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Multimodal learning in XR

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min read
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Any school teacher will tell you that their biggest challenge is keeping kids engaged — partly because everyone has their own style of learning.

That learning conundrum doesn’t change once we become adults, which is why HR and L&D leaders grapple with creating effective training and upskilling that will keep employees engaged and instill knowledge retention.

Technically, though, it’s not so much that we all learn in different ways. It’s that we all learn best when taught in multiple ways. There’s a name for this phenomenon: multimodal learning.

Experts on the human capacity for knowledge retention understand that multimodal learning is a powerful way to teach even the oldest dogs new tricks.

It’s certainly a superior way to create comprehensive learning and engagement in the workplace, which is why HR and L&D leaders are turning to immersive learning platforms that create an environment for effective, trackable multimodal learning.

What is multimodal learning?

Multimodal learning combines multiple sensory experiences to increase the odds of understanding any kind of subject matter.

The four main modes of sensory experience used in multimodal learning are visual, auditory, reading, and kinesthetic — or VARK. The core idea is that using multiple learning modes together increases information retention in any learner because VARK engages the brain in multiple learning styles at once.

  • Visual: Learning by seeing —Pie charts, infographics, illustrations, videos, flowcharts, animations, diagrams, and other ways of designing information visually
  • Auditory: Learning by hearing —This can include digital formats such as audio in the form of recorded lessons, podcasts, webinars, and audiobooks, but also analog audio, such as in-person lectures and group conversations
  • Reading: Learning via language — Learning by reading and writing is the classic style of reading and transcribing notes that we all learned in school, and it’s highly effective as one component of multimodal learning
  • Kinesthetic: Learning by doing — Hands-on learning through or while moving and having a tactile, embodied experience

Most people will say they prefer to learn in one of these ways. While some people confidently claim, “I’m a visual learner,” others swear by their autodidactic technique of reading a little bit before bed every night. It’s also common for people to claim they absorb information best — and get their brightest ideas — when they’re walking, taking a shower, or doing the actual task (styles of kinesthetic learning).

But research statistics from an organization that studies the VARK model in-depth state that an overwhelming majority of people are actually “four-part learners.” In other words, they learn best when lessons are delivered in all four ways.

With multimodal learning, lessons are designed to stimulate multiple senses rather than just one. There are often interactive elements that invite the learner to be actively involved. More and more contemporary studies suggest that multimodal learning is the best way to learn.

Virtual reality: A natural extension of the multimodal learning ideology

On a small scale, workplace educators have attempted to tap into multimodal learning for a long time.

Training videos, for instance, might take advantage of verbally relayed information, combined with a visual, the film, interspersed with bold graphics, asking participants to take notes and be quizzed on what they’ve learned. But as most people who’ve sat through a training video and follow-up quiz will tell you, it’s not always the most riveting or effective learning experience.

It also lacks the critical element of learning by doing.

Even e-learning, which many companies have turned to as remote work has become more common, fails to measure up because it often simply unloads a lot of information on the learner all at once, on a screen.

Unless they get the hands-on engagement to continually practice skills learned in a traditional course, learners will forget up to 90% of what they learned in just 30 days.

VR introduces a more sophisticated method for delivering multimodal learning. It naturally taps into multiple senses, keeping the learner engaged and enhancing retention. Immersive learning, which places the learner in a virtual environment and invites them to participate in an active kinesthetic experience, brings together the best aspects of how people learn in one interface.

Within a VR headset, learners see rich visuals, verbally converse with avatars, engage their hands and bodies, and participate in written lessons and quizzes within their field of view.

The combination of visual, auditory, reading, and kinesthetic learning methods in a simulated environment in which they see the sights and hear the sounds of a real workplace creates the opportunity for authentic practice, and natural learning.

How immersive learning incorporates the 4 learning modalities:

  • Visual: Learners see their actual work environment (or close replica)
  • Auditory: Learners hear workplace sounds and interact with colleagues or customers
  • Reading: Learners are given in-headset prompts, information, and quizzes
  • Kinesthetic: It’s a full-body experience, where embodiment and active learning leads to engagement

In addition to being a comprehensive multimodal way of delivering knowledge, immersive learning offers perceptual fidelity, meaning that virtual interactions mimic the physical worlds, activating the same neural pathways in the brain. It also provides on-demand repetition, which can greatly increase comprehension and retention.

The extra dimension that immersive learning provides

Immersive Learning inherently provides the means to multimodal learning experiences. But there’s another facet that matters: the data that can be collected when individualized learning happens in a VR headset.

Research published by Science Direct in 2019 concluded that capturing multimodal data can help us increase the prediction accuracy of users’ learning performance in learner–computer interaction, thereby providing unique possibilities of closing the loop between the learning technology and the learner.

In other words, multimodal learning, particularly as experienced in a structured immersive learning environment, isn’t just a superior way to impart information. It actually grants you insight into how well and how much each individual learner is learning.

Get started with all-in-one multimodal learning today

Multimodal learning is not a new concept. VR solves many of the challenges that L&D teams and employees have faced for decades when it comes to effective multimodal lessons. This is why immersive learning is quickly becoming a new standard in workplace L&D.

Download our free ebook, Measuring the impact of Strivr’s immersive learning platform to see how enterprises are achieving amazing outcomes with VR-based training.

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