5 reasons why VR needs to be your new training strategy

The adoption of immersive learning methodologies within the industrial enterprise is a hot topic right now.

Organisations are looking at why technologies such as Virtual Reality are proving vital for their training programs and how they can replace traditional ways of learning.

But why VR and why now?

As part of the recent VR / AR Association (VRARA) Enterprise Forum, Mark Wenzowski took a look at why the future of industrial learning is immersive.

Here are the key takeaways from the discussion:

1. The tech is ready

Immersive technology was once only suitable for high-end training programs, like flight simulation, but the technology is now within an organisation’s reach, regardless of its size.

There are a wide variety of devices and systems available in today’s market, from high performance options such as full CAVE and PowerWall systems to HMDs such as the Oculus Quest or HTC Vive. Early headsets were cumbersome and expensive compared to today, where they are now smaller, faster and cheaper.

Innovations in technology, such as hand tracking and eye tracking, has enabled organisations who have adopted VR to move away from using gaming controllers for interactions. This advancement means users benefit from being more natural in the virtual environment, improving training outcomes and making training applications more accessible.

There is also a rapidly expanding ecosystem of companies offering complementary products and services, which is helping to accelerate the adoption of VR.  

2. Hybrid and remote working are the new normal

The past two years have seen a seismic shift in the way that workplaces and employees operate, with the balance leaning towards remote and hybrid working. With 74% of US companies currently using or planning to implement a permanent hybrid work model, virtual collaboration when working in the enterprise space is critical.

By conducting training in a virtual environment, geographical location is far less of a barrier. The technology has arrived so that design reviews and layout planning, digital twins, prototyping and more, can be done from wherever participants are located.

3. The multiple benefits

When trying to implement new processes or technology, you can often be met with a ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it’ mentality, so being able to prove the benefits of change is a big part of the road to adoption. Benefits identified by those already using immersive learning include:

Save time- immersive training experiences help people learn faster. A 2021 study from PWC found that VR users completed training 4x faster than training done in a classroom, and 1.5x faster than online training.

Save money- due to the remote collaboration capabilities of immersive technologies like VR, training can be rolled out to multiple locations without people having to travel, therefore reducing associated costs. The training can also often be easily scaled and repeated.  

Increases engagement- a realistic environment is vital for soft skills in training. According to PWC1, users were 3.75x more emotionally connected to the training content when it was delivered within a virtual environment. It plays a major role in memory retention- when users are fully engaged physically and emotionally, they retain more information for longer and using HMD’s forces them to be connected into the environment.

Improves safety- training on site is a challenge for industries where locations can be difficult or dangerous to access. For typically hazardous or inaccessible situations, such as working on wind turbines or submarines, a virtual environment is a much safer space for people to learn. In addition, people can repeat processes as often as they like, learning from their mistakes with zero risk.

Improves analysis- data is gold, so if you can capture that data, you can provide it in real-time to trainees, as well as use it for large-scale impact analysis and to prove results to stakeholders.

Improves access- removing barriers such as physical location or hazardous working environments exposes more people to training scenarios that may previously have been restricted, unlocking the capability for people to access learning on a scale that might not otherwise be achievable.

4. The ROI from early adopters

Early research into the tangible ROI being delivered for those who have already started using VR as part of their training strategies is promising, with statistics gathered including:

  • 78% improvement on retention
  • 40% required knowledge was gained faster
  • 40% decrease in training costs
  • 30% decrease in training time

VR is a highly effective procedural training method for an industrial setting. Users are able to experiment safely in their environment, learn from their mistakes, and repeat the tasks as often as they need. This helps develop the muscle memory for that long-term recall and reducing the cognitive workload.

Why does this data matter? It always comes down to value when talking about the enterprise- product, process, productivity, and all the ways you can save time and money.

5. Get started now

The time to adopt is now as your competition is already doing so, or planning on it- that’s guaranteed.  

But a lot of organisations don’t want to spend half a million dollars right at the beginning on something that they may not know how they want to use, so there are some smaller steps you can take to dip your toe in the water before making a major commitment.  

Use a ‘crawl, walk, run’ approach. You don’t have to build an elaborate project with all the bells and whistles right out the gate. Create something small, utilise it, build the excitement and enthusiasm within your organisation, especially if you need to obtain stakeholder buy-in. Instill the basics and then allow them to grow.

Finally, have a plan for adoption. One of the main barriers to implementing VR is having to overcome internal resistance to get buy in. As with any organisation, go into it with a plan. There needs to be a challenge and there needs to be a solution, and it helps to have a KPI and ROI attached. Make sure that those individuals within the company that are championing the benefits of adoption, building roadmaps and blueprints to ensure you have long term success with VR training. Prove value, whether that’s in the proof of concept/prototype stage or over the long-term.

There are several things to consider when deciding if using VR for training is right for you and your organisation, but it doesn’t have to be complicated or overwhelming. Start small, keep it simple and let the benefits speak for themselves.

Watch Mark’s presentation here: https://youtu.be/mnIqzWHWrv0  

Virtalis also recently hosted a VR Industry Meetup about immersive learning which features speakers from across industry, and a selection of live demonstrations that show the benefits of using VR for training.  

You can access it here: https://www.virtalis.com/webinars/why-the-future-of-learning-is-immersive  

1. PWC (2021); How Virtual Reality is redefining soft skills training; https://www.pwc.com/us/en/tech-effect/emerging-tech/virtual-reality-study.html