As we continue to shift out of traditional classroom environments for training, more emphasis is placed on creating opportunities for active learning, even in virtual settings. Adaptive online learning has many benefits, but sometimes, real-world simulation is still necessary, especially in critical professions where lives are at stake. However, this doesn’t mean virtual solutions cannot suffice. In fact, professionals can train with immersive learning technology — like virtual reality augmented reality, 360-degree video, and more — to gain valuable exposure to high-stakes scenarios without associated risk. It’s a win-win situation. 

Immersive learning is booming. In 2020, the immersive training market was valued at $26 billion. And the overall immersive technology market size is expected to reach nearly $300 billion by 2024. Not only is this market exploding, but it’s taking its users to the top. According to PwC analysis, virtual reality and augmented reality have the potential to boost the global economy by ~$1.7 trillion by 2030. Augmented reality is forecasted to provide the biggest benefits to global GDP, accounting for ~$1.2 billion of that total. With all this growth and earning potential, immersive learning is no longer a fringe solution. It’s the new reality in the learning and development space. 

What is immersive learning? 

Immersive learning uses augmented, simulated, or artificial environments for learners to experience scenarios and simulations, delivered through virtual reality (VR), augmented reality, 360-degree video, and other technologies. Founded in behavioral and cognitive science, immersive learning provides an experience that accelerates employees’ proficiency in their roles through an immersive training environment.  

The approach is based on the theory that the brain treats immersive learning experiences just like it would treat real life. A popular hypothesis known as predictive coding “suggests that the brain actively maintains an internal model (simulation) of the body and the space around it, which provides predictions about the expected sensory input and tries to minimize the amount of prediction errors (or “surprise”) (Neuroscience of Virtual Reality: From Virtual Exposure to Embodied Medicine).” One could postulate how this is selectively beneficial. This simulation not only evaluates action, but emotion as well, making it uniquely beneficial for training those working in critical professions. 

Types of immersive learning 

Depending on your training needs, your program may benefit from one or more types of immersive learning.  

Virtual Reality — Virtual Reality is an artificial environment in which the user is fully immersed in an experience. Totally immersive, this option allows the user to virtually pick up and move objects, turn on or take apart a device, walk around a room, and interact with virtual characters. 

Augmented Reality — Augmented Reality (AR) places virtual objects in real-world space. Think of AR as adding layers on top of the real world through the lens of your phone, tablet, or headset. Using individual headsets or AR-capable mobile devices, images appear in front of the user.  

Mixed Reality — Mixed Reality (MR) is a combination of VR and AR. Like AR, it overlays digital content with the real world. This lets digital and physical objects co-exist and interact in real-time. A major difference between mixed and augmented reality is that in MR, digital assets can be obscured by “real” objects. 

360 Film — Video Learning captures scenarios and training environments with 360-degree video to lead the learner through a process or location that can otherwise be difficult, expensive, or dangerous to visit. The employees can view the 360-degree video by dragging with their mouse or finger on desktop or mobile devices while also providing immersive experience using any VR headset.  

Immersive learning in action 

Benefits of immersive learning:  

A safe learning environment 

Immersive learning is a safer way to practice skills that carry a high degree of risk in the real world, whether involving people or expensive equipment (and in some cases, both). For example, flight school often requires hours of simulator training before pilots take the skies to ensure the utmost safety for passengers. Moreover, healthcare has also been implementing immersive learning to supplement medical education as a practice stage before interacting with patients or medical equipment and machinery. 

Better learner data 

Robust analytics are another added advantage to technology-based learning tools, as we in the online learning world well know. These analytics not only report performance data and engagement levels, but also give a keen insight into learner behavior. The data informs intentional instruction and intervention when needed. Learning and development teams can also use analytics to make changes to their training programs as needed. 

Enhanced comprehension and retention 

Immersive learning aligns with a key tenet of adult learning theory — that adults learn differently than children and retain more information under conditions that approximate real-world scenarios. Brain science-based learning is always more effective. Many immersive learning methods involve gamification, emotion, curiosity, and more — all known cognitive triggers that promote faster learning and better retention. 

Increased engagement  

Engaged learners learn and perform better, engaged employees stay at a company longer. Immersive learning is often inherently engaging due to the nature of the technology and becomes even more engaging if it is developed with brain science principles in mind.  

