Track everything: VR, data, and the workplace learning revolution

In the sporting world, data-driven tracking has revolutionised individual performance, giving coaches the ability to monitor their athlete’s performance at a micro level. Distance, speed, physiological metrics, sleep patterns; all give access to a rich assessment of performance that, in a cycle of constant refinement, means world records continue to be beaten.

This same ability to track learner performance and progress is one of the key benefits of VR learning for any industry, from military to healthcare to FMCG to oil and gas.

But how does it work in practice?

Which aspects of learner performance can be tracked?

The short answer: pretty much anything.

Every single action a user takes within a VR training environment is communicated outwards: as a signal to the teacher, other students, or as a prompt to drive the story forward and trigger the next event.

Because this reporting mechanism already exists within the VR environment, any of these ‘key moments’ can be tracked. Not just what action an individual took – and whether it was right or wrong – but how they arrived at that decision, and how quickly and efficiently they performed the task.  

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The data we capture with our custom learning experiences ranges from the simplest quantitative measurements to more qualitative, trainer-led assessments. Each are powerful tools, and when considered together, offers heads of learning a complete 360-degree learner profile.

On a basic level, tracking records how learners respond within a multiple choice framework where there is only one correct answer or action. Let’s say you are assessing a trainee pharmacist’s knowledge of drug categories: in this scenario it would be correct to identify Piriton as an antihistamine, but wholly incorrect to classify it as either an antibiotic or an analgesic.  

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Don’t be fooled by its simplicity; information gleaned from this type of exercise offers an instant indication of how an individual is doing. And because the student is placed within the environment, not hidden behind a computer interface, assessment can be more immediate and accurate than in traditional or e-Learning setting.

When we combine this type of quantitative data with qualitative evidence, the powerful value of VR for performance measurement becomes clear. VR learning is by definition experiential, and as such it can measure the same range of behaviours as a physically present observer would.

In the automotive industry, for example, VR paint simulators can identify specific areas of overspray or underspray when evaluating student’s airbrushing technique. Detailed action tracking is present at every user touch point, building a complete picture of not only a learner’s individual knowledge base and skills gaps, but how they perform under pressure, and how effective their interpersonal problem-solving skills.

There is a third option available for those who want to retain an evaluative human element. In addition to the quantitative and qualitative measurements captured within the learning environment, you can also create your own customisable scoring system.

As comprehensive as VR performance tracking is, there remain some scenarios which cannot be thoroughly measured using automation alone. For example, a hotel chain might want to allow for an expert assessor to make an independent evaluation of a student’s customer service skills within a complaint simulation. Here, they can create a bespoke scoring system that is not based on any one response or action in isolation, but rather a gut ‘feeling’ based on years of experience within the hospitality industry.

How do teachers access the data?

One of the key benefits of VR learning is that trainers can log into their browser-based administrator account remotely, from anywhere in the world. Sessions can be adjusted in real-time to meet individual capabilities or objectives.

Exactly how much information are we talking?

There is no minimum, no maximum, no such thing as ‘average’ in terms of volume of data. As a (very) rough guide, we are currently working on a project within the defence industry which has between 50 and 100 data points to capture throughout their simulated submarine training environment.

Because every action transmits a signal, trainers can, in theory, request performance reporting in as much or as little detail as they like. But a dashboard that records every single movement a student makes is neither the most worthwhile use of the data, most productive use of a teacher’s time, or conducive to the learner experience – all whilst potentially diluting the value of your data.

For military missions in emergency zones, time is clearly of the essence; but for a nurse undertaking further training in gerontology, medical knowledge and patient empathy are more important. It is also important that students feel happy with marking procedures, not unnecessarily over-analysed.

So when constructing a bespoke reporting dashboard, we always ask our clients “What data do you need to accurately assess your learning objectives?” Generally, what trainers crave most are headline stats, clearly presented, visible at a glance.

While snapshot statistics on an individual level are the easiest way to digest complex data, there are of course times when a teacher may want to delve deeper. For example, task timings can be aggregated up and viewed on a group-wide scale in order to identify knowledge gaps across all students.

As we’ve seen, flexibility really is the name of the game. From first point of contact, through to initial consultations and continued, in-depth reporting. Data can be captured wherever it is most valuable for your business and reporting can be tweaked to reflect your strategic learning objectives—be it employee knowledge retention, participation, perceived value, resource efficiency or all of the above.

Simply put, VR and the associated data reporting represents a very real learning revolution.