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Introducing immersive learning environments to the corporate world

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11th Feb 2015
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Virtual worlds are back on the agenda. Did they ever leave it? Tom Symonds explains why they're still relevant.

From the moment we wake up, to checking our train time on our way home, reviewing work documents on the go and even monitoring our sleep quality, technology has now become an integral and habitual part of our daily routine. Living without our smartphones, tablets and apps, be it at home, socialising or at work, seems impossible – in fact so much so that in 2010 the phrase ‘nomophobia’ [1] was created to describe the fear of not being in mobile phone contact. It therefore seems surprising that only 20% of a company’s learning and development budget is spent on technology [2].

With the highly publicised digital skills gap, it is vital for companies to provide their staff with relevant and up-to-date training to help develop their skills and allow them to compete in this increasingly digital world. Traditionally, companies lack the time or the budget to train employees, especially through the traditional face-to-face trainer model. Immersive Learning Environments (ILEs) offer a change in the way training can be delivered, combining 3D gaming technology with live voice communication for a more engaging distance learning solution. Shifting towards ILEs not only provides a cost-effective solution but also ensures companies are constantly in line with technological changes.

Gartner states that ILEs are learning situations created using software tools, including game-based learning and virtual 3D worlds helping to create real-life scenarios for users. According to a survey by Deloitte’s Human Capital, virtual training is an urgent action for organisations, but only a small number have mastered the technological capabilities needed to deliver a compelling online learning tool.

"The value for organisations is clear: improved problem-solving, collaboration and knowledge retention, and clear analytics to demonstrate user performance."

ILEs are already being used by specialist organisations, including Air France, who use them to deliver facilitated experiences for pilot language training, helping them to prepare for radio-communications with Air Traffic Control. More specialist industries have also engaged with ILEs, for example oil and gas, where real-life training for staff can often be dangerous, costly and inconvenient. Training workers in these sectors in a safe and 3D virtual environment ensures they are fully prepared for the reality of working on a rig. The value for organisations is clear: improved problem-solving, collaboration and knowledge retention, and clear analytics to demonstrate user performance.

While ILEs are being used by the oil and gas, healthcare and aviation sectors, 3D gaming environments can be just as effective for the fast-paced corporate world too. Virtual training technologies are more engaging than traditional elearning methods and they enable companies to train employees operating in different time zones simultaneously in the same virtual space, ensuring they receive matching information and consistent training, whilst also cutting costs of travel and the hire of training venues.

They are also much more engaging than relying on more traditional methods, such as PowerPoint presentations and seminars. A gaming environment will resonate with Generation Y in particular, who have grown up using gaming and digital technologies from an early age. In addition, training staff within a virtual space enhances cross-cultural interaction and understanding - vital for global businesses.

International organisations require contemporary training technologies to engage with their staff across the globe. Virtual training is a cost-effective, learning-efficient and stimulating response to these needs and offers a practical and innovative solution for the professional development of employees on an international scale.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nomophobia

[2] http://www.learndirect.com/business/news-events/research-reports/learning-through-technology/

Tom Symonds CEO of Immerse Learning

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