If you work at an organization that has not embraced immersive learning, you are not alone. From “We’ve always done it that way” to “There’s no budget,” it’s human nature to find reasons to avoid change.
Nevertheless, when the benefits of immersive learning are truly understood within an organization, it’s hard to look the other way. As more and more learning professionals embrace and implement immersive learning strategies, the results are painting a compelling story.
However, even with overwhelming evidence that virtual reality (VR) training can achieve better learning results, dated beliefs are still causing companies to miss out on immersive learning’s benefits. These ideas were understandable several years ago, but real-world examples are disproving the following five immersive learning barriers.
1. Production Is Complex and Labor-intensive
While some VR simulations, such as recreating a war scene for combat training, might call for “perfect” production quality, most organizations can create effective media assets with minimal effort.
You’d be surprised to see what you can accomplish with simple tools. To illustrate, pick up your phone, click on your camera and select the panoramic picture option. A 360-degree photograph qualifies as immersive media!
For example, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital uses simple 360-degree media assets to help patients conquer their fears about colonoscopies, the gold standard for the early detection of colon cancer. To encourage patients to sign up for the procedure, the hospital created an interactive immersive learning module that guides patients through the exam process to help them become more comfortable with it. Delivered to a tablet, the module shows patients what to expect throughout the procedure, from the waiting room all the way to recovery.
The hospital only spent one business day filming, and it used an inexpensive camera. Most importantly, according to the hospital’s patient survey, 57% of patients found the module to be “extremely helpful.”
While this example uses 360-degree photos, 360-degree video production has also become straightforward and manageable. For under $200, you can purchase VR video cameras that are equipped with the software that stitches images together; then, it’s easy to edit footage with any video editing software.
2. VR Training Is Too Expensive to Scale
Not all VR training plans require a headset, but even if they do, headsets are a lot like flat-screen televisions: Once upon a time, they used to be expensive, but now, they are common and more affordable than ever. Even if you find yourself spending $200 per learner, remember that in-person, hands-on training usually costs more — especially when it requires travel.
For example, Vanderbilt University had limited opportunities to effectively train its growing nursing school enrollment due to the rising costs of medical equipment. Since purchasing five more ultrasound machines for $425,000 to support more students was not in the budget, the university implemented an immersive learning program to reduce the amount of hands-on training time needed. By providing a virtual environment for students to navigate the machine, understand its output and learn how to effectively interact with patients, the students needed less hands-on training to pass their sonography certification program.
If you consider similar situations with medical and manufacturing equipment, a VR training program will likely save money when scaled to support an organization. After including the cost of a headset and VR authoring software, it will still cost less per learner than one day of business travel.
3. VR Authoring Is Complicated
VR authoring is similar to other forms of instructional design. Instead of using a slide template to create an e-learning course, your 360-degree photo or video will act as your backdrop. From there, you can add your questions, hot spots and conditional actions the same way you would when developing e-learning.
A VR authoring tool generally functions just like your traditional authoring app. Any good immersive learning tool will still enable you to publish courses to your LMS using SCORM, AICC, xAPI and HTML as well as mobile devices and even traditional authoring programs. In other words, if you swap out slides for 360-degree images and add a headset publishing option, you are essentially still working with your familiar e-learning authoring app.
4. My Learners Won’t Understand It
Did you know that adults over the age of 55 are the fastest-growing user segment on Facebook? Regardless of their generation, your learners can click buttons. Even if they are wearing a headset, a VR course will still prompt them to click, just like any other e-learning course.
Immersive learning is becoming a more mainstream modality. Everyone likes to be successful; if immersive learning makes training more effective, your learners will embrace it.
5. There Is No Sense of Urgency
“We’ve always done it that way” sounds comfortable, but comfortable does not equate to profitable. Furthermore, comfort is relative and can change before we know it. Shopping at the mall was comfortable and convenient until Amazon came along.
If your competitors train their staff more efficiently and effectively than you do, your organization could be at risk if it stays complacent. At companies from Lowe’s and Walmart to Verizon and Chipotle, immersive learning is preventing theft, improving customer service and lowering training costs — all of which contribute to profitability.
While you may not have an immersive learning strategy in mind, it’s important to separate myths from the new training reality. Between an inexpensive camera and a free trial of VR authoring software, your imagination and open-mindedness can take you far.