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Learning Design team attend the World of Learning Exhibition and Conference 2019

Immersive Learning 

This year’s World of Learning exhibition at the NEC Birmingham provided an insight into some of the more ‘cutting edge’ Computer Based Training techniques being adopted by industry today. Many of the techniques were geared to in-house induction and compliance training but could be adapted for a wide range of uses.

On average, less than 1% of people’s working week is dedicated to learning. Employees have a limited window of opportunity to learn and so they need training that isn’t dull and really grabs their attention. A recent survey showed that 46% of learners are turned off by dull and uncreative learning. There is a massive drop in attention span once learning commences and so it is vitally important that the training is able to grab their attention and keep hold of it.

People are used to wonderful web experiences during everyday life, for instance people access a range of high quality visual and audio content through the BBC online. Therefore any shortcomings in the user experience are made apparent very quickly.

If the training is dull or boring or if the user has to constantly click for no apparent reason then they can become disengaged very quickly. This creates a barrier between the user and the training which is very difficult to break down.

It is essential to capture the learners attention as quickly as possible and put them at the centre of the learning. Immersive learning enables you achieve this and combat the ‘Forgetting Curve’, a phenomenon hypothesised by Hermann Ebbinghaus in the 1880s.

He showed that within one hour, people will have forgotten an average of 50 percent of the information presented. Within 24 hours, they have forgotten an average of 70 percent of new information, and within a month, 90 percent of it.

There are various techniques that can be utilised to create an immersive learning experience. Some of the more advanced methods include Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), 360-degree photos and serious gaming. A serious game or ‘applied game’ is defined as not having entertainment, enjoyment or fun as its primary purpose.

There are three main types of immersive learning:

Exploration:

o   This type of training sets the learner up for success by allowing them explore at the their own pace. This in turn allows the learners to become agile and discover their own learning pathways.

Mastery:

o   Mastery is an intrinsic feature of games where it takes someone with zero or little knowledge of a topic or process and accelerates them up to expert level in the quickest time possible.

Experiential:

o   This differs from conventional learning as opposed to just telling the learner what they are required to do you can actually show them what to do in a controlled environment and let them experience it for themselves. This is gives people confidence and is useful in situations where the learning needs to be applied straight away.

o   Collaboration is a type experiential learning which is used to create a ‘buzz’ around a subject. It enables people to work collectively as a team in order to reach a common goal. This creates a real sense of engagement and helps to promote an engaged workforce.

 

Exploration

Studies have shown that people prefer self-directed learning experiences as there is nothing more frustrating than becoming ‘stuck’ in an experience that is either going too quickly or too slowly for the learner.

The solution is to allow the user to find their own way through the experience by encouraging them to explore the content at their own pace and in their own time. This is great for learners as it shows that you are really conscious of their time and how you are using it. This type of training allows the user to dip into the parts that are most relevant to them as quickly as possible without bogging them down in the details of what may be less relevant.

This sounds great hypothetically but the challenge is to create a non-linear course that ensures that all of the key learning objectives are still met. This is achieved using achievement based gamification. The user is encouraged to collect stars in order to gain mastery of a certain topic. This has the benefit of showing the learner how far through the learning material they are. Only when the user has accessed the key pieces of learning will they earn the necessary stars which are then fed back to the LMS.

An example of this would be company induction training that comprises an interactive  map showing the company locations throughout the world. The learner is then given the flexibility to select a location at random and explore the content. Selecting a location such as the foyer at Head Office would load an interactive 360-degree photo experience. Hotspots positioned around the foyer allowed access to videos, text boxes and even sounds (such as the fire alarm). In order to aid revision, once a piece of learning has been accessed it can be added to a quick access menu to enable the user to revisit it quickly at any point in the future.

This type of learning is very good when an organisation introduces a major change or transformation as it enables the employees to buy into it much more quickly. It is also really effective at describing a process as it allows the learners to explore it step-by-step in their own way.

