Better Training With VR
The science of learning and how VR is primed to take advantage
By Michael Casale
Thousands of formal investigations into the science of learning
have been conducted for more than a century. Attempts to understand
learning behaviors in general date back to the ancient Greek philosophers.
However, most of these learning “best practices” that have been
uncovered through the years remain largely untapped when it comes
to their application in real-world training environments.
This is often due to the hard resource constraints of real-world
training: time and money. eLearning and instructor-led-training,
though useful, scalable, and cost-effective, often are not the optimal
ways to learn and retain information.
However, recent rapid advances in immersive technologies like virtual
reality (VR) have allowed trainers to enhance their learning programs.
This is due to the fact that they can now replicate real-world training
environments. When it comes to training, VR is now the tool that
can actually deliver on research the scientific community has curated
about learning best practices over the past 100+ years. The following
describes how VR is specifically poised to take advantage of certain
scientific learning principles.
1. Repetition Learning
The use of repetition learning can be traced back as far as Aristotle
and has even been attributed to stating that “it is frequent repetition
that produces a natural tendency” and “the more frequently two things
are experienced together, the more likely it will be that the experience
or recall of one will stimulate the recall of the other.”1
The ability to provide access to more training is one of the primary
strengths of VR. Often times training methods and materials--especially
those used to train in large settings--do not allow for repetition training.
Furthermore, it might be hard to replicate certain situations often
due to scheduling, safety, or cost concerns. However, training in VR
is on-demand, making repetition learning possible. Furthermore, the
ability to accurately assess the proficiency of trainees at any given point
in time allows repetition training to occur in such a way that prevents
the forgetting of concepts and can improve long term retention.
2. Retrieval-Based Training
This learning phenomenon has been around for centuries. In
Francis Bacon’s Novum Organum (1620) he wrote about the benefits
of retrieval for learning: “If you read a piece of text through twenty
times, you will not learn it by heart so easily as if you read it ten times
while attempting to recite from time to time and consulting the text
when your memory fails.”2 There is growing evidence that occasional
testing during learning is better than simply presenting the information
without testing. Forcing the retrieval of information has been
shown to benefit long-term retention of information.3
While retrieval-based methods during training clearly show an
advantage for retention of information, it can be resource-intensive
to incorporate these techniques into current training methodologies.
Given the training on demand provided by VR, it’s relatively easy to
incorporate retrieval-based methods into training, making for a more
effective training experience.
3. Forgetting / Training Maintenance
Forgetting information is common. One way to prevent the loss
of information is through repetition of information in addition to a
steady cadence of training sessions.
Unfortunately, most training scenarios don’t allow us to understand
how a given concept for a given individual is forgotten. The logistics
required to assess in a real-world environment are often too expensive
and labor-intensive. However, with VR, the ability to assess real-world
experiences on-demand allows for a training procedure that can
provide the right supplemental training over time so that learning
doesn’t completely fade.4
Forgetting curve based in Ebbinghaus’s work (1885) demonstrating
the decay of learning over time with no training following the initial
training session. VR can help combat this steep decline in retention.
4. Feedback / Reinforcement
It’s common practice to provide feedback during training. But almost
no consideration is given to how feedback timing and presentation
can lead to different learning outcomes. More specifically, experiential
learning that relies on “learning by doing” critically relies on providing
immediate feedback once a response is made.
Essentially, the “learning by doing” system requires a neurochemical
(dopamine) to be released in a very short time-frame after a response
is made (less than a second). If the dopamine release occurs too late,
the ‘learning traces’ that were active when a response was made (visual
information, other perceptual and conceptual information) has faded
away, resulting in a lack of learning.5
Training and Development Excellence Essentials presented by HR.com | 01.2018 Submit your Articles 5