Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Niall & Rachel's VR Odyssey - part 4 - Summary & Lessons Learned


Rachel Burnham writes: Over the last few months Niall Gavin and myself have been learning about VR and how it can be used to enhance learning experiences in the workplace. In our first blog post, we explained why we started out on this voyage of discovery and explained what VR is.   In part 2 we shared our experiences of using VR in a short video conversation and accompanying blog posts.  In part 3, we discussed the potential of VR and also its pros & cons in a second short video.  Here is the final part of our journey.

Ancient Greek ship (Pentekonter)

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VR in Learning Research – Summary & Lessons Learned Rachel Burnham and Niall Gavin

After our three month discovery Odyssey exploring Virtual (and Augmented) Reality, its potential impacts and possible applications, we feel much more informed about VR and how it is currently being - and could in the future be used in Learning and Development.  In no way do we consider ourselves experts and, of course, the field continues to change and evolve at pace, but we find ourselves much better informed and alert to the possibilities and also to some of the risks.

We’d like to share our current thinking with you here.

1.  Virtual – and Augmented - Reality is the shiny new kid on the block in the consumer world, in education, in business and latterly, in Learning & Development. As has tended to be the case with the increasing consumerisation of technology (think smartphones, think Siri, think Pokemon GO, think Amazon Echo…), the people who will show up looking for learning and performance support in the workplace – and looking to L&D to demonstrate leadership, expertise and potential solutions – will have an expectation that VR may be part of the mix.


2.  VR, with its immersive experience, has tremendous potential as a tool for use in Learning & Development.  There are some very exciting ways in which it can be applied to create powerful, engaging and effective learning experiences.  And this can be done within all price ranges.



3.  VR is not a magical tool that will once and forever transform L&D.  It is potentially a great tool – but like all L&D tools, only when it is used in the right place, for the right need and in the right context.  Consider carefully if the VR experience is adding to the learning, beyond that which can be gained from another approach.


4.  Consider where on the scale of VR immersion (passive <> some interaction <> total immersion) would be the most effective approach to meet the need.  If the requirement is for less than total immersion, then go for the cheaper option, with less investment in kit and skills development and which uses technology already familiar to employees.



5.  As an L&D professional, it is important to build your own awareness and familiarity with new tools such as VR, so that you can spot where and when it can be used in your own organisation or to support your own clients effectively (and also where and when it would be inappropriate to use it). So make sure that within your network you have people who are working with VR and are sharing what they have learned about it.



6.  If you do decide that there is some potential for using VR in your own organisation, start small.  Consider a small pilot using equipment and VR software at the low/no cost end of the spectrum.  And then review, learn and experiment again.



7.  Where you need a bespoke, rather than an off-the-peg, solution make sure that you use an experienced and reputable provider.  Ask around first, compare and contrast.  Speak to other clients that they’ve worked with.



8.  Consider how accessible to the intended learner a VR option would be.  Think especially about those with disabilities, those who wear glasses and/or those with conditions such as vertigo.  How robust is your proposed solution for these individuals?  We had a mixed experience, in most cases with no problems at all, but some VR options did not meet our needs and, indeed, proved to be ineffective and unproductive.



9.  Keep an eye on developments in AR – Augmented Reality.  This is a related field, which is developing rapidly and could have even more applications to improving performance than VR. The principle of overlaying ‘real life’ (as seen through the smartphone or tablet camera and/or a headset or tech-enhanced glasses) with other imagery and or text, has huge potential in engineering training, medical training, safety training, asset management and location/geographically sensitive experiences. The recent news from Apple (conspicuous by its absence in the VR arena thus far) that it sees AR as the next big thing – as big as the smartphone, according to CEO Tim Cook - suggests that AR may be the ‘killer app’ here. Expect some interesting ideas and applications here from the tech giant.


10. We have compiled a Resource Sheet to complement this blog and video series, with curated links to other research, blogs, webinars, podcasts, reports and other curated resources and is published separately
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5Slxmr1R8cJWko4Q3dnLWpWQjQ/view?usp=sharing . Inevitably, in this fast changing and evolving landscape, this will be (indeed, probably is already) out of date shortly.

Finally, we would love to hear about your experiences in using VR. Tell us your stories. Have you used it? How and where have you used it? Are you now thinking about using it or have you decided not to use it - and why? Let’s keep the conversation and the learning going in the rapidly evolving and dynamic field in Learning and Development. Use the Twitter hashtag #VRinLearning.



Rachel Burnham and Niall Gavin

March 2017

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