The trends in entertainment are usually a very accurate measure of what ‘tickles the pickle’ of people at a certain time. In the ancient world, people enjoyed gladiator fights or (pretty much at the opposite end) skillfully written plays. In the ‘roaring twenties’ entertainment meant basically lush, shiny parties with loud music and no small amount of alcohol and other substances.

Once the motion picture appeared that became the beacon of leisure and fun. Hollywood gave and is still producing both heartwarming and heart-stopping experiences. Judging by box office results, the success of movies as a favorite pastime is still on the rise. The main reason for this is that producers and directors tap into the immense potential that state or the art technology offers.

3D is no longer a novelty, these days if one goes to see a “Mission impossible” film it’s wise to hold on tight to the popcorn because the chair will move as if they were in the runaway car, the wind will apparently blow in their face and should there be a rainy night in the script, some sprinkles may be expected.

Immersive experiences are definitely trending, if we are to use another modern term.

Immersive training with 360° learning environments

Immersive learning – the next step in corporate L&D

Corporate learning may seem like a long way from popular entertainment. Indeed its purpose is not one of leisure but of employee development and increased efficiency. However, this field also needs to keep up with technological advances as the workforce is increasingly younger and more immersed into the digital world.

A lot has been said lately about the new learning preferences and training has pretty much moved online. Classic e-learning courses, however, are now like the wonderfully classic yet obsolete motion picture of the eighties.

With computer games so realistic and well-designed that the player can easily feel like a powerful jedi warrior, a warlock or ruthless troll, enrolling in simple animated online courses may feel like taking a nostalgic trip down memory lane.

It’s true that the main objective of any learning material is not entertain. But it order for it to be successful, it needs to engage. Today’s employees are pressed for time and have little patience for theoretical aspects. They want to learn but want to see the applicability of it while they do so.

This is why immersive learning is the optimal solution for them.

VR learning is easily transferred into actual work tasks

Virtual Reality offers the perfect medium for the learner to experiment ‘first hand’ yet feel at ease to commit errors and try again. Virtual Reality provides an entirely computer-generated environment for the learner to step into.

By tracking the learner’s movements the VR application allows learners to look and move around the virtual environment, interacting with virtual objects and people as they would do in real life. The main goal is to transport the learner into locations and situations that may otherwise be inaccessible or unsafe.

Apart from increasing engagement in the learning process, information retention and skills development is greatly improved by this approach. It is the more pleasant version of learning on the job as trial and error are part of the process yet have no bearing in actual business results.

Since one of the most common obstacle classroom trainers had to face was that participants did not see the applicability of certain units in their actual jobs, immersive learning using virtual reality is a great way of showing precisely how and in what instances the newly acquired information will help.

360° learning environments – getting the full picture

VR is the current norm for immersive online learning but the next step is already here and readily available at very reasonable costs. 360° training materials place the learner in the center of a fully immersive environment in the same way as virtual reality does, but uses footage of a real location, rather than a computer-generated one.

There is the possibility to render the film fully interactive, allowing learners to discover information in the environment around them and make decisions about the events that are unfolding in real-time. 360° video content allows participants to visit locations situated in far-off corners of the world such as the corporate headquarters, any stock exchange office, laboratory, factory or store.

Employing this kind of technology in training holds great promise for learning hands-on skills but the possibilities are also limitless where soft skills are concerned.

Time-sensitive decision-making is of a great use when attempting to develop leadership, sales or customer service skills. For example, in retail sales training staff can step onto a busy virtual shop floor where they must make real-time decisions about how to deliver the best possible sales pitch to a range of different customers with different needs.

Similarly, managers can enter a virtual office where they can decide how to deal with different team members in order to complete tasks and meet deadlines. This will surely prove a lot more effective than the old fashioned role-play.

In the end…

It’s true that seeing a Mission Impossible movie in 5D will not turn anybody into Tom Cruise or his incredibly awesome fictional character. Immersing in 360° learning, however, can turn an average employee into a very efficient and competent one.

Author: Raluca C

Raluca Cristescu is a Faculty of Letters graduate with over ten years of experience in corporate training, focused mainly on soft skills for customer service and direct sales.