Immersive technology is ramping up the power of learner-learning manager metrics

As learning and development departments begin to explore overseas and its importance for the future of training, upskilling, team building, and more, there is also a growing demand for them to demonstrate their effectiveness and impact. Training with immersive technologies opens up a new field of possibilities for capturing and retaining learner engagement and outcomes. Simple online surveys or smiley note buttons don’t dig deep enough to truly understand the impact of your learning and development efforts.

In virtual reality, we can get real-time learner understanding as well as tangible output from experiential learning exercises, segment that data and replay it in myriad ways, and then provide the learner and managers with a dynamic dashboard of the learner’s meaningful progress with proof. The development of immersive technology has fundamentally changed what we can track about learners, but it is important to understand what is possible and how to use data to check ROI and learner impact.

How is learner progress measured today?

The traditional measurement of learning – from elementary school to corporate training – relies on individual assessments such as quizzes, quizzes, project work and completion rates to measure effectiveness. At corporate training levels, some learning and development teams extend these measures to attract learner satisfaction using pre/post surveys and focus groups. Individual performance improvement, such as productivity and overall skill development on the job, is typically measured through annual performance reviews (the value of these is debatable). Many organizations refer to the Kirkpatrick model for measuring learning effectiveness, and some use Balanced Scorecards. Some organizations go even further and offer one-on-one coaching to reinforce new skills and behaviors, especially when preparing people for senior positions in the future. At the end of the day, the knowledge gained is largely measured by key metrics such as learner completion and satisfaction.

All this is good, but not enough. A lot has changed in our world in recent years, and it’s no surprise that employee expectations have also.

Employees expect, if not demand, more from their employers. They want to be challenged. They want to grow. They want to be treated as human beings and not just employees. They want to feel appreciated. They want to work on rewarding and getting projects done. They want equality. These feelings and expectations are just one of the components that reshape the workplace. To attract and retain the best talent, L&D needs to think about the educational experiences that have the most impact, not just in the present, but in the long-term. And not just for the individual, but for the entire organization.

It is also time to reconsider not only what or what measured, but How It is measured and bypassed at the end of the training session. We all know what happens after intense training sessions. People go back to their daily routine and often don’t have the time or interest to apply what they’ve learned. Training fatigue is real too – employees are tired of taking time out of their busy schedules to get rid of training that they may feel is irrelevant to them or their roles. With hybrid/virtual workplaces, the prominence of Zoom and online training, it’s more important than ever to keep track of learner engagement. Do people notice? Do they understand what is being taught? Are they able to relate the new skills/knowledge to their job? Do they enjoy learning or are they bored? And keep the learner – isn’t that where the big reward lies?

Training with immersive technology

The introduction of immersive technologies (eg, virtual reality and augmented reality) into a company’s learning and development departments offers new ways to measure the impact of training, particularly when it comes to engagement and retention. Since the focus is on application or ‘learning by doing’, employees are no longer passive participants in online training sessions. Referring to Edgar Dale’s learning cone (also called the cone of experience), people remember 90 percent of what they do versus only 10 percent of what they read or 30 percent of what they see.

In addition to experiential learning, the value of immersive technology is manifold:

  • The learning and simulation environments are highly customized and realistic.
  • It is exceptionally attractive. Learners simply cannot multitask while in VR, so there is a real sense of their presence.
  • Virtual reality provides a psychologically safe environment to try new things, make mistakes, and practice new skills and behaviors.
  • A disparate workforce can collaborate and learn together in a whole new dimension no matter where they are physically located.
  • There are multiple ways to learn – from hands-on practice, to recording and monitoring the simulation, to thinking about what went right/wrong, to real-time training when it matters most.
  • Learner outcomes can be measured by tangible and actionable outcomes against a survey or other assessment tool.
  • The amount of learner data that can be captured, analyzed and shared is large compared to traditional methods.

How is VR used today in organizations? Early adopters such as Accenture, PWC and Bank of America have experimented with – and then rolled out – virtual reality-enabled environments for hiring new employees, soft skills training, customer service simulations and more. In fact, we are in the early stage of a new technology cycle, and as such it requires patience with adoption and technical glitches, as well as a vision for all possibilities to come. Harken went back to how training and preparation was done before the internet went viral. In a few years, the Web3 and the metaverse will become more widespread and be ready to dramatically change the way people live, work, learn, play and communicate.

data, data, data

When it comes to measuring learner outcomes and overall impact, VR enables us to capture and track many data points, which not only enrich the learner experience but help learning and development managers more accurately demonstrate the value and impact of their training programs. Now, given how quickly immersive technologies are evolving every day, what we’ll be able to measure in the next five, ten, twenty years will ruin what we can do today. Here are some examples of how learner data and impact can be tracked using today’s immersive technologies:

  • Hotspots embedded in virtual simulations, such as 360 videos, can assess the learner’s knowledge in real time as they immerse themselves in the situation. They are given immediate responses as to whether their answers are right or wrong, as well as an explanation.
  • AI-powered virtualization using software from companies like Sim Insights Enhance the “real” part of VR by tracking repeated audio and vision responses to create more realistic (unboxed) conversations for interpersonal skills training.
  • VR headsets can track eye stare and audio as an additional way to measure engagement. It is now possible to measure how often people talk and whether they are paying attention from a visual perspective. If learners do not participate or skip the session entirely, teachers will know. There is no hideout in the back of the room.
  • All of these data points can be turned into a personalized learner dashboard where individuals (and their managers) can view dynamic graphic representations of their progress, while also encouraging them to expand their skill set with suggested topics or paths.

Why is this important? We live in a data-driven world, and the more data we can make available to employees and senior managers alike, the better decisions we can make and the more rewarding the training sessions will be. This level of data can help identify your most promising talent, who is contributing to organizational goals — and which training sessions are most impactful and lead to the best learning outcomes (whether measured by productivity, employee progress, or ultimately seeing behavioral changes when It’s all about DEI initiatives), and much more. With this amount of data, the learner’s journey becomes more meaningful, accurate, and (hopefully) stimulating. Additionally, for a more comprehensive view of learning outcomes, contemporary data mapping tools enable us to capture and aggregate data from different sources and move everything to one place to help decision makers identify the most impactful components of training.

The power of learner metrics

Not only does immersive technology give organizations a better understanding of their R&D efforts and where their money is best spent, but it also gives individuals better insight and control over their career progression. This is especially important given the transformation in the workplace and the impact of digital transformation. Giving employees ownership of their educational progress and realizing their value and contributions can be truly motivating and rewarding, which can translate into talent retention for organizations.

Now is the time to start experimenting with virtual and augmented reality tools and platforms. Today’s employees are begging for a more comprehensive and engaging workplace experience powered by meaningful collaboration and growth opportunities. The next generation of workers expects it – along with the latest technology.

This article was originally published by talent managementSenior Sister Learning Officers publication.

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