VR: The Newest Learning Technology?

February 13, 2017 5:47 PM

2017 is set to be the year of immersive gaming going mainstream, with VR technology making its way onto the market from some of the biggest companies in the gaming world. It’s a multi-sensory experience that you have to do yourself to know what it’s like. The applications of VR as a part of our leisure time is inevitable, in fact that always seems to have been its primary aim. However, we’re starting to see companies experiment with VR as a learning technology and point of sale.

VR as a point of sale, or something that can facilitate it, is still in it’s very early stages. Companies are looking to offer the experience of a renovated home through VR, of buying a house or something as simple as shopping for clothing. The idea is to bring the online shopping experience into the home. But this isn’t my primary focus, I’m looking at the advent of learning through VR and how companies are looking to be on the bleeding edge of workplace and industry innovation.

The evolution of learning to this point has been a long one. Complex technology, as it finds its way into schools, universities and workplaces, is often viewed with suspicion – how can this thing replace what has worked for so long? The speed at which technology is integrating with learning techniques seems shockingly fast, but that’s just a result of “The Law of Accelerating Returns”, which states that technological change and growth is exponential – i.e. it’s growing fast and won’t stop. VR is simply the newest of many learning innovations over the course of human history.

The most obvious use of VR in learning and training is to run simulations. This has been used in training that requires high levels of physical skill without putting anyone in danger, such as flying a plane or operating complex machinery, for some time now. But VR is taking a step towards, I hate to say, the more mundane. What if you could develop a VR programme to learn public speaking? What if you could create a programme that could teach you to handle an extremely angry customer? What if you could hone the perfect sales pitch?

The use of VR for a dangerous training simulation is to remove the risk factors, the same can be said of social interaction VR training. It’s the perfect environment to make mistakes, which you can learn from, and apply to a real world situation later on. This may seem to be coddling  to some, but imagine a workplace where you can make mistakes without fear of rebuttal and then apply the learning to a real task – it’s a formula for confident and knowledgeable staff.

VR’s most obvious advantage is its ability to feel like real life, so there’s obviously an application for it in meetings and group collaboration, and therefore better online learning courses. Imagine being able to sit in a VR lecture, or attend a VR seminar. Imagine being able to converse and debate from home, but still get the learning experience of attending college or university.

While true VR learning is still a little far away, we can replicate some of the advantages of this immersive learning with techniques such as VILT (virtual instructor led training). Companies like gpstrategiesltd.com offer these courses, along with other forms of learning such as gamification. What do you see as the next  #EvolutionOfLearning?