Virtual reality is a use of technology that has been around for about 35 years, especially for gaming. The pandemic helped bring VR to the forefront as a means of delivering learning experiences through immersive simulations. According to the dictionary, the phrase refers to “a realistic and immersive computer simulation of a three-dimensional environment, created using interactive software and hardware, and experienced or controlled by movement of the body.”

Fully interactive virtual reality provides highly realistic imagery and sensory feedback (sound, vibrations, and haptics/3-D touch) through headsets or mobile devices. When the immersive simulation is well-designed and executed, the result is a lifelike experience that can enhance learning for users.

As technology and experience have advanced, artificial intelligence (AI) has provided virtual characters with the ability to respond more realistically. 3-D audio and improved haptic feedback and devices also contribute to a much more immersive experience. Other improvements have expanded delivery options beyond tethered machines and headsets to mobile devices and smartphones.

What are the use cases for virtual reality?

Virtual reality is applicable to learning “hard skills” (such as equipment operation), “soft skills” (interpersonal communication), and analysis and reaction (troubleshooting, emergency response) in many situations and occupations. There are current use cases in many areas that have traditionally been challenging for L&D such as compliance training, selling skills, safety, and coaching and personal development. The list is growing, but the major focus today is on these areas:

In each of these fields, instructional designers have identified not only everyday routine use cases, but also critical use cases for VR training:

  • High-stress and emergency procedures;
  • Reduction and prevention of job-related injuries; and
  • Responding to situations where training itself could present danger.

Applications and instances of virtual reality are advancing rapidly, and the best way to keep up is through online publications such as Learning Solutions, and through online and in-person conferences such as those offered by The Learning Guild (the Online Conference series, DevLearn 2021, Learning 2021, and the Learning Solutions Conference). Become familiar with online VR news sources. When the opportunity arises to attend online courses or live demonstrations at DemoFest events and at conference Expos, take advantage of them.

Finally, identify your use cases for virtual reality in training, and look at reviews and other information online that will help you make your "short list" of applications that fit those cases. Two good sources of this information are:

Capterra Buyers Guide

Capterra's Comprehensive list of VR software with reviews

Join Us at DevLearn!

At DevLearn 2021, the program includes a comprehensive track on the design and use of immersive technology, both for virtual and for augmented reality, from foundational to advanced:

Virtual Reality in Learning: What You Need to Know to Get Started: Destery Hildenbrand

Being There When You Can’t: VR for New Facility Orientation and Training: Brooks Canavesi, Kevin Ortner, Marty Rosenheck

An Introduction to Usability for Immersive Technology: Jennifer Murphy

How to Deploy Enterprise VR Training at Scale: Tony Bevilacqua

Designing for Augmented Reality: Debbie Richards

Designing and Assessing Learning in VR Using an Evidence-Centered Approach: Kristen Torrence

Using VR to Create a Psychologically Safe Space for Learning: Amy Lou Abernethy

Join your colleagues in Las Vegas, October 20-22, 2021 for these and a total of 150 of the best tutorials in technology for learning! Before the conference starts, attend the two-day VR in Learning Summit for even more (separate registration required for each of the two days). Whether you join us for the full two-day VR for Learning Summit experience or choose just one of the two days, you will also have access to the VR for Learning Showcase on Monday evening and the VR 101 Pre-Show at the beginning of both days.

Register today! Discounts are still available for early registration (until September 10, 2021) and for selected groups and organizations!