

When deploying the program using shared headsets, it’s important to ensure adequate cleaning practices between each learner. This only takes a few minutes and will ensure the health and hygiene of the headsets. Read more about this in the hygiene section below.

Set expectations and prepare facilitators

If you’re running immersive sessions with facilitators, set clear expectations and goals, such as how long AR/VR training sessions should be. They should also be prepared for (and now how to minimise or overcome) potential issues when using XR, such as if some people feel nauseous or reluctant to use the headset.

Levels of nausea experienced in VR vary depending on the specific simulation, headset used and ventilation in the room. For example, at VirtualSpeech we minimise the movement in VR around the user so as not to disrupt the motion equilibrium. So, when the user is static, their virtual environment has minimal movement too.

Share company success with XR

Make sure you share any success stories with the rest of the organisation to promote the program and the benefits it can bring to learners. This could be, in the form of testimonials, case studies, promotional videos and internal events. This will build momentum for the program, increase the probability of continued support and rollout to more learners.

Integrate with existing training material

To get the most out of an immersive learning program, integrate it with your curriculum and platforms already in place for teaching, training, or upskilling. This will help the transition to VR training as it becomes a supplementary solution to more familiar learning methods.

For example, you can combine existing e-learning courses with immersive training, so that learners can practice what they are being taught in the e-learning material. Learners typically don’t want to spend too long in immersive headsets, so the combination of learning core content through regular e-learning channels such as online videos and quizzes, before practicing these in VR or AR, is a powerful combination.

This is the model we have adopted at VirtualSpeech for the last 4 years with our off-the-shelf courses, which introduce companies and learners to VR training, without them having to commit to a fully-VR solution right away.

Immersive learning programs can be integrated with a LMS, where data analytics from the immersive training session is sent to your organisation's LMS, such as Cornerstone, and stored amongst other learner data.

This training can also be added to the LMS course catalogue, where learners can select the immersive training on an opt-in basis amongst other non-XR training. We recommend that LMS integration happens after a successful pilot, as the integration can be time consuming and resource intensive for a pilot project.

Several immersive training programs require trainers and facilitators to help facilitate training sessions virtually such as with this High Impact Presentation Skills training course for example. In many cases, with a small amount of training, you can use trainers and facilitators already approved within your organisation.

Allocating resources and cost

Research has indicated that immersive learning programs can be up to 70% more effective than solely classroom or web-based training, as measured by retention and actual job performance.

Organisations who implement immersive training early will have an advantage compared to their competitors, as their workforce efficiency in skills trained with VR is likely to increase significantly.

However, the first year of a new immersive program can be more expensive than traditional e-learning, due to the initial hardware costs (VR headsets) and any customisation requirements. But this varies between organisations and seniority level - if, for example, you would normally spend $500 on a flight and accomodation alone for training, and instead you spent that on a VR headset and software, then actually you could even save money from the first year.

Employee adaptation to new technology

As with any new technology or change, there will be a transition period to get comfortable with new formats and platforms, and Immersive training technology is no exception. There is a risk of user backlash, especially from older learners who tend to be less enthusiastic to adopt new technologies.

From our personal experience, we were somewhat surprised to find little variation across age groups wanting to use VR for learning, and that could be partly due to our blended approach with more traditional forms of learning.

We recommend that immersive training should be made optional, where people can opt-in to take the training if they are looking for an innovative alternative, much in the same way organizations have a catalogue of online and in-person training courses.

Adding VR or AR training courses to your learning catalogue is an effective way to introduce immersive learning into an organisation and internal marketing efforts explaining the benefits of VR for learning can help increase the initial user base.

Hygiene and headsets

Due to the cost of immersive hardware, organisations usually share headsets amongst several learners. This raises questions about hygiene, as the risk of exposure to transferrable contagions increases significantly.

This is an obvious risk which leaders hardware providers have addressed head-on, providing detailed detail on cleaning headsets and additional equipment required to clean the hardware.

Measure performance and track progress

In order for organisations to justify the initial cost of immersive hardware (eg. VR headsets), it’s important to be able to justify the ROI of VR training. Many stakeholders may not truly see the benefits of a training program like this, so you’ll want to show them quantifiable results that show benefits such as increased engagement, retention, and quantitative learning outcomes.

Eye contact scores in VR

Eye contact heatmap from the VirtualSpeech application.

Examples of data points and ways to track progress include:

  • Feedback survey before and after using immersive training to see if there are any improvements in intangible aspects such as confidence
  • Measure eye contact and attention rates
  • Check whether the learner said certain keywords, for example during a sales pitch
  • Speed and volume of the learners speech during a presentation
  • Conduct short in-person interviews with participants to get a general idea of effectiveness and any areas of the immersive training experience that need improving.

Conclusion

Although there can be some difficulties with deploying immersive learning programs, the results from learners will speak for themselves. As more companies, colleges and Universities introduce immersive training into their learning catalogues and report on their positive results, stakeholders in more organisations will start to realise the benefits immersive training can bring.

As millennials form an increasing proportion of the workforce, companies will have to adapt to their behaviour, habits, working styles and preferred methods of learning - which are likely to be technology-focused and geographically dispersed. Some are already using VR for learning at high school or University, and are likely to view this as a standard learning method at any organisation.

An increasing number of companies are already implementing immersive training. As L&D professionals realise the quality, scalability, reduced cost and increased ROI in areas such as engagement, safety and knowledge retention, immersive learning programs are likely to be a staple in L&D within the next few years.

For any questions or information about VR learning programs, or how VirtualSpeech could help your organisation, please contact us, or visit our off-the-shelf courses, combining e-learning with VR.