The learning space will witness a massive turnaround with the introduction of the virtual reality (VR) technology. Head-mounted displays with head phones are used to create a computer-generated environment that allows an individual to be immersed in a virtual world. Hand controllers are also used to enhance this most immersive of all experiences for the user.
Organisations, such as Walmart and JetBlue, have already introduced VR technology in their learning sector to put their shop floor employees and engineers in a real-time situation and train them to react appropriately to these.
Walmart is preparing its employees in the US to deal with the ‘Black Friday’ sales that witness stores packed with customers, choc-a-block.
“It is a great learning tool for Gen Z because they have a very short attention span. Apart from from that it also acts as a great engagement tool”
JetBlue, the American low-cost airline, uses VR technology to train its engineers in the maintenance and inspection procedures. VR makes it possible to teach the employees to inspect faults in the engine without having to go to the airports or even using a real aircraft engine.
The VR market in India is progressing at a good pace, and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 76 per cent over the next five years. The market has seen an emergence of 170 start-ups in India in the last few years, according to a market pulse report by GrowthEnabler.
How VR technology adds value to learning and development
There are various ways in which VR technology adds value to the learning and development of employees.
As described by Anil Misra, CHRO, Magicbricks, “Use of VR as a learning tool promotes the play way method, where playing acts as a driving force in learning. In VR technology, people are so involved in the learning that it helps them enhance their creative abilities to react to certain situations. In using VR as a learning tool for employees, the possibility of learning is higher.”
“Employees find VR-based learning technology interesting and attractive. So, it serves as a great retention tool for the organisation as well”
VR technology also reduces the time and cost of learning. Exposing an individual to a real-time situation through virtual reality helps the person retain the lessons and the learning for a longer period of time. It involves learning and application of skills at the same time.
“VR technology helps reduce overall learning time and cost of training. More than that, VR provides a safe learning atmosphere, especially in the airline industry where, for instance, pilots can train without fear of failing, while developing their skills,” shares Raj Raghavan, senior VP- HR, Indigo.
Apart from all other things, it works as a great learning tool for Gen Z because it involves the experience of gamification. “It is a great learning tool for Gen Z because they have a very short attention span. Apart from that it also acts as a great engagement tool,” mentions Misra.
Rajorshi Ganguli , president and global head-HR, Alkem Laboratories adds , “Employees find VR-based learning technology interesting and attractive. So, it serves as a great retention tool for the organisation as well.”
“You would want the ecosystem of the organisation to absorb the technology and then implement it”
VR based learning in India
Magicbricks created a centre where AR (augmented reality) and VR were used to bring alive all the properties and complexes, which were available for purchase and sale on its platform. It allowed people to walk around the property and experience its different parts through virtual reality.
According to Misra, it helped them hire potential candidates, as it gave them a flavour of how technologically-advanced the Company is. It also creates excitement in their minds to join the Company, especially the technology-savvy Gen Z.
Magicbricks also uses VR-based learning to train people in the sales department which comprises 70-75 per cent of their workforce. The VR-based modules help them understand how a buyer will scientifically approach the purchase of a property and how they can pitch to those buyers. The company has a training centre in Film City, Noida.
“VR technology helps reduce overall learning time and cost of training. More than that, VR provides a safe learning atmosphere, especially in the airline industry where, for instance, pilots can train without fear of failing, while developing their skills”
Indigo also uses VR-based flight simulators to train its pilots. As per Raghavan, it trains their pilots to fly planes in all conditions, such as rainy, storms and lightning. It helps Indigo pilots to geographically experience the look and feel of all airports and runways in different weather conditions.
Learning is an ongoing process at Indigo. From the selection to the promotion of pilots— from a junior pilot to a captain— the pilots have to go undergo simulation tests.
Why VR is still a distant tool for learning in India
Despite being such a great tool in training employees using different stimulations, VR is still not very popular in the Indian business industry. The primary reason for this can be the culture of the organisations. In India, traditional ways such as classroom-based learning still hold prominence, and it will take time for organisations to move to VR- based training for their employees.
“You would want the ecosystem of the organisation to absorb the technology and then implement it,”says Nihar Ghosh, president, human resources, Emami Group.
Ganguli says, “Culturally, the company has to accept the technology. In India, companies have started accepting e-learning and app based learning. Gradually, VR-based technology will gain momentum, but businesses will take time to accept it.”