Virtual reality: just another buzzword, or a revolution in training? We take a look at the substance behind the hype and discuss the reality of introducing VR into your training program.
What is VR training?
Virtual reality-based training (or just VR training) involves the use of specialized software and hardware to create an artificial, computer-generated reality in which to train users through interactive, immersive training programs.
It’s not to be confused with augmented or mixed reality training, which have some similarities but are still significantly different. The defining trait of virtual reality in contrast to other training types is that it is entirely digital, usually viewed through a headset or other screen; other methods rely at least a little on real, physical objects as interactive mediums. VR does not.
As such, VR has a significant number of applications in the training arena. When you don’t need to worry about physical assets or risks, all you need is the right program - and platform.
How does VR work for learners?
Virtual reality, by its nature, allows training to include high-risk scenarios without the actual risk: everything is digital, and pixels can’t hurt you or those around you if you get something wrong. This allows learners to try and retry tricky maneuvers while still remaining safe until they have the confidence to use their skills in the real world.
On that note, there is one significant downside to virtual reality: in a physical classroom environment, learners only have to worry about transferring their skills to outside the classroom; VR learners have to deal with transferring them to the entirety of reality.
This is why it is critical that any VR training is highly accurate and as analogous as possible to the real world. Otherwise, the skills may not make the leap.
How does VR work for trainers?
Creating virtual realities isn’t easy---doubly so when creating educational programs.
You need to have the knowledge and skillset to transfer any training skillset you already have to the virtual world; while VR tries to be as analogous as it is possible to be to reality, it isn’t always possible to transfer everything over exactly as-is.
VR software development is highly specialized. Developing a program from scratch requires high levels of expertise, and combining that with the required rigors of training program creation means that it can take a huge amount of time, money and revisions to perfect such a program.
- Difficult and costly to create
- Potential to be unrealistic
- Inaccessible without VR hardware
- Disparity between real life and reality
- Not physical or motor learning
- Might not appeal to all learning styles
How does VR differ from eLearning?
While VR may remain a tempting option, many trainers choose eLearning as a digital solution instead. Rather than using computer-generated realities to deliver training, eLearning uses immersive content delivered via the internet, usually in the form of mixed media and guided tutorials.
This has the benefit of circumventing one of the primary drawbacks of VR: its inflexibility. It is inherently tied to its interface: there will be times when the hardware or software of the program simply cannot replicate reality accurately enough.
eLearning is more customizable, being able to use text, video, images, interactive modules and other systems to replicate practically anything. This makes it more suitable for a wider range of industries and training scenarios.
Is VR training right for you?
VR and eLearning both occupy similar but different spaces within the training context. Both use technology to deliver effective training experiences, and both rely on immersion for success. While VR might seem a little ‘sexier’ due to media hype and exposure and the near-science-fiction technological aspect, eLearning offers a more practical, customizable and value-added method that delivers many of the same benefits, without many of the drawbacks.