Is virtual training the future of work?

virtual training
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In this article, the Luminous Group explore the long-term benefits of digital-based training for employers and employees

The last twelve months have seen a huge shift in the world of work. Restrictions have meant that many of us have had to adapt to working from home. This in turn has impacted many industries, and the effect is particularly clear when it comes to training.

In April 2020, the Office for National Statistics reported that 46.6% of people were working from home in some capacity. Within that 46.6%, 86% were working from home due to the pandemic.

The impact of the pandemic and its restrictions have seen virtual learning opportunities grow rapidly. It’s undeniable that allowing employees to learn while in the workplace is vital for a business to continue to grow, and technology such as virtual learning is key to this. Technology has provided a number of innovations for the learning environment, and now that we are connected around the world like never before, information is just a click away.

Investing in training is also beneficial for lowering staff turnover. According to LinkedIn, 94% of employees stated they would remain with their companies longer if the business invested in their development. This crucial element does not need to grind to a halt with restrictions – virtual learning can keep the investment in your employees flowing. Employees can work from home and still gain new skills to improve their performance at work.

Virtual learning isn’t merely a back-up plan for the pandemic either. It’s set to become a permanent potential improvement for training moving forward.

Virtual training for practical understanding

There are many working environments that can be complex, such as factories with machinery. This complexity can lead to a potential risk to workers in terms of safety. While studying manuals is certainly an important part of any specialist’s job, using digital learning tools can be a safer and more practical way to get virtual hands-on experience.

Using lasers and real images, a factory environment can be recreated in a virtual learning world. Workers can then learn the space without ever stepping foot in the real factory or impacting working operations. Plus, 3D models can be created to replicate the equipment and machinery a worker will interact with. Trainees will be able to press buttons and locate tools without any physical risk if something “goes wrong” with the machinery – this machinery is just pixels!

Malfunctions are, thankfully, uncommon, but they remain an important risk factor to consider when training in the real world. In the virtual world, such examples can be examined from a safe distance. These simulations can replicate a malfunction scenario that would not be demonstratable on physical equipment.

Blending reality

When you think of virtual reality, you may think of headsets and videos. But in truth, the technology is rapidly becoming so much more. New branches of virtual technology such as augmented reality can be a useful training tool for those working at home. For example, engineers and architects can look at a to-scale model of their work before it’s even made into a prototype thanks to augmented reality.

How does this work? Augmented reality is, quite simply, a way to overlay the digital world onto the real world. Using cameras, computers, and phones, images can be superimposed into the real world, such as putting a 3D model of a design onto your desk. This allows you to “see” the product in all dimensions, rather than having to picture it from a 2D sketch on paper. Being able to literally see a model at all angles allows you to identify issues that may otherwise have gone unnoticed. It’s even possible to add interfaces to a model, so it can be interacted with via touch or approach.

Being able to partake in active learning can help increase examination scores. One study showed that examination scores increased by six per cent when students used active learning as part of their studies. On the flip side, students who used traditional lecturing are 1.5 times more likely to fail.

Conferences in the virtual world

One aspect of virtual work that everyone has had experience of in the past twelve months is video meetings and conferences. Microsoft Teams and Zoom both experienced rapid spikes in downloads during the pandemic – in the UK, Google search trend data shows ‘Microsoft Teams’ increased by 742 per cent between January and March 2020.

Video calls on platforms such as these have enabled workplaces to continue to run remotely. Collaboration has continued to thrive thanks to the digital meeting room, and training sessions can go ahead as planned by shifting to a virtual environment. These events call also be recorded to recap later.

As time goes on and companies embrace digital learning more and more, we can expect to see this technology grow. For example, virtual reality opens the door for digital avatars to meet in a digital office, rebuilding that sense of connection between colleagues even if they work remotely. Virtual reality training is already available to do just that, supporting collaborative work regardless of physical distance.

Virtual learning is certainly here to stay, and it’s here to make improvements too. As technology improves further and further, we’re going to see ever more immersive experiences. From augmented collaboration to intelligent simulations, the workplace is embracing the virtual world.

Sources

https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/bulletins/coronavirusandhomeworkingintheuk/april2020

https://www.luminousgroup.co.uk/solutions/immersive-training/

https://learning.linkedin.com/resources/workplace-learning-report

https://www.pnas.org/content/pnas/111/23/8410.full.pdf

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