Extended reality (XR) is already used for the digital transformation of employee training and development (T&D) in industries such as manufacturing, aerospace and health care. But the use of XR can go far beyond such high-consequence industries and bring value to T&D in retail, real estate, tourism and more. For example, Walmart uses virtual reality to train its employees by simulating challenging scenarios like Black Friday sales. However, while offering rich capabilities for training, XR raises financial, health and ethical concerns.There are three main types of XR technologies: virtual reality, or VR (immersion in a digital environment); augmented reality, or AR (the projection of virtual objects onto the real environment); and mixed reality, or MR (the projection of virtual objects onto the real environment with the ability to interact with them).
XR’s main application in employee training is simulating real working environments. For example, companies can use VR to train pilots by mimicking challenging situations, such as landing, and AR to train technicians by displaying virtual diagrams. MR is a good choice for training surgeons, as it allows them to look inside a patient’s body in 3D without making a single incision.
Below are the advantages and disadvantages of XR-based employee training to help you decide whether the game is worth the candle.
Advantages of Using XR in Training
XR enables employees to develop a better understanding of concepts, objects and processes by seeing and experiencing them. For example, an MR app can enable illustrative anatomy training that reveals organs layer by layer and shows how they work.
Remote Learning and Collaboration
XR technologies bridges geographic distances between trainers and trainees, enabling a trainer to “teleport” into the same room as trainees and guide them through their immersive experiences. With VR, trainees can also collaborate remotely. What’s more, immersive technologies provide a feeling of genuine presence, like in face-to-face meetings, that email, online chat and video conferencing can’t achieve, making communication more engaging and effective.
XR technologies create safe environments that allow trainees to learn from their mistakes without risk. They also help companies save money on training equipment. For example, it’s much cheaper to train employees on repair aircraft engines using virtual versions.
Helping Learners Stay Focused
XR technologies ensure employees’ focus on the training process. For example, a VR headset isolates a trainee from the real world and its distractions. Thus, it increases employees’ attention and facilitates faster learning.
High Engagement and Knowledge Retention
Using XR for employee training makes the learning experience more enjoyable and engaging for employees. You can also enrich XR training with game elements. For example, a technician may earn achievement points for correctly connecting and launching a virtual machine. Immersive experiences usually cause emotional reactions and encourage social learning among employees when they share those reactions. XR tools also enable “learning by doing,” which facilitates the absorption of new information.
XR technologies often use sensors that collect metrics including behavioral data, heat maps, gesture and eye tracking, and voice recognition. Such comprehensive systems can help organizations evaluate and improve training programs. For example, pupil dilation can indicate learner engagement.
Disadvantages of Using XR in Training
No matter how realistic XR training may be, it doesn’t have the same consequences as training and working in the real world, where factors like psychological state may come into play.
Lack of Flexibility
Training with XR lacks the flexibility of traditional training, where employees can give suggestions and ask questions. With XR, it’s impossible to adapt training in the moment, and learning is restricted by the software.
Developing, updating and supporting software and headsets for VR, AR and MR, is still expensive, as is the creation and deployment of training content in a 3D environment.
Immersive technologies pose certain health risks for users. Wearing headsets for long periods of time may cause stress and anxiety, nausea, and eye strain. When learners use them alone, XR devices may even cause injuries by, for example, stumbling over real-world objects.
Privacy and Data Security
Capturing information about employees and recording their performance during VR training raises ethical questions. There is a fine line between gathering relevant data and total surveillance. In addition, VR providers typically can’t ensure complete personal data security.
To Use XR, or Not To Use XR?
XR has much to offer to complement and enrich employee training. Immersive technologies can make employee training more efficient and exciting and increase knowledge retention. It’s especially useful when training employees in hazardous industries. However, the viability of introducing XR to corporate training depends on many factors, including training needs, available resources, health risks and privacy concerns. Ultimately, if you are considering using XR in your training, it’s important to carefully analyze all of these factors before making a decision.