Irina

Three Ways Virtual Reality Can Invigorate Boring Training Programs

Photo by stephan sorkin on Unsplash

Much has been said about the effectiveness of VR vs. traditional training. VR is cost effective due to scalability, inexpensive equipment to simulate location, objects and even trainers. It’s simply more effective due to its interactivity and complete immersion. 
According to STRIVR, enterprise students who use VR remember 75% of what they are taught while traditional methods assist with retaining just 10% of information.
Still there are lots of ways to screw up your fancy innovative VR training. Luckily, there are lessons that we have learnt over the years from traditional education that can be applied in VR. 
VR is a new media, which can be used to its full potential if its developed with consideration of these 3 time-tested methods. 

1. Conducting Training Need Analysis (TNA)

Whether its VR or not, identifying the gap between employee training and needs of training is the first and the most crucial step before launching any educational activity. TNA analysis helps to avoid solutions that will fall between the cracks and reveals whether training will help to solve an existing problem.
The most commonly used approach to identify the training needs in an organization are McGhee and Thayer's Three-Level Analysis. This model provides a systematic means of conducting a TNA at three levels: organisational, operational and individual.
Speaking about traditions and heritage: Seneca the Younger once said , that  “If a man knows not to which port he sails, no wind is favorable.”The same is true for company goals for developing VR. Make sure the goal of the training is aligned with organisational goals. This will prevent VR curriculums from getting lost in the sea or get damaged by unexpected storms. Asking questions like where is training most needed and why is the training program recommended as a solution to an existing problem would also help to catch the right wind. 
At the operational level you need to determine what kind of training needs to be given to employees and what skills are required from them. Ask yourself how is a job performed at the moment and what’s the expected performance. 
Then you dive deeper into the individual level, where you identify the knowledge, skills, and abilities that each employee is required to focus on. 
TNA is highly recommended not only because it provides clear direction for identifying training needs, but also helps to evaluate the effectiveness of the training, which will talk about soon. 

2. Combining Best Proven Methods In Your VR Training

Demonstrations, tests, recitation, quizzes, role- playing, participation control, simulation - having so many traditional techniques and methods may sound impressive unless you are a person responsible for bringing them to life. While for employees traditional training approaches may seem dull and tedious, the people that have to realise them are far from being bored.
Nevertheless, some companies learned how to take the most out of these methods and make them part of VR training scenario. Demonstration and simulation are the ones always used by default, as these are the clearest and most obvious applications of VR. American Airlines combined the simulation method along with tests, practice and participation control: new employees could explore the aircraft, open and close the cabin door, while being monitored by their inspectors from the control centre and given real time feedback. 
United Rentals also didn’t limit VR opportunities just with the practice sessions (which is still of course more than effective). They used VR as a way to enhance their general classroom sales training and keep real life discussion group method. While one of the employees explores the job site in a headset, others can observe what this person is seeing on a screen.  The trainer moderates the session, challenging employees to look for answers on the screen, find the ways to solve issues and reason their suggestions. 
If you have heard about the Retention on the Learning Pyramid, you are familiar with the average retention rates for different methods: from lectures to teaching others. While, some methods are more effective than others, their combination will increase your chances to achieve your goal.
Before settling with  specific training techniques, it’s crucial to get answers to these three questions: 
  1. What are your training goals for this session? Is it new skills or improving existing skills?
  2. Who are you going to train? Will the training be presented to new employees or may be top management? 
  3. What is your training budget and schedule?
For example a discussion group combined with VR training, like in the case of United Rentals may be a good solution if you are limited with time/budget and have a goal to keep real life conversation and brainstorm. 

3. Using SMART Measuring Techniques And Scaling

Once you determined the need for VR training and the methods to use, it’s time to get to desert: measuring and scaling justifies all the previous work and leaves you with pleasant aftertaste.
Traditionally Kirkpatrick’s Four-level Training Evaluation Model suggests 4 levels of evaluation: from learners reaction to business results. 
Good example of measuring reactions is a VR training performed by Lowe’s, the home improvement retailer. Employees  reported 24% higher satisfaction, 127% increase in confidence and 76% lower level of hesitation versus traditional employee training methods used within Lowe’s”. 
Intel was also one of the companies who approached VR with SMART measuring techniques and evaluated not only the employee reaction, but also the ROI. They stated that 94% of trainees who went through this training requested more VR courses”. As for ROI, they estimate a 300% Return On Investment potential on their Virtual Reality course”. Add the time estimation into these examples and you’ll get a perfect SMART goal. 
One of the advantages of VR is that it’s not meant for one-time training solutions. Though sometimes it ends up this way due to the complexity of technology and the lack of resources. Luckily, we already have tools to help manage and edit VR without coding skills, not having to open purse again. Depending on the need, there are lots of choices to scale your VR: from CMS systems to scalable custom solutions.
Thus, global energy company Gazprom had their training created with the opportunity to edit and augment it without coding skills. In the basic version trainees have to replace a valve at ESP unit while following standard operating  procedures. As the company has over 67 000 employees and things change quickly, it was important to be able to adjust training scenarios without coding skills.
Immersive technologies have already raised the bar of the employee training to a new level, having proved that everything is possible. Today most VR training projects take the form of simulation, and though it’s one of the best training techniques, sometimes this approach limits other abilities of VR and drives out most of time- proven techniques, which could complement this fantastic media. And like any modern media, VR does not rescind the lessons and discoveries of the past, but provides an enhanced way to apply them.

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