When can Virtual Reality enhance Training?

We examine the things to consider when evaluating VR as a suitable learning tool.

As with any technology, VR is a tool, not a magic bullet. Incorporating VR into a training program needs planning, determination of metrics and measures and solid logistical support to ensure those using it understand how to get the most from it.

Trainers should bring the same careful planning in program design and learning goals to VR as to any other training effort. The first step is to understand what knowledge Learners need to acquire and what they should be able to do with that knowledge post training.

The knowledge that learners must acquire can cover a wide range of things, but several factors are particularly relevant to VR technology. These are;

1. How hard it is to gain access to the knowledge in the real world.

2. How limited the opportunities are to practice the knowledge.

3. How difficult it is to replicate the knowledge physically.

For example. A cardiologist may struggle to learn about an uncommon heart defect exactly because it is rare and therefore opportunities to observe and practice correcting the defect are limited. Similarly landing on an aircraft carrier is tricky to perfect because repetitions are both costly and dangerous.

Another attribute to consider is what Trainers expect Learners to do with the knowledge once they have it. Do people simply need to recognise and apply it, as with reading the defence rules of AFL football, or do they need to perform complicated actions such as synthesising it with other knowledge and adjusting to context? All of these factors play into how best to present knowledge to learners.

By understanding the different factors that go into learning, a Trainer can make informed decisions about when VR is appropriate and design the best training possible to maximise performance. For example, if Learners need only acquire relatively simple information such as information that is common, obvious, or easy to represent, then VR may be superfluous and no more effective than books, classroom instruction, or job aids.

Where VR moves into a class of its own is when the knowledge that learners must acquire is hard to recreate outside of the real event. For example making someone redundant, evacuating a building in an emergency or performing ones job under unusual circumstances. In these cases, VR-based training may well be an effective choice, offering the advantages of faster and better learning at a lower cost.

Indeed, VR’s ability to allow for collaboration and for repeated simulation opens up entirely new learning possibilities. Let's explore some of these.

Shared Scenarios

Consider a rescue team that needs its members to not only individually do the right thing but to coordinate and work together. Shared scenarios can allow members to practice individual actions and communication within the team across a variety of situations.

Seeing the Unseen

VR can also be effectively used to demonstrate something we are unable to see in real life. Imagine if a team of scientists could share ideas while all looking at a 3D model of the molecules they are studying. They could come up with new ideas inspired by finally seeing the previously unseen and they could then easily share those ideas with their colleagues. At VRTUOSA we worked on a project for BioMarin to help their scientists better understand the defective nature of a certain chromosome in relation to the Morquio A syndrome.

Test and Re-Test

VR technology allows trainees to test ideas as well as share them. Many Formula 1 auto racing teams use VR extensively in preparation for races, going far beyond drivers simply learning the track. Instead, the teams use simulations to test different setups for their car and different race strategies. The aim is to prepare team members for any eventuality during the race, helping them react swiftly. This type of virtual testing represents a deeper form of learning, one in which the drivers and the teams are using VR to see into the future and discover the deeper patterns in what is likely to happen. In short, they are building expertise.

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