Top 5 Benefits of VR for Education & Training in Business

“Crucial to science education,” in the words of Martin Rees, British cosmologist, astrophysicist and fifteenth Astronomer Royal, “is hands-on involvement: showing, not just telling; real experiments and field trips.”

In the digital world of today, rote-learning, memorisation and recitation are educational techniques of the past. We’ve awoken to the truth that ‘practice makes perfect’ – and this realisation is not limited to scientific education. In tandem with monumental strides forward in technology, the enormous educational potential of VR (virtual reality) has come to the forefront of practically all fields, including those of the business world. VR – the digital simulation of experience – has found a natural home as an enterprise training tool: it achieves a stunningly high retention rate of 75%, leaving lectures (5%), reading (10%), and audio-visual learning (20%) in the dust.

Immersive VR education can be used to construct riskless environments, accelerate onboarding processes, and vastly improve ROI; and yet, only just over a quarter of all businesses are currently using VR to train employees (Finances Online). At Sliced Bread Animation, we’ve developed a number of high-quality VR training projects for our clients, helping to create intuitive understanding, demonstrate ‘real-life responses’, enable remote learning and simplify complex problems. So we’ve put together this blog post, which will walk you through five core business benefits of VR, after exploring the medium in a little more detail.

Virtual Reality vs Augmented Reality

Before exploring the educational benefits of a virtual environment, it’s worth clarifying exactly what is meant by VR, and how it differs from augmented reality (AR). Technology enhanced learning is a growing phenomenon, but the exact nature of that technology – VR or AR – affects how it relates to educational content.

The global market size of VR and AR (together with mixed reality, or MR, essentially a middle ground between the two) is projected to surpass $250 billion in the next few years, from just over $25 billion in 2021 (Statista); so it’s worth nailing down the specific differences between the two.

  • Virtual reality

VR is a digitally-generated simulation of a real or fictitious environment. It is immersive to the extent that it alters the user’s perception, giving them the ability to interact with a 3D, computer-encoded world. The user’s surroundings, of course, don’t physically exist; but the sensation is so lifelike that, on a sensory level, it feels like they do. To achieve this, VR uses wearable hardware, usually virtual reality headsets such as those manufactured by Oculus or Valve.

Once a farflung vision of a futuristic, digitally-enhanced reality, VR has become a feature of everyday life. People and organisations all over the world now routinely deploy VR for gaming, vocational training, virtual field trips, team-building exercises, immersive experiences and creative thinking – all taking place in virtual environments.

  • Augmented reality

AR is somewhat different. Where virtual reality simulates a completely new environment, augmented reality uses technology to enhance and adapt the user’s physical world. Think of it like this: if VR builds you a new world, AR sits on top of your current one. It overlays your physical surroundings, presenting digital information related to your real-world environment. In this way, AR is less of an immersive learning experience and more of an interactive learning environment.

Perhaps the most famous use of AR is in Nintendo’s Pokémon GO, where players traverse the world around them using a smartphone to ‘find’ and ‘catch’ digitally-produced creatures. Another popular outlet of AR is in Snapchat filters; the social media company operates its own AR application, Lens Studio, to give users enhanced experiences while using the app.

Why is VR Such a Powerful Tool in the Learning Process?

People learn best through doing, and experience is irreplaceable. The core reason that VR is so powerful, in learning terms, is that it leverages the most effective form of education; virtual reality training, to put it another way, doesn’t just give you information – it gives you an experience.

And, in that experience, the information is seeded more deeply, accessed more intuitively, and acquired more quickly.

In a revealing study conducted by the University of Warwick, students remembered information better when it was conveyed to them via VR. The participants also reported a more positive emotional experience to learning, rather than the negative associations they may have felt with hefty textbooks or interminable lectures, for example.

Whatever the topic – geography, finance, military, art, culture, surgery – virtual classrooms allow students actual first-hand experience of complex areas. Often, these are experiences that it would otherwise be impossible to train staff in beforehand; for instance, you may wish to train employees in the use of certain machinery, which would be dangerous or cost-inefficient to let them loose on without prior experience. But if you invested in a VR educational tool, you could digitally simulate the machinery – in a lifelike context, with true-to-life tasks – for your staff to practice on, at absolutely no risk, until they reach proficiency.

