By Neal Goodman, Ph.D.
A few years ago, as training budgets were slashed, e-learning became the new normal for many professional development initiatives. However, over time, e-learning faced a backlash due to poor execution—learners being forced to sit through the equivalent of PowerPoint slides of information on their own. The critical missing element has been human-to-human knowledge transfer and particularly an environment in which colleagues can interactively learn together. Enter training via virtual reality. The social interaction that previously existed in a live classroom and was removed with standard e-learning has been brought back with virtual environment training.
Here are a few examples of ways the potential of virtual environments has been maximized in training:
Initial research indicates that those participating in virtual reality sessions “hang on” afterward to continue discussions. Participants frequently linger in the virtual conference rooms to continue the conversation after the formal session has concluded.
Additionally, the virtual environment has been known to tear down traditional walls that may be encountered in the “real” world. There have been anecdotal reports that people are more comfortable and willing to approach superiors in a virtual environment. Additionally, participants from Asian cultures who traditionally might not speak up in a training session are found to be considerably more interactive in a virtual classroom.
Training in a virtual reality environment, however, is not foolproof. Many organizations simply replicate a Webinar experience or PowerPoint slides in a virtual reality environment and don’t take advantage of the interaction that can come from virtual reality instruction, or they don’t ensure that learners understand the technology prior to the lesson. Utilizing inappropriate or unrealistic virtual environments can present problems, too. “The level of immersion that I, as a learner, have the potential to experience when in a virtual environment is largely dependent on the environment itself,” notes Domenick Naccarato, vice president of Product Management for ProtonMedia. “Is it a PowerPoint on a wall? A spaceship? Or a conference room like I’m used to?”
Virtual Reality Best Practices
To share other best practices for training in a virtual environment, or raise questions about this topic, send an e-mail to Neal Goodman at email@example.com. With your permission, we may share your thoughts in a future column.
Neal Goodman, Ph.D., is president of Global Dynamics, Inc., a training and development firm specializing in globalization, cultural intelligence, effective virtual workplaces, and diversity and inclusion. He can be reached at 305.682.7883 and at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit http://www.global-dynamics.com.