5 Hurdles to Scaling Virtual Reality Training & How to Overcome Them
Read Time: 6 minutes
5 ways to scale virtual reality training for a global workplace:
- Use WebXR or an Extended Reality System (XRS) to deploy content to devices around the world.
- Reduce short-term costs with cardboard headsets and/or VR training pilots.
- Stick to one or two virtual environments for the backdrop of all your training scenarios.
- Leverage an XRS to update content and pull meaningful training metrics.
- Develop VR training that’s grounded in expert instructional design.
If you’re considering virtual reality training, then you know the benefits it can bring to your learners. Maybe you’ve even identified a vendor that would make a great partner to develop and deploy VR training. But now you have an important question from your executive team: ‘How do we plan on scaling virtual reality training across all departments and locations?’
This is one of the most common hurdles progressive learning and development professionals face, and you may feel you have to go back to the drawing board for a response. The good news is that answering this question is not as massive an undertaking as it seems. In fact, there are clear-cut ways organizations can scale VR training, which we’ll explore here.
In this article, we’ll talk about five main obstacles to successfully scaling virtual reality training within an organization and examining how you can overcome them.
What is Virtual Reality Training?
Virtual Reality is an extended reality (XR) technology that allows you to place learners in an entirely new reality, typically through a VR headset. There are two types of VR:
- 360° Video — Uses an environment made of recorded video shot with an omnidirectional camera, providing a 360° view where earners are fixed to a location and can look around them
- Full VR — Uses a fully simulated environment that allows learners to move throughout the three-dimensional virtual space
You can use virtual reality training to:
- Challenge learners to coach frustrated employees
- Teach learners how to stack and wrap pallets in a warehouse
- Help learners practice safety protocol in the event of an emergency
All of that, and more, can be done in a safe, virtual environment without real coworkers, real equipment, or real emergencies.
Such an environment allows for dynamic practice and produces real results. According to research from PwC, participants in virtual reality employee training were 40% more confident than eLearning participants to apply what they learned. Additionally, they were 35% more confident in applying what they learned than those who participated in classroom training.
VR training effectiveness has been proven many times over, often on a project-to-project basis. And yet the question remains: How can organizations make virtual reality training work at scale?
How to Address the Obstacles to Scaling Virtual Reality Training
Let’s look at five common hurdles to scaling VR training and how organizations can address them.
Hurdle #1: Ability to Deploy Content Nationally or Globally
If you’re going to scale VR training across a large organization, you’ll need to deploy your content across locations. Receiving a download link from a vendor and manually accessing it on each headset will not work at scale.
There are a couple of better options:
1. Deploy VR training to headsets via the WebXR Device API
In this setup, the content lives on the web, and users can access it simply by logging into the headset and navigating to the browser. This removes the need for someone to download the content onto each headset before training manually.
The caveat is that this arrangement isn’t great for high-end virtual reality training, particularly involving a lot of user movement. However, for 360° video training, using WebXR could help organizations achieve widespread, secure deployment of its virtual reality training content.
2. Invest in an extended reality system (XRS)
With an XRS, organizations install software on the headsets and manage their VR training all from one platform. You can simultaneously push your content to all your VR headsets or send select VR training to certain headset groups or users.
In this arrangement, users can log in to your headsets and access content that you already pushed and downloaded to the devices. Compared to WebXR, an XRS isn’t limited to distributing only 360° video VR training; it can deliver more robust full VR training.
Hurdle #2: High Upfront VR Training Costs
As we detail in our articles that explore the cost of 360° Video and Full VR, a VR training project that is built from scratch could cost between $20,000 and $155,000. Organizations will incur higher upfront costs with VR compared to projects that use other training modalities.
Indeed, a complete virtual reality training project typically requires:
- Instructional Design
- Video Production
- VR Headsets
- XRS Platform
Those upfront figures are undoubtedly high, and they may cause some to wonder how VR training could be developed at an organizational scale. While there are high upfront costs associated with VR training, let’s look at those costs in the context of long-term ROI.