5 Benefits of VR for Educating & Training Employees

Virtual reality in education is a tremendously powerful concept, with the potential to engage students far exceeding that of teaching methods which, even in recent years, were thought of as ‘innovative’: online education via remote meetings, or picture-based lessons for visual learners, for example. Here, we’ll explore the educational benefits behind VR headsets as they relate to business.

1. Create real world environments

There are many areas you might need to educate staff on, where providing a controlled environment for them to learn safely in is simply impossible. Think of sectors such as aviation, healthcare, manufacturing, energy supply or defence – learning-on-the-job is not only costly and impractical, it’s fundamentally dangerous.

VR eliminates this as an issue. By providing an immersive experience, we can replicate a hazardous situation without the risk. Crucially, the digital world approximates the real world so closely that it enables learners to practice and perfect their skills in a lifelike setting; they get hands-on-the-wheel experience, so to speak, with no danger of a road accident.

2. Accelerate the process of learning

People don’t just learn better by doing – they learn faster, and in business, time is always money. The quicker you can onboard, educate and train staff, the more you’ll be able to elevate productivity and cost-efficiency. In this way, VR technology represents an unprecedented ROI in terms of learning tools.

Moreover, consider the benefits of learning in a distraction-free environment. With fully immersive technology, there is no window to gaze out of; you aren’t interested in fiddling with paper or tapping a pencil; there are no noisy neighbours, chatting about the weekend or loudly eating crisps – or, if there are, they are so far removed from your sphere of focus that they cease to impede your learning. The less that training staff are distracted by the hubbub of life going on around them, the quicker and more effectively they’ll be able to learn – and for your business, this equates to optimal cost-efficiency.

3. Capitalise on the way the brain learns naturally

We’ve mentioned it already, and it bears repeating: people learn best by doing. Acquiring experience, as opposed to passively absorbing information, is a spectacularly effective method of upskilling, retaining information and changing behaviour. There’s a reason we learn to drive behind the wheel of a car, rather than from a textbook, after all.

Back in the 1980s, McCall, Lombardo and Eichinger proposed the 70:20:10 model of learning. This essentially argues that 70% of what people learn comes from task-related experience, 20% comes via observing others, and just 10% comes from formal learning. VR education allows you to position most, if not all, of your staff’s learning in that 70%, because the technology allows them to actually ‘do’ the task they’re training for; they just do it in a virtual space, rather than a physical one.

4. Enable remote training and accessible learning

Another massive payoff of providing training through VR education is that it can be done from practically anywhere in the world. Most other forms of learning require the coordination to bring staff together in the same place at the same time, and there are countless other logistical headaches to work against, such as time zone discrepancies or travel arrangements. Consequently, important training is often extremely inaccessible.

VR does away with accessibility as a concern. Staff in any location, at any time, can participate in crucial upskilling exercises with just a minimal amount of equipment and connectivity.

It also drastically reduces the need to facilitate travel and accommodation, improving the carbon footprint of your company. Furthermore, accessible virtual learning eliminates the low-value, logistical downtime of moving between locations, which improves the efficiency and productivity of each individual employee.

5. Cut costs and improve ROI

Although facilitating VR in education does require some initial investment in software and equipment, it is an evergreen investment; that is, it doesn’t expire, and can be used and adapted continually. More to the point, that initial outlay is massively outweighed by the savings it enables, such as repeatedly booking locations or hiring experts to speak.

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Construct Your Own Virtual World

Clearly, VR creates a highly-powerful and organic method of training. It is the most efficient, effective way of providing students and staff with the skills they need in order to take your business to the next level, and is set to revolutionise education across all sectors; we hope that, by now, you’ll have a better idea of the operation-enhancing benefits to be had.

If you want to see a direct use case of VR employee training, check out our project with Knights Agency. We created eight fully immersive modules to take staff through simulated workplace scenarios and improve their skill set via focussed, engaging and relevant experiences.

To find out more about the massive potential your business can unlock by offering education in a VR experience, get in touch with us today. We’ll be delighted to discuss and conceptualise the project with you.

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