Immersive Training: Strength and challenges for the world of industry

Read our article published in the state of the art of Immersive Learning by ILDI (Nov 2020).
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For a few years now, many major industrial groups have tried out and used Immersive Learning for various instances: technical training, management training ,factory visits, etc.

The advantages of this kind of training is obvious in sectors where mastering prevention and management of complex hazards is at the heart of the training needs. Virtual reality (VR) enables staff to be trained without limits or danger to respond to situations impossible to reproduce in the real world.

However, this new technology has also its own challenges. As for any new media, it means re-inventing the ways we design, plan, produce and give training courses.

There are many success-stories, as many as flops and projects put on the back burner. In this article we will look at the strengths of Immersive Learning and the challenges you will have to deal with to make your project a success- story.

Virtual Reality’s superpowers in the training sector

The digital world has no limits and when the immersive experience is well designed and produced, the advantages of virtual reality simulation can be many.

The challenge is to put the trainee in a mental state which is conducive to effective learning: the Flow. To achieve this, the immersive experience should be fluid and comfortable, with intuitive ergonomic, impeccable graphics and realistic sounds.

The training becomes active because it works on muscle memory, using professional motions. And when the trainee is totally free to make choices, s/he has to think about the sequence and logic of what s/he does.

Once this stage is reached, the effectiveness of the training is compounded: memorizing professional motions thanks to kinesthetic work, improvement of anticipation and decision-making skills thanks to immersion in an environment where s/he is free to do whatever, without fear for one’s safety.

A collaborative experience enables you to go even further, through trainers and trainees’ interactions.

While in a real environment, it can be long, expensive, dangerous — or even impossible — to replicate some situations or catastrophic scenarios, VR gives the opportunity to be trained totally safely for an unlimited number of situations, to trigger hazards and accidents and to assess the consequences of the trainees’ reactions. Mistakes, then become a source of learning.

Augmented reality and mixed reality also give many training benefits, such as faster and easier induction into a complex job, help with completing tasks which require precision or strict respect of procedure.  

Challenges to be adressed

There are several considerations with Immersive Learning to think about, the first being obsolescence of the equipment. Fortunately, the emergence of autonomous VR headsets, which are user-friendly and inexpensive as well as the setting up of standards to help with compatibility tend to reduce these issues. Using a multiplatform solution still remains a must, to adapt the system to all the company’s equipment.

Using and making known immersive training or XR (Extended Reality) within a company is also difficult. You need to manage the equipment and show the whole of the XR contents via a single portal app, for example. Big manufacturers like HTC and Oculus have understood that, and, now, they suggest offers adapted to professionals which enable remote management of the headsets, guaranteeing data safety and confidentiality.

From a teaching point of view, setting up immersive training mean a rethinking of the role of the trainer. VR shouldn’t be seen as a tool to replace the trainer, but more as a tool to help training. Wireless headsets, also bring the possibility of having several people immersing at the same time in the training environment, with both trainer and trainees.

What’s more, when the Immersive Learning module is just part of the training as a whole, anticipation of continuity from one support to the next is necessary, not only from a teaching point of view, but also from a tracking one (data, scores, feedback, LMS…).

That’s why the trainer’s involvement in the system design from the very beginning and them being trained to use these new tools is key to the project’s success.

Finally, the current crisis imposes strict hygiene rules when sharing VR headsets. There are disinfecting devices specifically designed for headsets, but isolation and social distancing inhibit for the moment effective face to face training.

The revolution of autonomous headsets is on its way: user-friendly, powerful and more and more affordable. These state-of-the-art headsets give access to a host of varied quality contents. We can actually expect that in a few years, we’ll find them in everybody’s homes, just like TV and smartphones.

Immersive Learning and remote collaboration will then herald a new era: that of ubiquity.

Founded in 2014 by Jeff Sebrechts and his business partner Amélie Raffenaud, Numix specializes in the creation of Immersive and Digital Learning for its major corporate clients. Real digital twins, these industry -led immersive simulators are known for their technical and pedagogic quality. Forever looking for new challenges, our 15-strong team are developing tomorrow’s tools to revolutionize the training sector.

Jeff Sebrechts,
CEO @Numix

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