Retention and application of learning are the ultimate goals of training programs. We want employees to be able to understand how what they’re learning will apply in their everyday lives and immediately start putting new skills to work on the job. To reach this goal, we come up with innovative ways to engage learners and make training more realistic through role plays, simulations and games.

What if there were a way to actually put learners in real-life work situations during training and help them through those situations with skills they just learned? That’s where virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) come in, and that’s part of what OpenSesame is exploring with its Series B funding.

The e-learning company closed the $9 million funding round in September and announced that it would be using the funds to “further accelerate sales and marketing efforts…continue global expansion and enhance product offerings in new training technologies like Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality,” according to the press release.

“OpenSesame is continually looking to raise the bar in enterprise elearning,” said Josh Blank, OpenSesame general manager/co-founder, in an email to Training Industry Magazine. “Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality (AR/VR) fits perfectly with that mission as we are able to bring together the foremost elearning course developers with businesses that are leaders in their approach to training and development of their employees.”

OpenSesame’s existing library of over 20,000 online courses are offered in categories such as business skills, safety, compliance and technology through an on-demand subscription or per course. In an October blog post, OpenSesame pointed to three reasons VR is important in e-learning:

  • It’s often easier to remember what you experience than to remember what you read or hear.
  • With Google Cardboard, a new mobile VR device, employees can learn on the go.
  • VR can spark learners’ interest in new topics.

What exactly are VR and AR? VR is a three-dimensional virtual environment that essentially comes as close to actual reality as technology allows. AR, on the other hand, augments reality by providing some form of digital information on top of what the user is seeing (the most popular example being Pokémon Go). The possible learning applications for both VR and AR are obvious; what better way to train employees for reality than by imitating it in the (virtual or live) classroom?

For instance, imagine the impact of VR on safety training. Rather than dropping workers in a potentially unsafe environment to learn crucial protective skills, trainers could use VR to simulate the environment and train workers there. Employees would physically learn the skills without actually being put at risk. Industries currently served by OpenSesame, such as construction, engineering, manufacturing, and oil and gas, could clearly benefit from incorporating virtual reality into the e-learning platform.

“The benefit of AV/VR to learners is really about user engagement and knowledge retention,” says Blank. “Today’s workforce isn’t going to be satisfied with courses made out of video from Power Point presentations 12 years ago. If organizations want to succeed in their training plans, learners need current content that is engaging.”

Could this type of training extend to the “softer” skills training OpenSesame offers, like management, communication and bias reduction? The U.S. Army uses computer-generated characters for social simulations to train service men and women on counseling, cross-cultural negotiation and dealing with stressful situations. One evaluation of the Army’s emergent leader immersive training environment found increased retention and application of new knowledge, confidence in using skills, and awareness of the importance of communication skills for leaders.

Clearly, both virtual and augmented reality are a new frontier in training. There’s a lot we still don’t know and have yet to discover. But there’s only one way to find out what benefits VR/AR may have on learning and development – practice – and investments like OpenSesame’s are a step into the future.

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