Is VR Training Effective?
How can virtual reality training solve problems?
In training their employees, companies may need to shut down certain assembly lines, runways, or other important tools. These shutdowns cause a high monetary cost, high temporal cost, and overall loss of productivity.
On top of these losses, it may be unsafe to train new employees on dangerous equipment that they have no experience working with outside of a classroom. To avoid putting employees in dangerous situations, it is incredibly beneficial to make use of virtual environments for training.
Businesses looking for a powerful employee training tool that provides both a safer alternative to traditional training methods and cost savings, they need not look further than VR for training purposes.
VR training offers the massive benefits that experiential learning offers at a much lower monetary and temporal cost than actually learning in the real world.
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How does virtual reality training work?
VR training employs a head mounted display called a virtual reality headset which a trainee wears in order to be transported directly into a training simulation. Special controllers are used to help the trainee interact with the environment in a way that helps build their muscle memory for hard skills or build subconscious memory and confidence in different situations for soft skills. Those who use virtual training can even have custom virtual reality controllers made that better mimic tools that would be used when the actual activity is performed. For example, an immersive being used to train someone in gun safety could employ a VR controller in the shape of the gun that is actually used in real life.
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Though a person’s first instinct may be to imagine VR technology being utilized to train for hard skills, such as technical training, VR experiences are also incredibly adept at training soft skills, like those taught in corporate training, in both new and existing employees. Numerous businesses have begun to use VR training in their training procedures, either on its own or as a supplement to practical training, and have seen extremely promising results. On top of that, virtual reality can be used to train for dangerous or high risk situations, such as in the military or medical field, at both lower risk and lower cost than traditional methods of training. Often, the efficacy of VR training actually exceeds that of traditional training!
Efficacy in hard skills training
VR training is incredibly valuable for training employees in hard skills. Through a VR simulation, new employees can learn skills for their jobs through realistic practice in a risk free environment. Training hard skills on dangerous equipment or in a risky environment could end up causing injury or even ultimately cost someone’s life.
Training in virtual reality could be especially useful for medical training, safety training, and technical training. It could even be utilized for military training, simulating combat situations in the virtual world and monitoring the ways in which a trainee responds. The artificial intelligence used in virtual reality software also keeps track of errors that are made by trainees during the training process more accurately than a human being could. If a trainee continuously makes the same error, the VR experience will be able to recognize that, point it out, and fix the error in real time.
Emergency drills can take a huge amount of time and end up costing a company a huge amount of money. Due to this issue, virtual reality is a great choice for training employees for emergency situations and the emergency procedures necessary to navigate them. The trainees will be safe in a VR world, but the realistic nature of the experience will aid in making the situation feel as dire as a real life emergency. Through training for an emergency in VR, learners will feel more confident in making informed decisions during a real life emergency.
Using virtual reality can also make the learning process safer for employees, which demonstrates how a company cares for the health and safety of its employees. This demonstration of care could help retain employees in the long run. Learning in a safe environment also makes learners more excited to learn, as they do not fear making mistakes.
Efficacy in soft skills training
In the age of Covid-19, it’s become much more difficult to hold effective employee training for soft, interpersonal skills when there is no one in person to train with. Since all of our work has gone digital, why not also train our interpersonal skills in a virtual environment? By using immersive technologies, HR professionals can monitor corporate training by watching as the trainee interacts with a virtual world that closely mimics the real world. Using virtual reality, employees can go through effective training for scenarios such as phone calls, interacting with customers in a store environment, and even diversity training. While classroom training discusses hypothetical scenarios, VR training puts a trainee in the middle of the situations they will face, in an environment where their actions have no real world consequence.
In 2020, PWC did a study on soft skills virtual reality training that yielded extremely interesting results. Compared to their classroom training counterparts, trainees who were trained using virtual reality were trained 4 times faster, felt 275% more confident to apply skills they learned, felt 3.75 times more emotionally connected to the content, and were 4 times more focused. Soft skills training in virtual reality has definitely been proven to be effective.
Is it cost effective?
Despite what many people may believe, VR training is actually very cost effective. While virtual reality seemed like an expensive technology of the future even just ten years ago, PWC notes that purchasing just one headset and its controllers is now solely a one time fee of around a thousand dollars or less. PWC also observed that at just 375 unique learners, VR training reaches cost parity with classroom learning, meaning that the cost is exactly the same once that number of learners is reached. Their graph below shows the costs of different learning methods over time.
So, while VR may have a higher initial investment, the cost of VR training experiences and the headsets together actually reaches parity with e-learning and classroom learning rather quickly, in terms of number of learners trained.
Overall efficacy and cost
VR simulations overall yield the same if not better training results than their peers who were trained in a traditional manner. Training experiences within VR can be used to train both hard skills, such as manufacturing or combat, as well as soft skills, such as answering customer calls or diversity training. VR based training leads to the same outcomes as classroom and e-learning training, if not better outcomes, and ends up costing less money than these other training techniques as more learners are trained. VR learners are also much more confident in employing the skills learned in the virtual world, as compared to those who are trained in real life.
So, overall, VR training is an extremely powerful tool that can be employed by nearly any business or group looking to train people in whatever skill is necessary.