 

Mastery

Games are built for learning, they provide a trajectory between having no knowledge about something to becoming an expert at it. When you first start a game you have no idea how it works and so you have to understand the mechanics of the game and develop strategies in order to become successful. This is normally achieved through repetition and trial and error. This iterative cycle is hard-wired into any well designed game. A badly designed game is either too difficult or too easy as both things put people off.

The great thing about mastery is that this translates really well to learning. Using a concept known as ‘scaffolding’ the learner is initially hand-held through an easy challenge until they are given more autonomy to explore on their own terms. Games provide instant feedback and so you are instantly told whether you are doing something wrong and need to correct your actions. In older methods of teaching you may not find out until the end of a 45 minute module if you haven’t actually grasped a fundamental training concept. This can be a really disheartening experience in comparison to feedback along the way where the learner is told “well  done” or “not quite”. This helps to guide the learning from a much earlier opportunity. Positive feedback is essential and so even if your character ‘dies’ hundreds of times, each time the user is learning from those experiences. Wherever possible it is encouraged to make these experiences fun.

Replayability is an important concept where the user is provided with a challenge that they feel compelled to overcome. If a challenge is replayable then this can encourage the learner to keep reattempting it until they are successful.

A game needs to create a challenge so that the learners are always being pushed to the top-end of their ability at all times. The goalposts are then moved very subtly along the way and so before the user knows it they have progressed from having no knowledge to have achieved mastery.

An example of this at the show included a tablet based game where the learner was encouraged to swipe left or right in order to questions relating to anti-bribery. The game was set in a building where each level equated to a floor of the building. A countdown timer added an element of jeopardy whilst the learner was required to decide whether a various gifts were within company guidelines. This turned a very dull subject into something quite exciting where the learner was self-motivated to progress to the top floor as opposed to just clicking through to reach the end of a course.

 

Experiential

It is always better to strive to give the learners an experience rather than just allow them to  assimilate facts through written text. Instructor based training is far more effective than self-study as the instructor can add anecdotes and bring the material to life.

This is also true of VR based experiential learning where the user is at the heart of the experience. The ability for the learner to try something for themselves is much more beneficial than just reading about it. The ability to try out a set of skills in a safe environment provides the learner with much more confidence and the knowledge to apply it when faced with the same set of challenges in the real world.

The fidelity of VR is now at a level where the skills developed during a VR session will feel like second nature so that when it comes to it, the learners will know what they are doing.

To determine whether VR is applicable to a training scenario then you must determine if you need to take your learners on a ‘RIDE’:

  • Risky – A particularly risky environment such as near aircraft or unpredictable animals
  • Inaccessible – Places that are difficult to get to such as aircraft fuel tanks or company locations that are many miles away
  • Dangerous – An environment which is dangerous such radioactive locations or minefields
  • Expensive -Situations where it would cost more to do the training in real life

Another form of experiential learning is ‘Collaborative Learning’. This concept has already been widely adopted by the younger generation who are used to playing multi-player online games such as ‘Fortnite’, ‘Call of Duty’ and ‘Fifa’. Collaborative learning helps users to unite around the same quest or same ideas that they can then use for success.

The objective of collaborative learning is to create a ‘buzz’ around the learning content across a group of people in order to achieve buy in. In order for the players to succeed they must work as a team and all contribute in order to complete the task successfully. This then becomes a really good way in encouraging students to participate.

Students have already integrated digital communication and collaboration in their personal lives, they have been for the past several decades. Extending this form of communication to the classroom is the next natural next step to take. Allowing students to work with a media they are already familiar with will boost their confidence and make them feel more at ease even when dealing with tasks they are new to. Establishing working relationships with their colleagues also become easier if they can communicate in the same way they otherwise would to establish a friendship.

 

Conclusion

All three types of immersive training methodologies are very powerful, even more so when they are combined within a learning experience. This type of learning is becoming more commonplace and its direction is likely to lead the future of learning.

However, some may find the incorporation of this technology into learning, quite expensive. Hence, for now, the technology cannot be used by everyone for the purpose of immersive learning. Nevertheless, immersive learning is indeed, a great strategy to achieve the important learning goals.

 

For further information on our Learning Design team and their capabilities please contact jack.lockhart@resourcegroup.co.uk 

 

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