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Virtual Worlds and VR in Training: Part I

Oct 24, 2018 3:09:42 PM

When is VR a Great Fit?

VR Part I

There’s a lot of pressure on corporate training organizations to include virtual reality (VR) in their training. In Part I of this series, we will distinguish between virtual experiences and VR in training. Then we’ll illustrate when VR’s a great fit in training, and what to do when it’s not.

Why is Virtual Experience So Essential to Training?

…because conventional training often doesn’t translate effectively to performance.

This failure largely stems from the fact that we learn and retain more through experience. That is, we learn the skills to apply knowledge through personal experience. Therefore, to effectively translate knowledge into performance, we must create virtual situations in which learners can practice, without pressure and ideally with expert mentoring. Traditionally, this is done in small groups or with 1:1 coaching, and both are difficult to scale. With virtual technology, we can provide authentic practice and mentoring across the entire organization using a library of content.

Do We Need VR to Create Virtual Experiences?

Absolutely not.

A virtual experience occurs inside a virtual world. For example, video games have immersed players in 3D virtual worlds for decades. The experience is delivered on ubiquitous 2D screens, and it’s highly effective at making the player feel like they are “in it”. Training using this technology is an option to create 3D virtual experiences.

Virtual reality with headsets (VR) on the other hand, places a small 2D screen in front of each eye to create the illusion that you are in a virtual 3D world where you can look around much more naturally than you can on a 2D screen. So, VR is simply a new way to experience a virtual world.

When Does It Make Sense to Use VR for Training?

A virtual experience is multi-dimensional, in which the learner can interact with objects and virtual characters in a virtual world, make decisions, and receive feedback. The physical environment is only one part of that experience. When recreating the physical world is critical to your learning goals, VR can be a worthy investment.

Below are three examples of types of learning objectives and whether they’re a good fit for VR.

  1. Is replicating the physical environment essential to your learning goals?

If the physical environment is geographically far away (a store, event, a site), very small (molecules interacting in the body), very large (a jet), or too dangerous (reacting to threatening situations), then immersing the learner in a realistic re-creation of that world is critical to the learning goals.  VR is a perfect fit.

  1. Do learners need to learn how to interact with a device or equipment that’s not readily accessible?

This is a terrific use case for virtual reality where an interactive version of the physical device is re-created virtually.

  1. What if the learning goals focus on decision making and involve conversation? For example, learning how to make decisions that best use a new process (like in sales), or decisions to better manage a patient, or learning how to navigate difficult conversations (sales, leadership, customer service).

Here, the goal is to create a virtual situation, so the learner can practice making decisions and receive expert feedback. In these examples, virtual human conversation is paramount, while the physical environment recreated by VR is not essential to the learning goals.

Learning Goals of the Virtual Experience Defines When to Use VR

VR vs Non-VR Table

Virtual Technology Options

As we have seen, VR is an excellent fit when simulating the physical world is important to your learning goals. Equally important, there are many training situations where navigating conversations and decision making are critical to your learning goals. In these situations, interacting with virtual humans via game technology makes more sense and without the need for a VR headset, learners can participate on any device.

In Part II of this post, we will take an unvarnished exploration of what you need to know to adopt exciting virtual technology for both VR and Non-VR options. We don’t sugarcoat it, so it’s worth reading before making an investment decision.


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.