VR Learning. Can it be done? Really?

On Wednesday I spent a couple of hours with Nick S-J at Jenson8. This innovative outfit have developed a multiplayer, team collaboration simulation using HTC Vive. There is only one word for the experience, ‘awesome’. But then, I’m giddy like a six-year-old at Disney Land to plug myself in to VR. Here’s a young bloke to show you more.

Now back to Wednesday, picture me as a floating robot, working with my fellow floating robots to complete various collaborative tasks. All the while a computer counts down to our impending destruction. The experience concluded very satisfactorily with myself and one other lucky participant escaping doom, Nick and our host Jen being exploded into 1000 robot pieces. O how I chuckled.

I’ve always been sceptical about VR Learning, mainly because the learning industry does its best to suck the fun out of everything it touches. Think how ‘serious games’ are generally, just bad video games. As soon as stakeholders and finance-bods think an activity is just for fun or a gimmick, the question about ROI gets raised. The reaction is for L&D professionals to try and install ‘learning content’ into games which disrupts player engagement. This is the risk with VR.

img_0014_seriousGames
Yawn.

One of the keys I think, is to totally remove the notion of ‘content’ from VR Learning – this incidentally, is one of our ‘must-dos’ for ‘Experience Design’. As soon as you have the idea that people are going to have to remember some theory or model, you’re veering off track. You need to focus exclusively on what people could learn from the experience.

Multiplayer is another key component which was brought into focus for me on Wednesday. Because computers don’t do a very good job at simulating human behaviour (yet), adding groups of people into a VR experience creates unpredictable results. In my opinion, it’s the human factor which shifts VR from a gimmick into something with perceptible value for business.

‘Teamwork’ passes the stakeholder test because people know intuitively, learning to work together can have a positive effect on efficiency. Despite our inability to show the impact of this kind of training on the bottom-line, VR also has a bit of magic that can secure a positive narrative when you’re reporting.

If I’m honest VR technology is still a few years off being totally seamless…

But this is the first time I’ve seen VR as a viable replacement for actors and role-play. It certainly has the potential to move face to face training from a painful excuse for networking, to something people will actually look forward to. Who knows, maybe the days of non-attendance and patronising learning design are nearly behind us?

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