When I was in middle school, I read an article in a science magazine that discussed the future of schools, and how classrooms were changing because everything is going digital.
The article focused largely on the idea that, in the near future, all classrooms would be digital, MMO (massively multiplayer online game)-like landscapes where students would log in and be taught by a teacher, all in different locations, but nevertheless “together” in a virtual space.
Their evidence, at the time, was a game called SecondLife, where at least one college professor had already experimented with holding classes virtually.
The hype faded, but as we move into an increasingly augmented reality, the idea of a fully virtual classroom is meeting a resurgence. So is this the future of classrooms? Of learning management software?
Let’s explore some ways in which you can incorporate virtual reality into your company’s training.
The basics: what is a virtual reality classroom
Virtual reality itself is kind of shadowy as a concept, and definitely smacks of futuristic dystopian communities that reject objective reality (I’m looking at you, Eric Blair).
Essentially, specially-designed goggles project an interactive world to the viewer.
The goggles, glasses, or helmets project a three-dimensional environment in which a person can interact as if in real life. Some programs allow you to move around the room to navigate the virtual world with sensory gloves, and some require external controls such as a joystick or a controller.
Video game developers have capitalized on this software in a huge way, but today we’re looking at how companies use virtual reality for onboarding and training. Below, we’ll go over some of the benefits of using a VR classroom for corporate training, and then the steps you should take to implement your own virtual reality classroom.
Bask in the benefits of virtual reality
There are plenty of benefits to using virtual reality as your training program:
- VR software varies in cost, so you can choose the one that fits your budget and customize it to fit your people. The smoother the transition from traditional to virtual training, the faster you will see an improvement in employee performance.
- Virtual reality is proven to make learning more engaging, and therefore more effective. By stimulating more than one sense at a time, learners retain information faster and longer.
- Safe, realistic simulations make it easy to train and practice various scenarios. Now, you don’t have to worry about risking your employee’s safety around machinery or damaging your reputation by putting inexperienced employees on the front lines of a sales deal.
- Virtual reality accommodates different learning styles, like audio, visual, and tactile. VR programs allow users to see what they’re learning, listen to instructions, and handle the objects they’ll be working with on the job.
- You can use virtual reality remotely, which saves time and money that would’ve otherwise been spent on travel costs.
- And finally, virtual reality simplifies complex concepts and situations that someone would have had to explain—someone who might not have either the time, energy, or resources to fully devote to training.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s look at how to set up your own VR classroom.
3 steps to building a VR classroom
When it comes to virtual reality classrooms, there are a lot of things to juggle and keep in mind: whether you need one, what it could do for you, what kind of virtual reality you need, and how much time and money it will cost. Here are a few steps to building your VR classroom, with examples to help you decide whether virtual reality is right for you.
1. Figure out if you need a VR classroom
Virtual reality is especially helpful to connect employees in different locations.
It’s also ideal to simulate situations common in industries such as sales, communications, or construction. It provides a way to train employees to use machinery without the potential for injury. Additionally, simulating sales or communications scenarios can help prepare new employees for the situations they will face on the job.
You can also create 3D models of a product you want them to learn to make, or to represent a concept you want them to understand.
2. Choose your virtual classroom
There are several types of VR classrooms: You can invest in headgear for a more immersive experience, or a service that just needs a headset and microphone.
You can choose between a separate software and system, or an online Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) option.
Virtual realities with headgear
If you go for the headgear, you’ll first have to choose your platform. The largest and most well-known virtual reality companies are OculusRift, Google Cardboard, and Microsoft HoloLens.
Often, the choice of platform determines the headgear you’ll need to support that platform. Then you’ll have to invest in enough headsets for all your learners and teach them how to use it, which takes a little time and money but ultimately has a good ROI. You can use the virtual reality program over and over again, it takes less time than traditional training, and the new skills your employees pick up will return to you in the form of profit.
Let’s take a look at the virtual reality programs that use headgear:
- Oculus Rift was the first major virtual reality hardware developer. Their products are most commonly used for video games, but they are easily adapted to training modules. Olive Learning is already connecting businesses to Oculus Rift for onboarding exercises, safety training, customer service simulation, technical training, and sales education. The latest update in Oculus Rift technology is the Oculus Touch, which features hand controls to enhance the experience.
