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What to Look for in a Virtual Immersive Learning Technology Platform

May 10, 2018 12:13:38 PM

Virtual Technology

Learning and training does not end with acquiring knowledge, but with its successful application in real-world settings. How do we achieve this? Learners need to practice how and when to apply what they know – before they forget it! Fortunately, exciting virtual learning environments can be assembled into a platform to uniquely accomplish this important task.

The future of learning technology is already here. It’s a Virtual – Immersive – Learning – Technology – Platform. Its power comes from the synergistic and catalytic effect of having all five components working together.

As you will see, it’s like a living organism, all the components are needed in order for it to work effectively. Many education and training solutions have some of them, but few have them all. Let’s begin with the first component: Virtual.


We’re not talking “virtual reality” here. (That’s later.) “Virtual” in this case is about escaping the confines of geography to create a scalable solution.

Intuitively, we know going virtual is certainly more cost-effective and practical to implement than live, in-person learning. We’re talking about cloud-based delivery; perhaps as an app, but apps are not as scalable as a browser-based solution.

So, all we need to do is move everything to the cloud and we’re all set, right? Usually not! Learning can easily become much less effective by going virtual; mediocre content can become worse – dreadful and ineffective. So, it’s no surprise that we must do more, much more, to make this endeavor successful. As such, learning must be immersive.


Learning retention starts with the motivation to learn. What’s the best way to do that? Let learners feel like their “in it.” Immerse the learner in an authentic, realistic situation within a safe environment and ask them to make decisions. Immediately, they recognize that either their knowledge is incomplete, or they lack the skills to apply it. After this motivational spark, the learning process begins, and we can coach them until they recognize optimal responses within the situation.

Wait a minute. You may say: “We just need them to understand the rules, the process, what to do, or what not to do. Traditional e-learning does that just fine!” Sure, that’s a knowledge acquisition process, constructing knowledge from information. And one can sometimes argue that that’s all that’s needed, because application of the knowledge is straightforward. However, this is not often the case.

So, then what? Well, then we need to do more.

Immersion helps provide motivation, develop skill, and improve retention. Immersion also helps learners to construct mental models that are robust enough to guide effective performance in real-world situations

Immersion matters. Realism matters. Cognitive science provides evidence for why this is true.



It all comes down to learning effectiveness, doesn’t it? We know about the Forgetting Curve, and we know that performance often hinges on applying knowledge properly – the “doing” rather than the “knowing.” Learning to apply knowledge – skill acquisition – is the catalyst to achieve performance. This is not easy.

Fortunately, cognitive science provides guidance on how to help learners master rapid skill acquisition. Making optimal decisions in dynamic, fluid, situations based on acquired knowledge takes practice. So, we begin with:

  • Experiential Learning: learn by doing. Practice makes perfect, right? Trial and error though, is not efficacious. So, we need to do more.
  • Cognitive Apprenticeship takes the ancient, proven apprenticeship model for physical skills and applies it to decision-making. Its major tenets are to expose expert mental models to the learner via coaching. Coaching is transformational, rapidly accelerating what is learned from practice.
  • Situated Cognition tells us that the practice should be as realistic as possible.
  • Cognitive Flexibility suggests that the experiential learning environment should expose learners to multiple perspectives. Such experience creates a more robust mental model that holds up when the learner applies what they practiced in real situations.

Intuitively, we know how to effectively apply these concepts one-on-one. The enormous challenge is how to do it virtually. If it’s not done well, the initiative falls flat. It all hinges on the technology deployed.


How do we implement Virtual – Immersive – Learning? What technologies should we consider? Virtual reality? It checks off all the boxes, or does it?

Before we get too excited about “VR” (it is pretty awesome after all), let’s look at our goals again. We want a practical, scalable, cost-effective learning solution that will improve performance and retention. VR has immense promise but it’s: not scalable, quite expensive, and must overcome resolution issues, as well nausea caused by movement.

VR will achieve its potential – some day. So what virtual, immersive, learning technology is a practical, scalable solution right now?

To get there, let’s think back to the early 2000s, when another innovation was touted as “the next big thing” in learning: 3D game technology. Back then, those of us that dove in quickly found out we were far ahead of the curve. Only about half of the available computers could run 3D, each app required an install, and interactive 3D learning environments were expensive to build.

Fast-forward 15 years, and now 3D environments can be run on any device with a screen, including phones. The technology is more advanced than ever and can be built using full-stack web development tools that lower production costs.

Access on mobile devices is essential yet limiting. While 3D simulations have run in mobile apps for a while now, it’s only in the past 2 years that one can run a 3D environment with virtual, talking characters in a browser, on a mobile device.

So, one could say that advanced 3D game technology has just arrived for learning: It can create immersive interactive learning simulations that can be delivered in a scalable way, from the cloud to browsers on modern devices, including phones.

This is exciting. But, technology alone is not a solution, we need a complete platform. Otherwise, it’s not a sound investment.


A platform brings all these components together. It includes standardized, cost-effective ways to build interactive environments, and delivers learning experiences to any modern device, anytime, anywhere via an internet connection. Being browser based, these virtual learning modules can be affordably accessed via a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model, instead of maintaining disparate apps across PCs, Macs, iOS, and Android. And there is one more critical piece: The measurement of learning outcomes.

It’s essential that any platform we choose includes analytics. Many interactive programs consider analytics as an afterthought and do a poor job. That’s a missed opportunity.

Because learners are being placed in authentic situations within an experiential learning environment, you can measure how they are doing, where they struggle, and where they succeed. To do this effectively, the interactive software must be built from the ground up to collect and measure outcomes. With measurement in place, we can deploy a complete learning engine.

Such a platform has application across diverse areas such as education, clinical training, sales training, patient coaching, role playing, talent development, and employee performance.

A solution that incorporates all these components (i.e. a Virtual Immersive Learning Technology Platform), can help your organization take the critical step from knowledge acquisition to improved performance.


About Syandus: Virtual immersive learning technology that transforms knowledge into real-world performance. We immerse participants in realistic virtual situations with one-on-one expert coaching that gives them experience making optimal decisions. Syandus Learning Modules combine cognitive science principles, the realism of game technology, and our customer’s proprietary content, to deliver rapid skill acquisition. Modules are cloud-based for easy deployment, fully trackable with embedded analytics, and can be used on any web-enabled device.

Douglas Seifert, PhD

Written by Douglas Seifert, PhD

Doug leads a team at Syandus that combines cognitive science with virtual game technology to create rapid skill acquisition. The company has won several awards from the National Science Foundation’s Education Division.