So far, 2022 has already ushered in widespread investment into programs and technology for learning and development (L&D) to engage a new workforce and improve employee experiences. The metaverse continues to dominate news cycles, and businesses are beginning to implement social and learning interactions in virtual environments.

With some organizations placing big bets on the technology itself, such as Accenture’s purchase of 60,000 virtual reality (VR) headsets for training, we expect to see more business leaders invest in similar solutions. We as consumers expect personalized, engaging experiences in our day-to-day life and that is setting the standard for learning solutions.

Early adoption of augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) for onboarding and training allows learners to gain hands-on job experience in a remote, risk-free environment, and it enables people to problem solve more effectively in break-fix scenarios, which ultimately improves customer experiences. These immersive programs have a much broader use as they can empower employees to develop adjacent skill sets for career advancement.

The metaverse opens the door to new possibilities for innovative ways to leverage digital learning solutions within a greater ecosystem. The premise of a metaverse itself — an inhabitable digital world in which users can interact, collaborate, practice and problem solve — is ideally situated for corporate L&D because it gives learners the tools they need to succeed while simultaneously empowering them to manage their own learning experience.

Embrace Digital Disruption to Create a Learning Ecosystem

Learning is ambient. The learner is fully within the space of his or her own mindset, and it’s our job to meet them where they are and facilitate knowledge transfer and awareness. Understanding learner behavior in their environment and how they access information today will help identify opportunities where their experience can be improved. Start by asking these crucial questions:

  • How are learners currently engaging within their work environment and acquiring the information they need?
  • What skills and capabilities do they have in their role and how portable are those skills to other functions, or business lines across the organization?
  • How and where do they get up-to-date information when they need it?
  • Where do learners go to access learning resources, and what captures their attention?
  • How do we provide learners with practice and feedback?

From there, it’s about enabling the learner to find what he or she needs and when it’s needed. Instead of prescribing a learning journey from beginning to end, like with traditional coursework, embrace the chaos. Today’s learners know how and where to find the knowledge they seek. Our job, then, becomes making those lessons accessible through a blend of technologies, ranging from using online chatbots for guidance or AR to practice operating complex equipment to fully immersive instructor-led sessions within VR.

Thankfully, the winds are in our sails for innovation. With advances in technology progressing alongside a culture that increasingly accepts remote learning and other digital initiatives, now is the perfect time to begin formulating your organization’s L&D strategy for the metaverse.

Case Study: AR Training at the American Red Cross

In a Fall 2021 CGS webinar, “4 Organizational Practices for Leading L&D Digital Transformation,” Zeynap Ozkaynak, executive director at American Red Cross, discussed how the organization was training new employees using immersive technology. The American Red Cross turned the hands-on training paradigm on its head by implementing a comprehensive AR training suite to move the training sessions to an entirely virtual environment. The hands-on experience and instructor remained the same, but by adding a layer of mixed reality, the Red Cross was able to host the session in a completely digital, risk-free setting. As an added bonus, learners could join from wherever they were.

In addition to learning a new procedure, participants were able to practice their technique on avatars. The software automatically tracked useful metrics so that learners knew exactly where they needed to improve before moving to real human beings. The end result was a thorough, hands-on training without ever having to leave the digital world.

Procedural skills as in our example, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) scenarios, sales interactions, crucial conversations are all additional examples where organizations can apply this technology to engage learners and provide practice and feedback which is key to successfully developing skills.

Conclusion: At the Intersection of Virtual and Reality

The reason L&D in the metaverse is so effective is that it offers all the advantages of digital learning — convenience, “datafication” and remote collaboration — without any of the previous drawbacks that distinguished the virtual from reality. As these two realms begin to blend together, expect to see greater training opportunities to emerge.