- Google Cardboard is a cheaper alternative that uses your mobile device as its platform. If you have a training app in mind, Google Cardboard can use it to engage your employees. If your company has or produces an app, Google Cardboard is a great way to introduce your employees to virtual reality. Cardboard is cheap enough to be accessible to a lot of people, so it’s perfect for companies on a small training budget.
3. Microsoft HoloLens was designed for other virtual reality developers, but quickly became a great tool for large companies to train their employees as well as conduct business. The Commercial Suite allows businesses to choose the apps they’d like to use on the virtual reality hardware, which means you have more customization options. The HoloLens is ideal for companies with the budget to match, but you get what you pay for, with integration across several devices, and Wi-Fi connectivity.
Virtual realities online
If you go for the online SaaS option, you’ll have plenty to choose from. Oddly enough, Second Life, the original virtual reality game, began as a game but eventually developed into a training and education tool. It’s still alive and well today, with 900,000 monthly visitors in 2015. Let’s take a look at a few more online options.
1. Kaon Interactive is another full package, based on a SaaS model. You can either use the headgear for full immersion, choose the glasses for augmented reality, or you can just use the online service.
You have complete personalization capability, with a whiteboard option to customize text, images, and environments. It comes with an analytic feature that allows you to track user data and trends across devices. That feature seems to be more geared toward companies whose customers would use their application to conduct business, but it could be adapted to internal activity.
The coolest thing about Kaon Interactive is that it comes with CRM integration, so you can connect your existing software to the virtual reality platform to enhance your sales experience.
2. Are you sick of having your non-local employees call in for every meeting? Georama makes that problem a memory. With its mobile video platform and virtual reality platform, Georama makes it possible for you to see your traveling employees in real-time, and for them to interact with your environment via virtual reality.
You can choose between an online software, a virtual reality headset, or both. Basically, you can video chat with them or they can log into the virtual reality portal and get to interact with your office, product, or environment from afar. You can train employees before they even get to your company, and give them tours without ever leaving your desk.
And with in-depth analytical features, you can track users, and create and send polls, surveys, and forms.
If you need your employees to travel, Georama has you covered. No need to physically go anywhere. Their software allows you to travel all over the world right inside your office—you’ll save on airfare and travel fees, and you can even meet people within the reality. You can customize Georama to fit your company’s travel needs.
3. If you’re an underdog looking for software to match, Wevr’s TransportVR is for you. It’s fresh out of beta testing with great reviews from the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. TransportVR is an online virtual reality platform built for content creators. It’s designed for artists, but completely customizable for your onboarding, training, sales, marketing, or communication needs.
It’s considered the up-and-coming YouTube of virtual reality. It’s great for smaller companies who want to give their content a unique twist, or a larger company looking to expand its marketing platform.
4. To combine the ease and customizability of an online platform with the quality of a professional virtual reality software, use Eon Reality. You can choose between their online applications (that’s right, applications plural), their virtual reality headsets and programs, or a combination of the two.
Eon Reality is perfect for training new employees or creating new content. It features cloud-based, secure storage, analytics software, and compatibility with your current customer or learning management software. You can choose applications from their libraries, or create your own. You can even import data from your previous onboarding software.
And with integration across platforms, your company’s virtual reality presence is never far from reach. Small companies would benefit from their online applications, while larger companies would make great use of their comprehensive virtual reality platforms.
3. Train your team
Now that you’ve got your software, hardware, and everything in between, it’s time to train your employees to use the new stuff. If the virtual reality developers are smart, they’ve included training videos with the software. Investing the time to watch the videos and do the demos will be worth it in the long run, especially as your employees continue to use the software after the onboarding process.
It takes approximately one to two years for an employee to become fully productive, but virtual reality training shortens that adjustment period. Practicing scenarios using simulations helps employees retain information faster and longer. Hands-on learning has been proven to be more effective than traditional classroom learning techniques such as lecture series.
So is a virtual reality classroom for you?
Think you’d like to bring a slice of virtual life into your classroom? Check out this blog for more on virtual reality, and our Capterra training technology blog for more learning management tips and tricks.
Have a cool virtual reality story you’d like to share? Tell us in the comments!
Looking for Training software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Training software solutions.