Training working adults is a tough job. Well, perhaps not in the pushing physical limits kind of tough, but more in that of getting into the brains of various people. Or maybe it is both. Learning is a physical process after all.
But in order for people to actually change the physical structure of their brain they need, among other things, to be engaged in the learning process.
Learner engagement rates probably keep many trainers / instructional designers up at night. The math is simple: the higher the engagement rates, the higher the retention rates; and high retention rates eventually lead to better work performance.
But keeping adult learners engaged with any training material is not as easy as sliding an engagement ring on their finger.
First and foremost, learners need training that is relevant. They will not be interested in learning anything that is not aligned with their personal objectives regarding their jobs. That’s the WHAT.
Then there’s the HOW. Those that create training materials need to know much more then the subject matter. Notions of pedagogy, psychology or neuroscience weaved through the relevance of the entire training course, have turned out to positively impact the results of the course.
Engaging training techniques
Over time, instructors have come up with creative ways of sparking learners’ interest and keeping them engaged in the learning process:
- Personalized learning paths,
- Branching scenarios,
- Interactive videos,
- Simulations, or
- Bite-sized learning modules.
Quite recently, another one joined the gang: immersive technology.
While immersive technology is nothing new, people have started to talk more and more about it in the context of business training only in the last few years or so. The fact that it’s becoming more accessible is certainly an influential factor.
An immersive learning experience may contribute to the highest ever engagement rates. Why is that? Because the real world — which is full of real interruptions — can be completely blocked during the learning process. (This depends on the type of immersive technology used though.)
All is left is the learner and the thing being learned. This is the main reason why immersive technology has caught the attention of the L&D world.
5 Types of immersive technology for training
What types of this not-new-but-still-new technology can be used for business training, you may wonder?
Well, when it comes to the types of immersive technology, we may not live in the land of plenty yet, but the existing options are more than enough. Here are five of them.
360° photos allow learners to look around a photographed setting as if they are in the middle of it. They have control over the setting, as they can rotate the photo in any direction and click on certain spots to reveal more information about those particular points of interest. Check out this example of how 360° photos can be used to enhance training. (You'll need to enable Adobe Flash Player.)
Once learners get over the fact that when moving the mouse to their left the photo will rotate to the right, and when moving the mouse upwards the photo will rotate downwards, learning about the 360° setting will be easy.
In 360° videos learners are able not just to look around and interact with the setting — like in the case of 360° photos — but they are guided through a series of scenes on a predefined learning journey. For getting a feel on how 360° videos can be used in training, watch this.
The technology for capturing 360° videos is still developing, so final products still have glitches that don’t exist in the case of 360° photos. However, things are moving forward and in the future 360° videos will probably be part of many training programs.
3D simulations are computer-generated environments that allow learners to gain hands-on training and to quickly master new knowledge needed to perform certain tasks, either completely new, or part of increased job responsibilities. The learner is able to freely interact with objects in the 3D simulation.
However, while 3D technology places the learner in an immersive learning environment, they still need to sit in front of a computer while interacting with the learning content and move through the simulation with the help of the mouse and keyboard.
VR (Virtual Reality)
The VR headset completely immerses the learner in the training environment. If the outside world is completely blocked, the trainee will freely interact with objects in his/her virtual environment without any interruption whatsoever.
Probably the best thing about VR technology is that it can be as 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 5 bucks. You can even brand the Cardboard with the company logo or with your cool trainer avatar for a few extra dollars.
MR (Mixed Reality)
Mixed Reality takes VR a step even further, as it introduces elements of Augmented Reality in the learning environment. AR adds digital layers of information on top of the physical world. With MR, learners are able to view and interact with virtual objects that appear in the real world.
However, running training programs based on mixed-reality is not easy. MR involves many tech systems, like motion trackers, projectors, and computers — and all these systems need to communicate with each other in real-time. That is why this type of immersive technology needs high maintenance and is the most expensive.
Immersive technologies are perfect for training people who perform risky jobs, such as firefighters, airplane pilots, oil or gas engineers, doctors or drivers of heavy machines. This is because it can simulate dangerous or risky situations within a safe, controlled environment.
But risk isn’t necessary for immersive technology to be used in training. Recruitment, on-boarding new employees, or helping team members develop interpersonal skills at work can also be addressed through it.
If you consider giving any of the above types of this technology a try, remember that just adopting new tech doesn’t mean that training courses magically become successful. The content still needs to be relevant to your target learners and your organization’s training needs.