Specifically, PwC found that:
- VR training achieved cost parity with classroom training at 375 learners
- It achieved cost parity with eLearning at 1,950 learners
- It became 52% more cost-effective than classroom training at 3,000 learners
In fact, PwC concluded that VR training is cost-effective when organizations have a large number of learners and work to scale VR training throughout their organization properly. With that said, there are avenues that organizations can take to reduce costs in the short- and long-term, and ultimately, we see that cost-effective VR training goes hand-in-hand with scaling.
1. Reduce short-term costs by using Cardboard VR Headsets
These headsets cost between $7.00 and $12.00 per set, can be fully branded, and used with your employees’ smartphone. Compare that with traditional VR headsets costing $500 – $1,200.
The downside is that they offer low-resolution optics, limited capability in terms of movement, and don’t come with controllers. Still, organizations could turn to them as a means to reduce initial costs.
2. Start with a VR training pilot
Not only are pilots smaller in scope and thus less expensive, but they allow you and your organization to ascertain that VR training is practical before scaling it out to a larger audience.
If you go this route, be sure your internal team or VR training vendor builds a pilot as though it’s part of a full program. You’ve already got a usable starting point to build from if an entire program gains support.
3. Reduce long-term costs by planning your content strategically
Much of the cost tied to virtual reality training comes in the virtual environment’s development and programming. If it makes sense for your organization, choose one or two environments for your training (e.g., a replica of your office space or warehouse floor).
That way, you don’t need to recreate an environment from scratch for each project, and thus don’t need to pay for comprehensive programming work every time.
Hurdle #3: Keeping Virtual Reality Content Up-To-Date
When your organization updates policies, processes, or practices, your internal team or VR vendor will need to update your content to stay up-to-date.
Your options for pushing updated content are the same as hurdle #1: WebXR or an XRS. The best XRS allows organizations to push updated VR training content to its VR headsets regardless of where they’re located and without additional hardware or services.
Hurdle #4: Pulling Training Metrics
When an organization develops employee training, metrics should be top of mind. You need the ability to pull reports of key performance metrics so you can assess what is working and what isn’t. To conduct VR training metrics reporting at scale, your best bet is to invest in an XRS with reporting capabilities.
You can expect current generations of XRS to pull fundamental training metrics to its dashboards for you to view. Such metrics include:
- Time per session
- Objective completion/score (based on your learning objectives)
Future iterations of XRS aim to pull more in-depth VR training metrics, such as eye-tracking, dwell time, measure acceleration, and action time. In the meantime, an XRS can enable organizations to deploy VR training at scale without sacrificing the much-needed insight that fundamental metrics provide.
Training tip: If your organization uses a learning management system (LMS) and prefers to access such metrics using it, look for an XRS that can integrate with it.
Hurdle #5: Maintaining Instructional Integrity of Training
PwC’s research shows that learners using VR training are more confident, focused, and connected to the training content than classroom and eLearning learners.
Clearly, the technology is powerful. But it must be paired with instructional content that is strategically designed to drive behavior change and improve employee performance. VR can be an excellent tool for experiential learning in complex topics otherwise too risky, expensive, or dangerous to train for, topics like:
- Defusing conflict in the workplace
- Operating large machinery
- Preparing for emergencies
Be sure your internal team or learning partner utilizes instructional design principles and generates content that will positively impact your workforce.
Also, organizations should know that effective VR training doesn’t have to stand by itself; it could be part of a blended learning program that uses a mix of training modalities to achieve learning objectives.
Ready to Scale the Wall to Company-Wide VR Training?
We hope this article helps you to see the options organizations have to implement virtual reality training at scale. What was once a challenge with few solutions can now be solved in various ways, thanks to advances in ancillary technology and flexible, creative vendors.
Still have concerns about scaling your virtual reality training? Get in touch with us, and we’ll see what your options are.