VR could provide the perfect environment for many safety training exercises. RedJamJar considers the viability of virtual reality technology and where it might take us next.

We often discuss learning and development from the perspective of employee growth, but what if the skills being taught are life-saving?

The immersive nature of virtual reality enables employees to learn and practice new skills in a safe environment, making high-risk training achievable and cost-effective. VR gives learners the opportunity to see and experience new things with the freedom to fail, and ultimately succeed by learning from their mistakes. With that in mind, VR could prove extremely useful for safety training, from working down mines to operating nuclear power plants.

Backed by research

So-called ‘serious games’ and virtual world technology (e.g. aircraft landing simulators) first enabled this training to be run digitally. Research conducted into virtual training has shown increases in knowledge retention compared with traditional real-world training. “Our findings show that trying a VR experience of an aircraft water landing and evacuation results in excellent memory retention of passenger safety instructions, with no knowledge loss after one week,” says Professor Luca Chittaro, Director of the Human-Computer Interaction Lab of the University of Udine, Italy. “These results suggest a new approach to educating people about safety”.

Why now is the time for VR

When virtual reality first emerged, it was too expensive and impractical for most business sectors. That situation has now categorically changed. In 2012, Oculus VR first launched on Kickstarter and laid the foundations for affordable virtual reality headsets. Now, with competition from the HTC Vive, PlayStation VR and Samsung Gear VR, the viability of making VR environments available to your workforce is inarguable.

But surely creating the VR experience itself still requires a Dreamworks or Disney studio?

Far from it. Just as YouTube made everyone a video maker, GoPro releasing VR apps and camera rigs for the general public allow everyone to create real-life scenarios. In addition, the likes of Vizor allow beginners to created immersive animated landscapes. There are increasingly few obstacles for large and mid-sized organisations to overcome.

Virtual reality for other learning scenarios

This technology can also enhance e-learning and distance learning. VR can place remote learners in virtual class environments, allowing them to participate and experience learning via remote lectures and seminars.

The shift in paradigm might lead to classes made up entirely of VR learners. This would bring the freedoms of VR to an educational environment, without the restrictions of a traditional classroom setting. Demonstrations, for example, could be designed as VR experiences that students are transported into to help them learn concepts or skills.

2016 is an exciting time for technology assisted learning. The new wave of innovations is gathering momentum quickly. With that in mind, we’d love to know your opinion on how important VR might be for the future of learning…

If you’re attending the Health and Safety Expo at London’s Excel Centre this week, get in touch via Twitter for a coffee and a chat.

Until next week…

Paul Brown