Posted: 09 Jul. 2019 05 min. read

Virtually real learning experiences

Virtual reality

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak, it’s also what it takes to sit down and listen. - Winston Churchill

The virtual future

If you’re not already well-versed in Virtual Reality technology, here’s the brief: VR is no longer an aspiration for the future. It’s a rapidly evolving and disruptive technology that’s entered a space of commerciality – both for individuals and organisations – and is poised to disrupt how people skills are taught. 

Ecosystem of 'digital reality'
Ecosystem of 'digital reality'

Put simply, VR creates a digital environment that enables users to see and interact with realistic and immersive scenarios. It is one component of the broader ecosystem of ‘digital reality’, which comprises augmented reality (think Pokémon Go), 360-degree video, mixed reality (where physical and digital objects co-exist and interact in real time) and immersive (which offers multi-sensory digital experiences through a combination of these technologies).  Originating in the world of gaming, the VR industry is predicted to be worth over $6 billion globally by 2022. 

Increased demand for VR has amplified with products becoming more accessible and affordable than ever. Stand-alone VR headsets including hand controllers and audio such as the Oculus Go are available for as little as $299.  As such, competition is set to continue driving prices down – and user experiences up. A result of which has led to organisations now applying VR to their learning and development initiatives.

Users experiencing VR
Users experiencing VR

Success Story: Synergy Site Induction Tour

Synergy sought to upgrade their traditional site induction training with a digital solution that aimed to save both time and money, while still successfully on-boarding their employees in line with their training and safety policies. In response, Deloitte developed a 360-degree immersive VR experience using the Oculus Go headset, allowing Synergy staff to virtually walk around one of their major power plant sites. This reduced site induction training considerably, and improved retention of site knowledge.

Synergy site
Synergy site

Considerations for implementing VR for learning experiences

While VR has the potential to simulate world class learning experiences through immersive experiences, organisations must consider the barriers to implementation, including cost and ROI.

The success of a VR solution depends on content, as much as hardware.  In addition to hardware asset costs, upfront and ongoing software development costs need to be front of mind. To put indicative numbers around this, Josh Bersin estimates the capital investment required to establish a robust VR program would start at $75,000 USD. However, once the content has been developed, the cost of deployment and maintenance drops significantly. Although there remains the requirement for new simulations to be developed to meet the training need. Other research has suggested that an organisation’s lack of data and technology readiness may present barriers to effective VR adoption. Organisations need to ensure their VR integrates with existing technologies for a seamless transition to occur.

In a recent VR Industry survey report, one of the main limits for companies to adopt VR was the lack-of-use cases and absence of ROI statistics. This challenge is particularly real in the space of soft skills training where use cases are harder to source. However, organisations can start to build their case through leveraging analytics such as assessment results, HR data such as analysis of incident reports or more traditional engagement surveys to establish capability and confidence level pre and post training.

Ultimately, for organisations to introduce VR in the context of soft skills development, they need to be able to create compelling, relevant user experiences which simulate real life challenges. VR, as an emerging technology to be used for mainstream commercial learning, must continue to evolve the user experience designs to provide increasingly interactive approaches and experiences.  As such, the goal posts of user expectations are, as with all technology, continually moving.

VR training uses machine learning and natural language processing for simulations to interpret and imitate speech. However they are not yet able to react to user’s speech in real-time (time for processing and buffering really does kill a conversation) or read non-verbal body and face language (since half of the face is covered in a large box). Therefore the user’s responses or choices are limited to selecting options - either by physically pointing or using a key word or phrase. That is not to say that the experience is not immersive, engaging and hugely effective and efficient as a training tool. It reduces the need for actors or colleagues to play a part, however organisations and users need to manage expectations that VR cannot replicate a seamless experience. But this is not essential to achieving learning outcomes.

In the future, as machine learning and natural language processing capabilities improve, so will immersive VR learning experiences provide ever more life-like simulations and revolutionise the organisational learning landscape.  This will improve the delivery of soft skills training providing scalable, affordable and effective experiences to enable people to improve their people interactions.  See the next post which looks at how soft skills training will be transformed by this technology.

Reference List

In 2018, VR stopped “having potential” and started being real –

Real learning in a virtual world: How VR can improve learning and training outcomes –

Enterprise Virtual Reality Training Services to Generate US $6.3 billion in 2022 –

Oculus Go –

VR Enters Corporate Learning with a Vengeance: And the Results are Amazing –

Immersive technology has arrived: AR and VR set to become mainstream in business operations in the next 3 years –

Measuring the Benefits of ROI of VR –

Virtual Reality Has Reached a “Tipping Point.” It’s Officially Here to Stay –

Speech as Input in Virtual Reality –

Meet our authors

Stacey Edmonds

Stacey Edmonds

Partner, Human Capital, Consulting

Stacey is a Senior Organisation Development Executive with over 20 years’ experience in a diverse range of industries and cultures. A professional with a passion to re-invent the workplace experience ensuring all people are included, engaged and motivated. She specialises in creating autonomous learning cultures, implementing personalised, adaptive and gamified learning environments and producing short sharp story driven learning content in all facilitated and digital formats. Stacey is highly recognised for her thought leadership in Digital Learning Stacey is a go to person for film and digital judging for the New York Film Festivals and the International Stevies Business Awards. Her articles include Gamification and Engagement, CIO Magazine, Transmedia Learning, The Gamification of Learning and Loving a Digital Learning Life, AITD Magazine

Lauren Parker

Lauren Parker

Consultant, Human Capital

Lauren is a Consultant in Deloitte’s Human Capital Consulting practice with a passion for assisting organisations to enable their business strategy through workforce empowerment. Her background in Human Resources and Business Law equips her with the ability to apply person-centric methodologies to solve complex problems experienced in dynamic environments. She combines her strong interpersonal and communication skills with a logical, structured approach to problem solving to consistently deliver tailored, high quality solutions to her client’s people problems. Lauren's consulting experience focuses predominately in change management across all industries.