As more enterprises look to incorporate virtual reality (VR) projects into their training methods, it’s important to be able to measure performance and ensure the investment is worth the pay off. Bill West, President, and Founder of Regatta VR, details three examples of VR programs today and how they can connect directly to KPIs.
Virtual Reality is an exciting new addition to the eLearning spectrum. Our ability to take a learner and transport them to an artificial world that looks and feels real provides many opportunities. But what’s the point in doing it if it’s not boosting the companies performance? VR is an investment, so we need to ensure it pays off.
Fortunately, there is a wide range of new data points that we can track to produce more insight into an employee’s performance and behavior than we’ve ever had before. We can tie this data to KPI’s and correlate it across the organization.
My career grew in parallel with eLearning, from CBT in the 80’s to the adoption of mobile, games, social, and now virtual reality. Always, our focus was on developing learner performance and aligning with business needs, but our options for measurement were limited to the data online courses could collect (usually just assessments) and what LMS’s could store. At our best, we could get the learner to “imagine” they were in a real context, but with VR we can now make them “believe” that they are there and we can track their every movement
Tracking learner experiences in VR is akin to having a personal advisor observing every action and movement, including their eyes. Among the data points, we can capture are physical selection, conversations, cognitive choices, the order of decisions, physical/virtual movement, physical presence (hands, feet, belt/body), eye tracking, time of actions/reactions, the accuracy of actions, individual finger movement, audio/voices. In short, a wide range of possibilities. Well beyond anything previously available with eLearning.
In 2012, the Experience API (xAPI) was introduced to the learning world. In theory, it would enable us to track a wide range of eLearning data beyond SCORM, even interconnect with data from other sources like an ERP or CRM. However, to date few LMS’s have adopted it and even fewer organizations have found ways to employ it. The adoption of VR makes the adoption of xAPI a natural course of action. In short, all that wonderful data in the VR is exported using xAPI and can be stored in a Learning Record Store (LRS) or similar database.
So imagine how all of this could come together:
Customer Service and Empathy: Imagine your ability to situate a user in an office or call center with real-life customers (using 360 videos or a combination of CGI). In VR, this environment looks, feels, and behaves like the real world. We can put the learner in a room with customers of different dispositions and business needs. We can simulate the conversation.
The customer will say and behave differently based on the actions of the learner, for good or bad. The conversation adapts and we track the dialog as positive and negative events happen, the efficiency of the conversation (their timing on the 1st, 2nd, nth attempt), the technical performance of the task during the conversation, the interaction with any tools like a POS, even their attention span. What we have found is that not only does performance improve, but the learner’s behavior and empathy towards the customer improves.
Sexual Harassment: This is one of the world’s largest issues, but a simple awareness course in a classroom or online format has not addressed the individual behaviors or organizational cultures that need to change. The VR environment can emulate real circumstances from the perspective of the victim, observer, even potential perpetrator. It is very fascinating to see a man put on the headset and be in the shoes of a woman in an uncomfortable situation. We can simulate intimidation, inappropriate statements, actions, and even gazing, and response time by observers to intervene. We can also emulate the conversation between a manager and a victim who is attempting to report harassment, tracking the empathetic performance of the conversation and the effectiveness of gathering the full facts to move the occurrence upward for appropriate action. Combining several data points enables us to form a profile of behavior and move the learner toward the behaviors needed to be a successful member of the team.
Hazardous Materials (OSHA): On-the-job training doesn’t provide many opportunities to fail without costs to human safety or equipment and materials. An online course can outline procedures and demonstrate successful or poor operations, but it doesn’t come close to enabling the learner to practice. VR can place the learner in the environment, the warehouse, medical facility, or a construction site, for example. They will see, hear, and feel all the sensations that would occur in real life, but the range of variables can be controlled, exaggerated, and replicated, to enable the learner to experience a wide range of real-life possibilities. It enables them to fail and fail often and to learn each time until they’ve achieved maximum performance without damage to person or materials. In this case, not only can the data tell us how well they performed, but can also be used to determine what new variables to introduce into the environment.
VR can give us a much more detailed, data-rich portrait of a learner’s experience during a training module, using parameters that are hard to fake. In high-stakes environments where safety is a constant issue, this means realistic practice where mistakes won’t cost lives or millions. In companies seeking better, more inclusive culture or warmer, more empathetic service, this means training can precision-target problem behaviors and better guide learners to better outcomes. Though VR feels radical and new, it meshes well with existing systems and connects directly to KPIs.