I did bungee-jumping in my living room. And I screamed. I screamed so loud my next-door neighbor thought I was being robbed or something. When she came rushing into my apartment she found a bunch of people laughing, and there I was, in the middle of them, also laughing, holding a bulky box-like thing I just took down from my face.

I was still dizzy and couldn’t believe it myself that I just bungee-jumped in my living room, so it was kind of hard to explain to my sweet 50-something grandma neighbor why I screamed. My friends did their best to explain what Virtual Reality is and how a VR headset works, and how one could bungee-jump without getting one’s feet off the ground.

The next thing I know, my neighbor put on the headset and did the same bungee-jump I did a few minutes earlier. She screamed, just like I did. And when she took down the headset, she burst out laughing, just like I also did.

But unlike me, she could precisely describe the VR experience:

Amazing! You know it’s not real, but it sure feels real.

The many uses of Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality is considered to have great potential to revolutionize many industries, like the spread of the personal computer and the smartphone did. A Goldman Sachs report estimates that VR could be worth up to $80 billion by 2025. Video games are the leader in this market, but real estate, healthcare, engineering, education or the military are important players in the development of VR as well.

VR technology makes it possible to do bungee-jumping without leaving the house, to fight dragons in a video game, to travel in time and see how your city used to look like in the Middle Ages, or to go on a field trip on the other side of the globe.

You can have a lot of fun with VR.

VR and its uses in training

You can also learn a lot of things with VR.

Many industries use VR technology for training and many more consider using it in the future.

People that perform risky jobs — firefighters, airplane pilots, oil or gas engineers, doctors or drivers of heavy machines — need proper training. VR is perfect for training these people, as it simulates dangerous or risky situations within a safe, controlled environment.

But risk isn’t necessary for VR to be used in training. Recruitment, on-boarding new employees, or helping team members develop interpersonal skills at work can also be addressed through Virtual Reality.

VR can transform training because it offers an immersive learning experience. It all boils down to my neighbor’s saying: “You know it’s not real, but it sure feels real.” That feeling of reality is the secret sauce that many training courses currently lack.

4 benefits of using VR in training

Including VR in your company training courses may sound a little too far-fetched, especially if you’re new to it. But if a sweet 50-something grandma did not hesitate to try on a VR headset and do bungee-jumping in my living room, your busy learners won’t hesitate to try this experience either. We all like the wow factor.

Another thing is that VR technology can be as sophisticated — read expensive — as you want. You can try the VR experience with Oculus Rift, which costs around $600, or you could go for Google Cardboard, which has a price tag of as low as 15 bucks. You can even brand the Cardboard with the company logo or with your cool trainer avatar for a few extra dollars.

And the best part is that VR can be measured. You can measure everything a user does. And if your business LMS has xAPI integration, the data from measuring learning through VR experiences can go directly to all the other learning data that you have. So, you could better adapt your strategies.

Besides the wow-factor, the affordable-ish price and the fact that it can be measured, here are another 4 benefits of using VR in training:

  1. VR increases learner engagement

    You know how hard it can be to keep people motivated at work and during a training course and make them get engaged with the learning materials. It can take up to 20 minutes for someone to regain focus after a small interruption of only one minute. The human attention span is shrinking, and the workplace is full of interruptions.

    When someone puts on a VR headset the real world disappears. I did bungee-jumping, but your employees can experience how it’s like to get on top of an electric pole and mend some power cables. They may know perfectly well how to that job on the ground, but they may encounter some unexpected problems caused by the wind or the height.

    VR excludes interruptions from training and the immersive learning experience makes people more engaged with what they learn.

  2. VR increases retention rates

    Higher engagement rates lead to higher retention rates. If learners pay attention to what they’re supposed to learn, they’ll better remember it later.

    Since the VR experience makes the trainee focused on everything surrounding him/her, it will be easier to recognize the same situation later in real life and take the best action.

    When a trainee will climb a real electric pole to mend some power cables, they’ll expect the wind and they won’t freak out at the height. Therefore, they’ll be able to focus on the cable mending and apply the theoretical knowledge just like they’d do when on the ground.

  3. VR helps learners gain mastery faster

    People can learn by watching others, but the most efficient way is learning by doing. When you do the same thing over and over perfectly, you gain mastery of that thing. Ideally, employees should master their tasks as soon as possible. But some of these things usually take time.

    A VR learning experience can accelerate this process, firstly because it increases engagement and retention rates, and then because it allows trainees to have the same learning experience as many times as necessary before moving on to real work situations.

    The leap from reading manuals and watching others do a task to actually getting to perform that task well is bigger and more error-prone than the one between a VR experience of practicing that task and the real deal.

  4. VR improves employee performance

    The chain of reaction caused by the use of VR in training can go even further. When employees are engaged in the learning process they’ll better remember what they learn; when they have high retention rates they’ll gain mastery of their tasks faster; and when they gain mastery over more tasks they improve their performance.

    A VR experience is the most immersive method of training. There are no distractions; there is only focus. Even though trainees know what they experience is not real — they’re in a training room, not on top of an electricity pole — the feeling of reality is what makes learning through VR so effective. And this leads to better performance.

So, if you consider giving VR a chance and including it in your future training programs, I hope the above benefits will inspire you to bungee-jump right in the middle of it.

Author: Livia M

Livia is the main online voice of MATRIX by CYPHER LEARNING. She writes about workplace learning and L&D strategies for businesses, as well as other training and e-learning related subjects.