VR, AR, VLE: Unleashing the Power of Simulations in Workplace Training

For four years, businesses all around the world have worked towards adopting digital transformation practices in their workplace development or customer services.

Rob Whiteman, CIPFA CEO, believes that the digital transformation is more than a revamped website, unified communication, a new CRM system, a Facebook profile or giving employees iPads. “It’s fundamentally changing the way organizations design and deliver services and how they operate internally.” The learning and development industry is no exception to this process.

Despite a lot of challenges including the lack of resources and supporting infrastructure—the necessity to prove the importance of new L&D tools and technologies adoption for long-term objectives—new effective training solutions and approaches continue to be developed and used. Now, successful digital adopters in the L&D industry are businesses that understand that to keep up with market changes, it’s not enough to digitize their instructional materials and upload hours of lectures on YouTube. They create new, innovative learning experiences.

Today, we are looking into what challenges and issues in the workplace digital innovations solve and which tools businesses use to assess digital training results.

Address complex L&D issues with training based on digital simulations

Practice is a core principle of learning: to build a truly comprehensive learning experience, businesses should make sure employees can apply the obtained knowledge to their work right away. New digital technologies give different industries the possibility to make learning and development extremely practical and engaging through training simulations.

Delivered in various shapes and levels of presence in virtual situations, simulations provide an immersive, entertaining, safe, and easy-to-use hands-on learning experience. If a simulation includes a guideline for task completion or the presence of a virtual or real facilitator, it’s called instructional simulation. If it doesn’t, it’s a training simulation, where trainees make decisions all by themselves.

Such learning isn’t only enjoyable and useful for employees but also is attractive for promising applicants, as they look for personal growth and fun in their future workplace, especially when both are delivered through new disruptive technologies.

Which tools can you use to deliver training simulations?

Virtual learning environment (VLE). It could be scenario or role-based training within your LMS. The simulation is delivered through the training platform itself in the form of exercises for specific work-related situations that include different scenarios of the development of this situation. In that environment, on desktop or mobile, an employee answers questions, related to a hypothetical event or problem, and then sees how his or her responses change the scenario. In such a way, employees can put themselves in different roles, solving routine tasks and out-of-the-box problems with virtual characters and in safe virtual situations. Scenario-based training in VLE fits businesses that use microlearning and want to integrate training into their workflow to the fullest.

Games. Game-based simulations are another set of software tools that immerses employees into a familiar or unfamiliar environment with defined learning outcomes. Games are entertaining and engaging; they can be introduced as the main tool for improving employee performance or as an additional benefit to a company’s learning program. Here’s an example of how KFC is using virtual gaming to train new employees to fry chicken:

Virtual reality. VR gives full visual, audial, vestibular and touch experiences in a simulated digital environment. It’s great for practicing hard skills and competencies that need to be achieved in complex, dangerous or anxious situations.

Augmented reality. AR software injects simulated, not real objects into the real world, combining algorithms recognizing real-world objects and data about objects that have to be placed into a recognized real environment. With AR, companies can provide learning through task itemization (e.g. a tool that shows what to do in the warehouse and how to find a specific product there) or promote design and collaboration (e.g. a tool that allows a group of employees to decide which version of a product works best for the design of a specific object in a specific environment).

Note that all these ways of delivering training use unique, new approaches to learning instead of transferring old-school theoretical training practices into the new reality. So what challenges along with immediate practice do simulations solve?

Assess skills that are risky or expensive to practice

Simulations are widely used in industries where real-time skill training would be too complicated, expensive, or dangerous.

The healthcare industry uses digital 3D-models and VR to train medical workers on how to perform surgeries. With the help of modeling, medical workers can see how different microscopic body cells look and function in the human body. They can study viruses, microbes, and other small microorganisms that can’t be seen with the naked eye.

The space industry adapts simulation models to assess skill gaps and improve operational group performance in satellites, imitating different hypothetic environmental and atmospheric conditions. Such an approach is also great for astronauts’ competencies evaluation and preparation for the real missions.   

Ensure effective emergency training

A lot of businesses use simulations to prepare for emergency training—for instance, to develop fire safety skills. Real-life training of such kind is usually ineffective due to their mandatory nature and work-disruptive effect. On the contrary, the lifelike experience in VR, AR or within game-based training is engaging and interesting.

Employees engage in different scenarios right from their work seats, the decision-making process makes knowledge stick, and as a result, they get real experience even in the virtual world.   

Engage a new employee from Day 1

The onboarding of new employees is stressful both for them and for HRs: although an official “welcoming” program is used only by 52% of companies, even they sometimes struggle to make it effective and understandable.

VR or game-based training are used to show newcomers the operational process and workflows, to quickly practice working with all the tools in companies, defining and filling specific skill gaps. From the start, some employees will be immersed in sales processes, frontline experience dealing with customers, etc. In such practical ways, they start diving into business operations and the workflow and decrease the anxiety of newcomers.

Their mistakes, on the other hand, can’t harm the relationships with clients or disrupt the operations. Also, employees can use AR software to study the company’s assortment and be better prepared for working with large lines of products.

Develop employees’ emotional intelligence

LinkedIn recognizes soft skills as skills that are the highest priority for businesses in 2018. They can also be trained virtually. The effect of presence is vital for the development of soft skills: employees can’t get the feeling of anxiety or worry while performing speech repetition in front of a mirror. It could be useful, but it’s not enough.

To train public presentation skills, the ability to facilitate negotiations or participate in them, resolve conflicts or support clients emotionally, companies use VR simulation, game-based, and scenario-based training.

For instance, there is a research from the University of Carolina, Santa Barbara that shows that video games can help people to detect deceptive behavior in others—to discern the truth from lies. Interestingly, participants of the study didn’t detect lies accurately but began to effectively recognize the truth.

Why do simulations even work? They are not real!

Well, they are real for employees.

The nature of the human brain is that if we see an event that is simulated, but looks real, we will perceive it as real. Virtual simulations give people real experiences and, what’s interesting, the cognitive efforts that are used by a trainee while practicing in virtual reality, whether in VR or in a game, are greater than in instruction-to-performance types of classes due to the high levels of engagement and control.

 

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