The global classroom: How VR helps collaborative learning for dispersed workforces

How do you make learning ‘stick’? It’s an important question for businesses looking to invest in workplace training. Research has shown that the answer is collaboration. Learning in a collaborative environment leads to far better engagement and understanding, improves training ROI and ensures a bigger impact once the trainees return to the workplace.

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For small, single site businesses, setting up collaborative training may be as simple as finding a large enough room. For multinationals, particularly those with a globally dispersed workforce, it’s not so simple. How can they ensure a coherent experience with consistent learning outcomes on a global scale? How can they invest in the skillset of their workforce without racking up the air miles?

The solution is a virtual reality learning environment. Here’s why.

See and do

Up until now, many multinationals have delivered training through an e-learning platform, a global market which is set to reach $31 billion by 2020. However, while undoubtedly effective, the e-learning experience is not perfect.

A 2015 survey from West UC provided an insight into employee views of e-learning. Two thirds of respondents would be more likely to participate in training if it was interactive and engaging – something that has not always been a strength of e-learning. When asked for a wish-list of features, 45% wanted the ability to interact with other learners, while 78% felt that hands-on learning boosted engagement.

In other words, what employees want is collaboration and a sense of doing – which is where virtual reality comes into its own. With the right kit, VR learning can put employees, trainers and equipment in the same virtual environment at the same time, no matter where they’re physically based. Let’s take a look at a video demonstrating the use of the Immerse Learning technology platform in the pharmaceutical industry:

Here we have a trainer sitting at a desk in the UK, one learner in the US, another in Japan, and the ‘digital twin’ of a piece of equipment, in this case a tablet press. The two learners in the VR gear are getting a full ‘hands on’ experience of the tablet press, while the trainer talks them through its operation. The passive audience no longer exists – each learner can interact in chat, in voice and by video with each other and with the trainer. Each is also getting a unique experience, as they can essentially see the equipment through the eyes of the VR learners.

Virtual advantage

The cost of VR headsets and equipment has dropped to a point where it’s considerably cheaper to run a virtual session rather than fly the participants to a central location, with the further advantage that the VR gear can be used over and over again.

The digital twin of the tablet press allows the trainees to ‘fail’ – to the point where they ‘damage’ the press – safe in the knowledge that the environment can be reset and they can try again.

When businesses are looking to roll-out new tools and equipment, these digital twins can be deployed into a virtual training environment while the real thing may still be sat in a shipping container in the mid-Pacific, allowing employees to hit the ground running when it eventually arrives.

Large multinationals face a range of challenges when trying to manage a globally distributed workforce, but thanks to advancements in VR technology, providing collaborative and engaging active learning experiences to their employees needn’t be one of them. The ability to track learner performance for these global players allows new insights into both the success of their training and the capabilities of their employees, irrespective of where they are based.

To find out how Immerse can help deliver engaging and effective learning experiences, organise a demo here.