With the uptake of increased digitisation within organisations, there is a shift in skill requirements for the future workforce. Learning and Development (L&D) professionals have realised that in order to enhance the absorption and retention of skills and knowledge to the maximum, they need to help learners or employees experience things first hand. However, this is not possible at all times, and hence, it is essential to create simulated or artificial environments around learners and employees that allow them to learn as if from a real experience.
This is where ‘immersive learning’ comes into play. It provides learners with an engaging environment that is highly interactive, both virtually and physically, putting them in the middle of a learning experience.
“ There is no doubt that immersive learning is very effective in driving behavioural change, as it shortens the gap between a safe learning environment and actual application. Hence, learners are better prepared when they face the real-life crisis.”
Nishant Madhukar, CHRO, Ferns and Petals, explains, “Immersive learning involves actual practice in an environment that is safe, risk-free and one that the learners can relate to, which altogether facilitates retention of learned inputs until the learners are able to perform them subconsciously.”
“Often, we fail to realise that learning is a process and not just absorption of info. It’s a process where a leaner is required to absorb the info and exhibit the learning as and when required. In immersive learning, you tend to create a holistic and engaging experience for the learner. That really helps the learning to be more powerful. This kind of learning isn’t just a knowledge-gaining experience, but involves spreading the learning and applying its principle in various environments. The biggest concern for facilitators, when it comes to skilling, is the migration,” opines Aarif Aziz, CHRO, Diageo India.
Such learning environments tend to instill confidence and prepare the employees for any and every obstacle. During their enthralling learning sessions, if they are taught before-hand in their virtual training activities, they would indeed be ready for anything that comes their way. This kind of learning also helps employees co-create content with the help of existing content, which results in higher involvement in the learning module, ultimately resulting in higher acceptance levels as compared to traditional learning.
Unmesh Pawar, head – people, performance and culture, KPMG, sees immersive learning at two levels — the design of an immersive learning solution and the design of an immersive learning ecosystem.
“At the primary level, it is all about leveraging immersive learning in learning-solution design. There is no doubt that it is very effective in driving behavioural change, as it shortens the gap between a safe learning environment and actual application. Hence, learners are better prepared when they face the real-life crisis. At secondary level, it is about building an immersive learning ecosystem, which requires organisation designers to create processes, knowledge platforms and communication flows with the aim of helping learners get better every day at dealing with a changing world.”
“This kind of learning isn’t just a knowledge-gaining experience, but involves spreading the learning and applying its principle in various environments”
“The biggest concern for facilitators, when it comes to skilling, is the migration of a learner from the state of conscious competency to sub-conscious competency. The traditional learning methods can help a learner move from the state of sub-conscious incompetency to conscious competency, but not further, and that is what causes loss of learned inputs,” states Madhukar.
“Another big concern very often encountered by talent management people is, choosing the right methodology to impart tacit knowledge. In places where learners have to rely on learning from seniors, peers or contemporary events in the organisation, they end up learning what’s contextual. With time, as the context changes, those learnings become obsolete. Immersive learning facilitates the learners’ pick-up skills and behaviours to the same effectiveness that traditional methodologies do in case of explicit knowledge,” adds Madhukar.
Interest and attention remain captured continuously all throughout, making it more engaging. There is scope for customisation, personalisation, and emotional connect with the learners. Also, learners get real-time feedback during the learning experience itself.
These days, there are a lot of options available that provide learners access when and where convenient to them, which empowers them (gives them choices and control) through the experience.
Referring to all real and virtual combined environments, human-machine interactions generated by computer technology and wearables, can be an effective mechanism for experiential learning to address today’s learning needs. Research from Stanford University and Technical University Denmark found that learners recall more when using virtual teaching methods than with traditional methods, resulting in a 76 per cent increase in learning effectiveness.
traditional learning methods can help a Learner move from the state of sub-conscious incompetency to conscious competency, but not further
“However, immersive learning solutions typically demand more resources and time for design and deployment. At times, learning teams have to prioritise what skills can be supported through immersive learning techniques, such as, case studies, game-based learning and role players to design our own immersive learning solutions,” points out Pawar.
For many who take part in this type of learning, it is the truly immersive part of the programme which is a real eye-opener. Despite potentially being apprehensive going into the experience, employees will often come out with a new understanding of themselves and their style of working.
Immersive learning may not look like the most cost-effective training technique at first, but from a long-term investment perspective the return gained is a more motivated and engaged employee leading to increased time to competence in the job, improved productivity levels and in turn, increased revenue/cost savings to the business.