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article imageQ&A: Virtual reality is reshaping workplace learning Special

By Tim Sandle     May 12, 2019 in Business
To deliver high performing teams, effective workplace learning is required. One means to do this, exploiting new technology, is to apply immersive media technology for corporate training. The founder of a new company explains more.
The Learning Alliance, a leading talent development company that has worked with international enterprise-level companies for years, has announced the launch of a new company, Regatta VR. Regatta will focus on the exploitation of immersive media technology for corporate training.
To understand about the role virtual reality can play enhancing workplace learning, Digital Journal spoke with Bill West, the founder of the Learning Alliance.
Digital Journal: What is the role of the Learning Alliance?
Bill West: The Learning Alliance is an elite training outsourcing company. We partner with the world’s largest companies to complement their own training development teams; often embedding our staff within theirs. The Alliance builds the full spectrum of learning solutions, from classroom and online to games and VR, and does so at any level: from very low complexity to extremely high complexity.
DJ: How has learning and education been influenced by digital transformation?
West: This transformation started (in my view) around 2000 when the SCORM standards were adopted by the LMS providers, authoring tool providers, and custom solution providers. This provided a uniform ecosystem. Gradually over the next decade companies began converting classroom courses to online solutions. At first, very primitive and focused on reducing travel costs, but then increasingly more sophisticated and focused on consistent performance development.
Over the last decade, the ability to compete in the world economy increased the demands on talent development, while the ecosystem of learning solutions got more complex; increasingly too complex for any individual company to master. Learning organizations have shifted in their role to be more strategic planners and organizational partners while leveraging service providers to apply the latest techniques and technologies.
DJ: What advantages does augmented reality present?
West: The key advantage to AR is the provision of information on demand at the right time and place. We’ve known for a very long time that you can’t possibly teach an employee everything that they need to know before they start the job. There’s no context. They don’t need that information, yet. So we teach them the basics. Just enough to get started. Then support them on-demand through a variety of resources to increase their competency and solve challenges as they occur.
This is where AR is such a unique solution. We can overlay the information that they need over-top of the job they are trying to do. For example, overlay technical specifications over a piece of equipment that they are trying to repair, or overlaying read-outs from medical monitors over the operation the surgeon is trying to perform. There is a vast array of uses for AR as it uniquely maps the employees current situation with the information they need to do their job.
DJ: How about virtual reality, what can educators do with this technology?
West: VR is a special addition to the learning ecosystem. We have the ability to surround the learner in context. We can virtually transport them to another time and place, and then challenge them with an array of authentic problems to solve. There are a host of learning solutions that we’ve produced over the past two decades where we could paint a picture of a situation—sexual harassment, diversity, safety, etc.—but not really place them convincingly into those situations. So the behavioral development was primitive.
With VR, we can approach these solutions in a new way, producing an authentic context that looks and feels like real life. Then we can challenge in new ways where they have to demonstrate the behaviors, but in a safe environment. Like a game, they can freely make mistakes, learn, and repeat the challenge. We can transpose the individual—put a male in a female role—to heighten their empathy and drive the behaviors we need. We can also measure elements of their behavior that we’ve never in the past, like reflexes, proximity, eye movement, and some very insightful performance characteristics.
DJ: Why was Regatta VR founded?
West: The demand for VR solutions is rapidly increasing. The availability of qualified service providers is very low. The Learning Alliance's 20-year pedigree in instructional design and our mastery of the ecosystem enable us to quickly become an elite provider. However, the discipline required for an emerging practice and the speed of evolution of the media produce a business model dramatically different than the larger outsourcing company like the Alliance. Our VR practice needed to be more like a boutique, so we spawned the Regatta.
The executive management oversees both and we share resources as needed, so we don’t lose what makes us special, but Regatta now has the flexibility to move through the new channels, assemble a new crew, and will build an enduring company; while the Alliance stays on its steady course.
DJ: What is Regatta VR developing?
West: Our primary focus is the convergence of VR, AR, and AI. We have a vision for the solutions of the future. To get there, we now focus on custom solutions that enable us to apply our core competencies, while investing deeply in the emerging techniques that position us to have a dominate position in the future. As I stated earlier, the behavioral skills associated with sexual harassment, diversity, empathy, etc. are the highest priority and most requested topics.
On the other end of the spectrum are hard-core topics in manufacturing, construction, and medical devices where the focus is on practicing challenging tasks in an authentic but safe environment. Our mission is quickly crystalizing. While we build absolutely dazzling learning experiences, we recognize that this is a new technology for our clients, thus they need the leadership and technical skills we’ve developed at the Alliance to effectively and safely implement these solutions.
More about Learning, Virtual reality, Education, augmented reality
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