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3 Ways To Integrate Extended Reality Into Your Training Program

What if you could keep your learners safe, reduce on-the-job mistakes, and engage your employees with advanced training technology they will remember? You’d probably be excited to learn more!

Extended Reality (XR) technology has made its way into the learning and development space, but do you know the best way to integrate it into your training program?

In this article, we’ll define XR training, explain the types of XR, examine XR training examples, highlight the pros and cons, and more. 

What is Extended Reality?

Extended Reality is a universal term for immersive technology such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). These technologies extend reality through headsets, smartphones, and tablets. 

When used strategically, XR has a profound impact on learning programs. In particular, XR training can: 

  • Shorten the time participants need to learn
  • Reduce the number of learner mistakes
  • Boost the amount of knowledge retained
  • Help learners remember information long-term

Organizations far and wide see XR’s behavior-changing promise, most commonly with AR training and VR training programs. 

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality (AR) enables you to superimpose text, images, video, and even 3D models onto the real world. 

There are three types of AR, all of which you achieve by scanning a real-world image, object, or surface with your smartphone or tablet. 

  • Image target, in which you overlay a real-world 2D image with video, text, images, or 3D objects 
  • Object recognition, in which you fix a digital 3D model to a real-world 3D object
  • Plane detection, in which you fix a digital 3D model to a real-world flat surface

Virtual Reality

While AR offers an addition to reality, Virtual Reality provides an entirely new reality. Learners wear VR headsets and gain full immersion in a simulated environment. There are two types of VR: 

  • 360° VR — Uses a background made of recorded video shot with an omnidirectional camera, providing a 360° view
  • Full VR — Uses a fully simulated environment that learners can explore dynamically

Though there are stylistic differences between the two (namely, real-world footage vs. simulated environment), the main difference comes in Degrees of Freedom (DoF). DoF describes how much freedom of movement learners have in a VR training scenario. 

With 360° VR, learners receive 3DoF. They are fixed to a stationary position and can look left and right, look up and down, and pivot left and right. With Full VR, learners enjoy 6DoF. They get the same features 3DoF provides and gain the ability to move left and right, forward and backward, and up and down throughout the virtual environment. 

XR Training Pros and Cons

The advantages and disadvantages of XR training can vary depending on the type of XR technology you choose. AR training has its set of positives and negatives, as does VR training. 

Pros of XR Training

  • High Level Of Learner Engagement – Whether you offer AR or VR, you will engage your learners with XR training. Capturing and holding your learners’ attention is a necessary ingredient for knowledge acquisition, and XR training helps you do just that.
  • Impactful Experiential Learning – Regardless of a project’s scope, XR training delivers risk-free experiential learning, empowering your employees to learn by doing without real consequences to themselves or the business.
  • Less Time To Learn, Fewer Mistakes – Combining unparalleled engagement with practice-based training makes a measurable difference for your program. XR training helps your employees learn faster and able to apply what they learned quickly. 

Cons of XR Training 

  • Timely And Costly Development – For all its behavior-changing capabilities, XR training carries higher up-front costs than other training modalities, and it often requires more development time. The total cost for Full VR, 360° VR, and AR training increases and decreases based on many factors. When developed strategically, the ROI from XR training can compensate for the initial costs.   
  • Young Technology That’s Quickly Advancing – Some may consider this a disadvantage, but some may find it to be an advantage – XR technology is still advancing in strides. This quick advancement means that you should plan for updates to hardware and software throughout your program’s lifespan.

Those are the overarching benefits and drawbacks of XR training. You’ll want to assess how each XR learning solution fits your needs on a project-by-project basis.

3 Ways to Integrate XR into Your Training Program

There is no one-way solution for corporate training. We don’t expect organizations to choose one modality and base their training program on just one way to learn. A blended learning program will utilize each modality to build a comprehensive training program that engages multiple learning languages. This allows you to integrate XR technology into a training program rather than replace your entire training program.

1 – Full VR for Safety Training

Virtual Reality is an excellent tool for safety training because your learners can be immersed in a dangerous environment to practice safety protocols without actually being in danger. 

Blended learning safety training may include:

  1. Provide learners with a safety protocol manual to review.
  2. Assign an eLearning module to review safety protocols.
  3. Walk the learner through the protocol steps in a Virtual Reality activity.
  4. Gather employees to review the VR activity and talk about what they learned.

2 – Augmented Reality for Equipment Training

Augmented Reality is a great XR technology to bring equipment and other real-world items to your learners. It may not always be feasible to gather learners around one physical object – AR can bring a digital version of the object to them.

Blended learning equipment training may include:

  1. Videos from subject matter experts talking about the equipment and how to troubleshoot common problems.
  2. Develop an AR version of the equipment to allow learners to view the equipment to-scale and explore the parts of the equipment.
  3. Instructor-Led training to see the real-world equipment on-site to see how it functions on the shop floor.

3 – 360º VR for Soft Skills Training

Preparing your organization’s leaders with the soft skills to manage teams is essential, but sometimes overlooked. You can put your managers in the hot seat and face-to-face with a problematic employee by using 360º VR.

Blended learning soft skills training may include:

  1. Host a Virtual Instructor-Led Training with business leaders to share experiences and hear a lecture from a subject-matter-expert.
  2. Assign a 360º VR activity where the manager has to diffuse an angry employee.
  3. Assign an eLearning module to see all of the possible ways the learner could have handled the angry employee in the scenario.

Managing XR Training

Despite the training industry’s adoption of XR training, the challenge of managing XR content at scale has persisted. Fortunately, the industry has responded with tools that eliminate the hurdles to efficient XR training management. 

Extended Reality Systems like Mercury XRS are at the forefront of this effort, which allows L&D professionals to focus on designing the best XR training for their learners. Beyond that, the best XR training management tools enable organizations to scale their XR training throughout the business. That’s good news not only for learners, but it’s also a positive shift for the bottom line. As organizations deliver VR training to more learners, VR training becomes more cost-effective, even more so than classroom training.

READ MORE: Extended Reality System (XRS): What it is, Costs, Pros and Cons

Choosing an XR Training Partner

Selecting a full-service XR training partner is no small feat. They should be a guide throughout every step of the process. That includes helping you:

  • Select XR devices for your workforce
  • Decide which type of XR training to use for a project
  • Design, develop, and deliver your XR training program
  • Manage your XR training company-wide
  • Update your XR training as necessary

When determining who can step into that critical role, you must be thorough. Be sure to:

  • Review their portfolio
  • Ask for pricing information upfront
  • Ask if they have won any awards for their work
  • Review case studies of past projects or a reference list
  • Check their ratings or reviews

Are You Excited About XR Training?

At the least, we hope this article helped you understand XR training. If you’re excited to discuss XR training with your coworkers and leadership, that’s even better! XR training is becoming further ingrained in employee training, proving it’s far more than a fad. 

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