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Feb 21, 2023, 1:33 AM

Immersive Learning at the Workplace with AR and VR: Pros and Cons

Immersive Learning at the Workplace with AR and VR: Pros and Cons

Training in the workplace is a key component in employee retention. 94% of employees say that they would stay with their current employer if they had adequate training systems in place. (Source) Conversely, this means that those same 94% would leave without proper training. In addition, Millennials and Gen-Z are more likely to leave if they company does not supply them with adequate technology to do their job right. Enter augmented and virtual technology.

In the last several years, augmented and virtual reality have made their way into the workplace as a viable tool for employee onboarding and continual training. Employers choosing to implement these immersive technologies are creating a productive company culture for a variety of reasons. Augmented and virtual reality for training purposed are both a benefit to people in general and the workplace itself. But for every positive, there is a negative.

What is Virtual and Augmented Reality?

Virtual and augmented reality are immersive technologies that create digital experiences for the user and allow them to experience the world in a different way. Augmented and virtual reality differ based on their display capabilities. Augmented reality has the user fully interacting with digital products on a physical space (think SnapChat filters), and virtual reality places the user in a virtual environment more a deeper immersion. They both hold capabilities beneficial for workplace training, and their interactive nature satisfies that gamification desire in most humans. But even still, for every pro, there is a con. In no particular order:

Pro- Increased workplace safety- Trainees can use virtual reality to complete high risk scenarios within an immersive environment in order to reduce safety risk in an actual workplace environment. Take forklift operation for example. Trainees can follow proper procedure for turning on, and operating the heavy machinery in a simulation where simulated workers are present, rather than in a real scenario where there is greater risk to the employee.

Con- Health and safety risks to workers- There are still risks to users in terms of the environment in which they complete their training. A larger space free of obstacles is necessary to ensure that no hazards are in place that could potentially harm the user. Where before the trainee would sit at a desk, watching videos and completing questionnaires in a confined space, now a larger space is necessary to complete training efficiently.

Pro- Rapid and thorough information retention- Because of the nature of virtual and augmented immersion, users can retain information at a greater level and gain expertise within their field of work faster and more efficiently than with traditional training methods. The experiential learning scenarios allow the trainee to operate repeatedly within the training scenario until they have the concept effectively internalized.

Con- Higher learning curve for new technology- As always with learning a new technology (especially one that is newer to the world in general), there is a higher learning curve for understanding the technology itself before actually being able to learn the lessons within the simulations. Getting a handle on spatial recognition within the software, learning how to operate the sensors and align the technology with human capability is tricky work if its your first time operating it and can sometimes take the length of the training period to fully grasp.

Pro- Improved customer resolutions- Creating a proper base for customer interactions is crucial in keeping customers loyal and happy. This begins in the training period, giving employees a foundation for how employees should treat them. These scenarios help employees gain empathy for the customer and develop a solid plan for dealing with difficult ones and gives them an edge when confronted with those that need help.

Con- Frequent updates as technology improves- Technology is rapidly advancing, and in order to stay ahead of updates and upgrades, employers need to be constantly upgrading their information, hardware and software. This can feel daunting because updates happen frequently to fix bugs, and it’s difficult to plan around the downtime necessary to implement the changes.

Pro- Decreased training time- AR and VR, being the immersive, experience giving tech that they are, allow the user to learn information faster and more accurately than standard training programs. This leads to an overall decrease in training time necessary to have a well established employee in the workplace. Employee onboarding programs take less time to complete as a result.

Con- High cost of entry- Between hiring an augmented and virtual reality service, transferring training material to a VR/AR platform, cost of equipment, and testing before publication, the investment cost of creating a training program can be pretty steep, with some costing upwards of $150,000 USD. This is one of the major drawbacks to VRT, and many employers have a hard time justifying that investment.

Pro- Improved cost savings- On the flip side, the return on investment that employers receive can be well worth the initial investment. That ROI comes in many forms, such as improved product development, reduced injury to employee, reduced training time in general, and less time spent in client and customer complaint areas. Overall, VRT proves to be a great investment for anybody hoping to make advancements in their business as a whole.

Con- Technology glitches- Every bit of tech glitches, especially in the early stages of development, and even though a lot of businesses are implementing VRT and other training technologies, virtual reality as a training tool is still relatively new. Even the process of gearing the tech to an individual industry can have its challenges and take more time to get working than traditional methods. In fact, employers may even resort to the traditional methods while getting those bugs fixed.

Pro- Information contextualization- It’s difficult to see why a specific part of company process is important with out contextualizing it with a bigger picture. VR and AR help the user understand how the piece of information fits into the whole system, allowing for them to more easily understand what they’re learning and why they’re learning it. Information without a purpose is just that, but information with a purpose is knowledge.

Con- AR limits the use of two hands- Augmented reality is great in that it allows the trainee to stay completely within the physical space and offers some of the immersive benefits of virtual reality without the physical drawbacks like nausea, vomiting, and headaches. There is one major complaint with AR though and that is that you only have use of one hand because the other holds the display device.

Pro- Cross industry training- VRT can be used in just about every industry with benefits spanning the global workforce. Common industries using VRT with huge amounts of success are manufacturing, construction, healthcare, retail, and other consumer industries. It’s being used to streamline manufacturing processes, design full scale models of construction projects, and create a more patient centric healthcare system. Training with virtual reality creates beneficial outcomes for industries across the world.

What does AR/VR learning provide that e-learning does not?

Augmented and virtual reality offer deeper immersion in the subject material by offering experiential learning. Instead of a multiple-choice question (though, there are those as well), users get to choose different paths and see the benefits or consequences of their actions play out in real time, providing them with a deeper understanding of the information. This provides great benefits to organizations themselves, not just the employee. For example, when H&R Block switched to VRT, client wait times were reduced by 50% because call center employees showed a higher competency with company information. (Source)

AR and VR applications in the workplace provide employees with better, more in depth training than otherwise capable. Though the cost can be high for creating an effective training program, the benefits of VRT and ART far outweigh the negatives. There is a positive impact on the world as companies switch over to more immersive training methods. Processes for development, retail, construction, healthcare, and many more are streamlined into the most beneficial possible place, and it starts by training employees better with augmented and virtual reality.

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