Sustainable training  

Immersive learning presents an initial cost barrier. However, a 2019 study showed that immersive learning, in the long run, can be very cost effective. The researchers compared the cost of training intensive care workers in hospital evacuation procedures using mannequins to the cost of providing the same training virtually. The cost of virtual training was higher initially, but within three years it became the more cost-effective option. So, once acquired, immersive learning technology can be used to train large numbers of people over many training cycles. 

How to maximize your immersive learning investment via adaptive online learning  

Immersive learning is an investment. And for critical professions, it’s an integral part of the training program. So, how do you know this type of training is working and exactly how well it’s working? What if you could enhance your immersive learning program by knowing exactly when to implement it to achieve maximum information retention in your trainees without any wasted time? Here’s an example of how Amplifire’s adaptive learning platform helped an aviation client maximize their immersive learning program. 

Flight operations were training pilots for the 737 MAX, which requires specific flight crew training and awareness. Moreover, flight operations needed to have proof of learning while also gaining insight into which concepts were difficult for pilots to better support continuing education and reduce time spent training. Simulation training is an essential component of pilot training, so they get practice in real-world scenarios without risk to passengers.  

Pairing simulation training with a brain-science based adaptive learning platform is the best way to ensure learning sticks. In practice, the Amplifire course was layered in between the aircraft manufacturer’s computer-based training modules and learning literature to act as a knowledge check and provide evidence of learning. Amplifire training acted as a pretest primer for simulator training; pretest, or priming strategies, are proven to enhance retention over time.  

In addition to brain-science based learning, the Amplifire platform’s algorithm watches learners for knowledge gaps, uncertainty, and misinformation, identifies these cognitive risks that pose a threat to future passengers, and mitigates future mistakes. Confidently held misinformation occurs when a learner thinks they are correct but are, in fact, wrong. This type of cognitive risk is particularly dangerous because confidence is a strong leading indicator of action, that in this case could be a catastrophic mistake. Through the platform, instructors gained insight into learners’ minds that would otherwise be invisible. This behavior, if undetected, would only be reinforced in subsequent simulator training, but was instead preemptively corrected in adaptive platform learning. 

The learner data collected through platform learning was used to optimize simulator time, showing instructors where learners should focus more time, or confirm where they have mastered concepts. While average knowledge across all pilots was good, the Amplifire platform revealed that knowledge variation among individual pilots was worrisome. By the end of the initial Amplifire training, knowledge variation was eliminated, and all pilots were proficient (both confident and correct) on all the material moving into simulator training, ensuring only best practices were carried over into critical real-time training. 

Pilots took a refresher two months after their initial training in Amplifire. Refreshers represent an opportunity to measure how well the material was remembered. The refresher data showed that pilots retained their training across the organization. In both modules, pilots were more than 80% closer to knowledge mastery of the 737 MAX, with about 60% reduction in misinformation that otherwise would have remained undetected without adding Amplifire training to the immersive learning experience.  

Absent the resources for a major investment in technology, L&D teams can still begin introducing immersive learning in these ways while developing a business case for building future immersive technology capacity with the data to back it up from adaptive online learning.  

Examples of immersive learning without a large up-front cost: 

  • Simulations that include branching determined by the actions and decisions of learners 
  • On-the-job training with the opportunity for hands-on practice 
  • Role playing with a coach or mentor who offers actionable feedback 
  • Job shadowing while observing real-world interactions with clients 

Online learning unlocks unlimited combinations of capabilities that are optimizing training for critical professions, from pilots to healthcare professionals. Immersive learning is a great way for such professions to gain real exposure to scenarios they may encounter on any given day, without the potential of endangering real lives in the process. This type of exposure during training — although virtual — has been found to improve “postintervention knowledge and skills outcomes of health professionals when compared with traditional education or other types of digital education such as online or offline digital education,” reported a literature review. Therefore, considering immersive learning options in tangent with adaptive online learning can yield exceptional training results, and inevitably, better customer and patient outcomes.  

From the beginning, Amplifire has relied on innovative brain science to guide its product development to create the most effective learning and training solution, perfectly tailored to the way the human brain works. Learn more about how Amplifire helps people learn better and faster with online learning by requesting a demo. 

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