Immersive Learning — an experiential training technique that uses virtual reality (VR) to simulate real-world scenarios and train employees in a safe and engaging immersive training environment — has transformed the world of learning. Now, people do not have to be physically present to really experience a certain situation. The technology, which was in great demand during the pandemic, has seen a surge in popularity in the post-Covid world as well. However, it has not been as widely accepted here in India, as the rest of the world.
‘Has Immersive technology established its effectiveness as a tool in L&D, or is it still gimmicky?’ was the topic of the second session of The Great HR Debate-LearnTech Special, the virtual event held on December 10, 2021.
“In HR, Immersive technology can take one about 85 to 90 per cent of the way, but not all the way through”
Chandrasekhar Mukherjee, Sr. president – HR & CHRO, Bhilosa Industries
The panel of speakers comprised Indrani Chatterjee, group chief people officer, Allcargo Logistics; Chandrasekhar Mukherjee, Sr. president – HR & CHRO, Bhilosa Industries; Atul Mathur, executive vice president at Aditya Birla Capital; Rajesh Balaji, chief human resources officer, Matrimony.com; Srikrishnan, vice president & head – Vired for Business; Adetya VN Chopra, chief learning officer, Motilal Oswal Financial Services, were speakers at the panel.
The session was moderated by Gaurika Tandon, head-learning, engagement and employer brand, Bennett Coleman & Co.
Opening the debate, Tandon reminded everyone of how things had changed for organisations in the past two years.
“In today’s world, the talent market is so buoyant that in order to keep the employer brand up and active, it becomes very important for HR folk to provide the right learning ecosystem to employees. Without this ‘pull’ for learning, employees will not understand what learning means,” said Tandon.
She also pointed out the obvious changes brought about by the pandemic.
“The impact of immersive technology in our lives is far reaching, beyond just the learning modules”
Indrani Chatterjee, group chief people officer, Allcargo
Segueing into the main topic, she asked Srikrishnan about the definition of ‘immersive learning’ who responded by stating how “immersive learning had served as a tailwind to the learning function” and how “everybody was talking about upskilling and staying relevant in the market”.
Describing the transformation, he said, “Novel learning formats and new learning deliveries came along. Immersive technology created distinct experiences by merging the physical world with the digital or simulated reality.”
Indrani Chatterjee informed at this point that the logistics sector was the first one to adapt immersive technology through commerce.
She pointed out that “the impact of immersive technology in our lives is far reaching, beyond just the learning modules”. Coming from the logistics segment, she could vouch for the same because she had witnessed its application to the e-commerce and logistic segments.” she said.
“Immersive tech has taken convenience to a different level altogether. We do have some challenges — mass adaption or extent of adaption and miniaturisation”
Rajesh Balaji, CHRO, Matrimony.com
Chatterjee acknowledged that “to upskill the team and introduce the right level of enhancements, an enormous amount of work has been done at the backend, by the learning team as well as the external learning providers. The latter helped create different apps, while the education team helped us use those apps as an internal customer, before we gave them to the external costumer”.
She goes on to say that “It has become a way of life, and it is business as usual. The number of hits on online shopping platforms is more than the footfall at brick and mortar shops. This speaks volumes about the success of the immersive technology.”
However, immersive learning isn’t suited to all industry practices. “Even though it is extremely useful in something like sales training, it loses its effectiveness while building leaders and managers because there needs to be personal interaction between people for this to be possible,” explains Chandrasekhar Mukherjee.
“This technology is going to come in a big, big way — not only in learning but other aspects of our functioning. If the organisations gear up well, to create a better ecosystem, the roadblock can be moved pretty seamlessly”
Atul Mathur, EVP & head of learning, Aditya Birla Capital
He points out that for HR heads, a training programme is used to get feedback from the employees. Immersive technology cannot replace one-to-one interactions for feedback.
“When I hear my daughter’s voice, I feel happy but when I actually see her I feel happier. And finally, I’m the happiest when I hug her at the airport. In HR, Immersive technology can take one about 85 to 90 per cent of the way, but not all the way through,” explains Mukherjee.
It is also not easy to implement immersive technology. The challenges in its application are manifold, from slow rollout to monetary issues.
As Adetya VN Chopra enunciated, “Immersive technology in its simplest sense is AR, VR and video learning. Implementation of IT is a very cost heavy proposition. Organisations across the world are already there. In India, IT is amplifying live experiences. Data from India reveals that e-learning consumption is still not up to the mark in terms of how we invest in e-learning today. Along with serious thought and deeper engineering, it requires immersive technology developers to play a bigger role because we are specific about what these technologies have to offer to us.
Clearly, cost has to justify the result. Therefore, is India even ready for widespread use of immersive learning / technology, or is it too early? Rajesh Balaji was very confident that India is indeed ready for this big mode of learning, and feels it is not too early for India.
“Immersive learning had served as a tailwind to the learning function”
Srikrishnan V, head of enterprise sales, Hero Vired
He said, “We are a country where the per capita use of mobiles is the highest after China. Immersive tech has taken convenience to a different level altogether. We do have some challenges — mass adaption or extent of adaption and miniaturisation. The usage will become widespread and grant us varied points of view from the population. In India, when it reaches the masses, it’ll change the thought process of the people.”
The biggest barrier to accessing immersive learning is money. Therefore, when it becomes cost friendly for the general population, it’ll be quickly accepted by the masses.
Atul Mathur agrees “This technology is going to come in a big, big way — not only in learning but other aspects of our functioning. If the organisations gear up well, to create a better ecosystem, the roadblock can be moved pretty seamlessly,” he asserted.
“E-learning consumption is still not up to the mark in terms of how we invest in it today. Along with serious thought and deeper engineering, it requires immersive technology developers to play a bigger role”
Adetya Chopra, CLO, Motilal Oswal Financial Services
The audience wanted to know if it was still early days for immersive technology and shouldn’t the onus be on the firms to first streamline their use before rushing to adopt it as an L&D tool?
Chatterjee’s response was that, “Learning is a personal responsibility. If people want to learn, they will. If they don’t want to learn they will not. In our organisation, we have linked the career growth with the learning levels. If one pushes the responsibility back to the employee, the RoI would be ensured.”
As for it being too early for the technology, she felt, “After what we have gone through in these two years, there’s nothing called too early or too late. It’s simply about reacting to the stimuli. At this moment, there’s a need. I have seen the economics blooming.”
Mathur reminded everyone that even the world of digital is the world of ‘and’, and not ‘or’.
“The talent market is so buoyant that in order to keep the employer brand up and active, it becomes very important for HR folk to provide the right learning ecosystem to employees”
Gaurika Tandon, head-learning, engagement and employer brand, Bennett Coleman & Co.
People need to keep in mind the changing work landscape. In a hybrid workplace, where some people are working from home and some from office, there should be a clarity about what works best for the employees. Immersive learning may work in some cases, but it may be futile in others.
It is better to be patient and choose the best solution that is suitable for the scenario. Digital is the future, but organisations should be careful about how they put the technology to use for the betterment of the world.
The Great HR Debate – LearnTech special was powered by Hero Vired and co-powered by Skillsoft.