Virtual Reality Training: Pros and Cons
Read Time: 6 minutes
Virtual Reality (VR) Training immerses learners in a digital environment where they encounter real-life scenarios that test their knowledge without facing real-world risk. Regardless of what you use VR training for, there are overarching advantages and disadvantages to its use, including:
- Creates a Safe Learning Environment
- Exciting and Engaging
- Realistic Technical Skills Practice
- Collects Key Training Metrics
- Physical Side Effects
- Technology Developments and Updates
- High Cost
Predictions show that in 2020, 52.1 million to 82.1 million Americans will use VR and augmented reality (AR) respectively at least once per month. This accounts for up to 25% of the total U.S. population, which is a significant boost compared to 2019 usage statistics.
As the VR market continues to grow, it’s important to understand the benefits and drawbacks that come with it. This way, you can make informed decisions about VR’s role in your training program and prepare for potential challenges.
In this article, we’ll first define what VR is, explore how to use VR for employee training, and identify the pros and cons that come with it.
What is Virtual Reality?
VR is an extended reality (XR) technology that places learners in an entirely new simulated reality. Through a VR headset, learners enter a virtual world created with video or through a fully simulated environment.
VR is a more immersive technology than AR, as it takes away your view of the real-world and any distractions in it. In a VR environment, users can look around themselves, walk up to computer-generated objects, and interact with items and people.
There are two types of VR settings: 360° VR and Full VR. The main difference is in a concept called Degrees of Freedom (DoF). DoF refers to how a learner can move in a VR environment.
360° VR uses 3DoF, meaning learners have a fixed viewpoint and interact with their environment via gaze control or laser pointer. Full VR uses 6DoF, which allows learners to observe, walk around, and interact with objects.
Read More: When To Level Up From 360° Video To 6DoF VR
How To Use Virtual Reality For Business Training
There are many ways to apply VR to organizational training. VR offers the closest thing to an immersive experience, which allows for meaningful experiential learning that develops soft skills and more complex technical skills and processes. This includes:
- Scenario-Based Learning — With a first-person perspective of real-life situations, VR can train the soft skills of management teams, covering topics from emotional intelligence, managing conflict, communication, and more.
- Technical Training — Learners can work through assembling products or complicated machinery by walking around their environment and using hand-held controllers to handle virtual objects.
- Safety Training — Learners can practice safety protocols and observe hazardous situations without facing real-world risk.
- Onboarding — Learners can see the ins and outs of the organization, shop floor, processes, and more.
- Simulations — Military, aviation, and law enforcement are examples of simulation-based training where learners can work on reactions during hazardous situations.
Advantages of Virtual Reality Training
Creates a Safe Learning Environment
A major benefit of VR training is that learners can interact with virtual scenes and hazards all in a safe space. VR is an excellent tool for experiential learning in complex topics that are otherwise too risky, expensive, or dangerous. Learners can make decisions that don’t affect the organization’s equipment, employees, or customers. For example, a learner can practice what to do in the event of a robbery and make various decisions that affect the robber’s actions.
Exciting and Engaging
VR in the workplace is new to many people. When learners hear that they’re getting trained through VR technology, it will likely create a buzz around the organization and motivate people to learn. Instead of a traditional training program, VR is an engaging technology that learners are likely to remember. VR training helps to capture and hold learners’ attention, leading to higher knowledge retention rates.
Realistic Technical Skills Practice
Learners can perform technical tasks first-hand, including product assembly or operating complicated machinery. In their VR environment, learners can physically walk around and use hand-held VR controllers to pick up, push, and examine virtual objects. VR has many benefits when it comes to technical training, including:
- Avoids using real-world machinery
- Allows learners to practice real-world tasks repeatedly
For example, VR can place supply chain employees on a virtual manufacturing line where they can practice stacking products with the correct orientation. The VR program can point out any mistakes and correct learners to ensure they perform the task properly in the real-world.
Collects Key Training Metrics
A unique element of VR training is that it collects powerful metrics that wouldn’t be available from an in-person training. Metrics include:
- Usage Data — Fundamental technical information such as who is using the training, how often they’re using it, and how long they take to complete a task.
- Progress, Completions, and Replays — Quantitative measures that ensure learners are on the right track.
- Performance Indicators — Numerical indicators of productivity and engagement such as decisions, timing, body movements, and retinal eye tracking.
Metrics are important because they measure the effectiveness of your training program, identify and improve problems, and verify that your learners are learning. VR training metrics can be collected with an extended reality learning management system, such as Mercury XRS.
Limitations of Virtual Reality
May Need Technical Updates
One of the many disadvantages of virtual reality training is that it may require occasional updates. Hardware, software, and accessories may need updating to keep your program current.
A solution to this challenge is to partner with someone who will lead you down the right path related to equipment and an XRS. An XRS makes updating content easier with an efficient cloud-based system that can update software remotely.
High Up-front Costs
VR solutions can have higher costs than other solutions, which can also make scalability difficult. Between the hardware and software that VR training requires, programs can cost from $20,000 up to $150,000 or more. There are a lot of factors to consider when implementing a VR training program that can affect the cost, including:
- What are you training on?
- What’s the starting point of training?
- Is there on-site filming?
- Are we creating a computer-generated environment?
The good news is that as VR becomes more popular, development costs and headset prices are going down considerably. Organizations may already have resources or existing data that can mitigate VR training costs, such as employees familiar with filming 360° video. By utilizing existing resources, organizations can avoid the high costs that come with building a VR training program from scratch.
Physical Side Effects
Some people can experience physical side effects when using VR. Common symptoms include headaches, nausea, and eyestrain. It’s important that you take steps to ensure your VR training is safe through content design and preparing alternative formats.
The solution to motion sickness is in the way content is designed. You never want to move a learner in VR if they’re not physically moving themselves. This way, you can avoid the disconnect in the brain that causes motion sickness. You can never fully avoid motion sickness, but creating alternative formats allows employees to participate in the training outside of the headset.
Are You “No Way!” or “Yes Way!” on VR Training?
Now that you’ve read about virtual reality benefits and risks, do you think it could add value to your training program?