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.
With such impact, it’s important to understand what this emerging category of training is and why it works so well in an enterprise environment.
What is Immersive Learning?
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.
When delivered via a cloud-based platform, companies are realizing these benefits at scale.
Building an immersive training environment
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:
- Instructional design
- UX design
- Data science
- Sound design
The four pillars of Immersive Learning
Immersive Learning in VR is not just content inside a headset. It is the combination of the four components that creates engaging, impactful, and measurable training experiences.
Virtual Reality immerses learners
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.
There are several scientific principles that VR is able to maximize unlike any other form of training, including 1:1 or on-the-job training.
- 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.
Advanced learning theory makes the training stick
Immersive Learning capitalizes on centuries of knowledge and research about how people learn. When designed properly, there are nearly a dozen cognitive learning principles that are applied.
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.
With the advent of Immersive Learning at scale, it’s now possible to incorporate scientific principles into corporate learning and therefore train employees more effectively.– Dr. Michael Casale, Chief Science Officer, Strivr
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.
Data science to measure performance
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.
There are five types of VR training data.
- 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
Dig more into VR training data in the resources below.
Spatial design creates presence and engagement
Spatial design is the methodology for building and developing VR training content. It is a coordinated effort across VR disciplines – filmmaking, user interface design (UI), and user experience (UX).
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 UI design also includes computer-generated learning elements like placards and on-screen timers, which need to seamlessly integrate with the experience.
The ultimate goal of spatial design is to create presence because presence leads to engagement, which leads to knowledge retention. There are three kinds of presence to consider:
- 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.
3 elements of building learning environments for VR training content
Immersive Learning combines VR, learning science, data, and design
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.
With a proper understanding of Immersive Learning, VR, and its four necessary pillars, you can now begin to explore the top use cases and strategy for implementing at scale.