In today’s digital landscape, technological innovations and advancements are reshaping how we live at an unprecedented rate. At the same time, with the increasing competition in virtually all fields, the pursuit of skills and knowledge has also become more crucial than ever.
With that being said, virtual reality (VR) has emerged as a revolutionary technology that has the potential to change how we learn and train.
VR enables learners to step into life-like scenarios via simulated environments, allowing them to interact with realistic objects. In turn, this fosters an unparalleled sense of interactivity and engagement for more effective learning.
Understanding VR Training
Virtual reality (VR) training is a type of training that involves the use of computer-generated simulations to create an interactive and immersive learning environment, replicating real-life scenarios.
VR training systems typically consist of a head-mounted display (HMD) or simply a “headset,” a form of controller to interact with the virtual world, and software.
As a training method, VR offers three key characteristics:
- Immersion: in VR training, the learner feels like they are actually in the virtual environment. This immersion allows learners to better understand concepts and procedures, so they can earn and enhance skills and knowledge more effectively.
- Interactivity: VR training systems allow for a higher level of interactivity than traditional learning methods (physical classrooms, webinars, etc.) VR facilitates a learning-by-doing approach, and learners can immediately get feedback on their learning performance.
- Flexibility: VR technology is highly versatile and can be used to simulate a wide variety of environments and scenarios. This means it can be implemented for training a wide variety of skills in various fields.
Evolution of VR Technology in Education and Training
VR isn’t really a brand-new technology, and has actually been around for decades. In fact, the history of VR technology in training and education can be traced back as far as 1992, when the University of Southern California developed the Virtual Naval Architecture Virtual Environment (VNAVE) as a VR training tool for naval architects.
In the 1990s, however, VR systems were very large and very expensive, so the adoption of the technology was relatively low.
Yet, thanks to technological advancements, more portable and affordable VR HMDs/headsets were developed, leading to some renewed interest in VR by the public, including training implementations. However, the software technology was still not mature enough to ensure widespread popularity.
It was not only until the 2010s that high-quality VR headsets and software were more readily accessible and affordable. This ledge to a surge of VR in education and training, which continues to grow until today, when VR training is used to enhance a wide variety of knowledge and skills, including:
- Medical and healthcare: VR training enables aspiring surgeons and doctors to diagnose virtual patients and practice complex surgical procedures without risking live patients.
- Aviation and aerospace: pilots can use VR simulations to train their flight skills. VR simulations can simulate various emergency scenarios, environments, and weather conditions, which can also help enhance the pilot’s decision-making abilities.
- Manufacturing and engineering: VR training can help train engineers and technicians in how to properly maintain and troubleshoot machinery equipment without disrupting operations and real-world hazards.
- Military: soldiers can leverage VR to simulate combat scenarios and enhance tactical capabilities, teamwork, and situational awareness without risking their lives in real-combat activities.
The versatility and effectiveness of VR training are driving rapid adoption across a wide variety of industries. As VR technology continues to improve, VR training is likely to shape the future of education, allowing people to reach new heights of expertise and knowledge.
Challenges in VR-Driven Learning
While the use of VR technology in training and education is definitely promising, there are also some challenges that need to be addressed to ensure successful adoption.
Some of these key challenges to consider are:
Expensive development and deployment
VR training systems often require a significant upfront investment in VR headsets, software, and VR content creation.
Not only specialized VR hardware and software can be expensive, but developing realistic and interactive virtual learning environments would demand skilled professionals and significant resources, adding to the overall costs.
Solution: Explore more affordable VR hardware and software options, but don’t compromise on quality. With the advancements in VR technology in recent years, various manufacturers now offer budget-friendly alternatives.
Creating realistic and engaging VR training
Designing a realistic, compelling, and engaging VR experience requires deep technical expertise, an understanding of user experience, and storytelling skills.
Without engaging content, VR training can be counterproductive and may lead to disinterest, hindering the learning process for learners.
Solution: Consider using professional VR training software and modules available in the market to save on content development costs and time.
Implementation in large-scale settings
Deploying VR training across an entire organization or educational institution can be very challenging, logistics-wise.
Not to mention, since VR is still a relatively new technology, there is some resistance to its use among both learners and trainers/educators.
Solution: Start small. You can start with a pilot program in select teams or departments. Offer comprehensive training and support for learners, educators, and trainers to familiarize them with the technology and VR training modules.
In the ever-evolving landscape of skill development and formal education, immersive VR training systems have offered a transformative learning experience to help enhance skills like no other.
VR training simply transcends conventional teaching/learning methods and can be used to teach a wide variety of skills, from soft skills to technical skills. As VR technology continues to improve, the limitations and challenges surrounding VR training will also disappear, allowing an even wider adoption of VR in training and education.