Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality accomplish two very different things in two very different ways. Adoption of these innovative training methods has progressed quickly into real-world corporate training programs.
With rapid advancements in technology, many fields are becoming increasingly digitised. For those already digitised, such as eLearning, improvements in technology are inspiring new and innovative approaches to traditional methods.
At the cutting edge of this technological development are augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). Opportunities in AR and VR in eLearning creates a world of possibilities that benefit learners, learning providers and businesses.
What is augmented reality?
Augmented reality (AR) is an experience that combines a real-life environment with a computer-generated element, which is usually visual.
For this to work, the real-life environment must be viewed through a screen, such as the one on a smartphone. The AR technology superimposes elements onto what the phone’s camera sees, creating an interactive experience that is both real and computer-generated.
An example of AR is the popular Pokemon Go app. Players point their cameras towards specific locations; then, the app superimposes its characters directly into that environment giving the impression that the characters are in the players’ world.
What is virtual reality?
A virtual reality (VR) experience is completely simulated or entirely computer-generated.
For this to work, a participant must wear a special headset or glasses not to see the real world, but only the simulated - or virtual - world.
Users can still interact with the virtual world they are experiencing; however, this requires quite advanced software and hardware to recognise their movement and incorporate it into the simulation.
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AR and VR in eLearning
AR and VR applications create an interactive learning environment, allowing learners to absorb the content and learn real-time.
They create a far more immersive experience than traditional methods and become increasingly accessible to most learners - AR applications are available on mobile devices.
AR and VR benefits in eLearning materials
Learner interest and engagement
AR and VR offer a completely different experience to traditional learning. Like us all, most learners like watching things and playing things. Creating a learning experience that is more closely related to a “fun” activity like watching a movie or playing a game is instantly more appealing and exciting to learners.
Both AR and VR create immersive experiences, which are significantly different from simply reading (even if it is on screen) or even watching a video. By creating an interactive, immersive world in which participants can learn, they are far more likely to connect with the material and engage more actively with it.
Augment reality puts the learning material directly into the learners’ real world, creating multiple benefits versus traditional eLearning.
VR takes learner engagement a step further by immersing them in a virtual world, literally blocking out all external distractions, allowing the learner to focus solely on the learning experience in front of them.
Create impossible experiences
With AR and VR, you can create immersive and interactive experiences that would otherwise not be possible to take part in for learners.
Whether placing the learner within historical locations, events in time or taking a journey to the edge of the universe. Simulating an interaction that potentially would be too dangerous or impossible to recreate in real life, altered reality software can bring any subject to life.
This flexibility has many benefits for learners. By placing the learner inside the learning material, they are likely to achieve:
- deeper understanding
- better knowledge recall
- improved retention
- more motivation
AR and VR can be incredibly useful in helping learners to visualise and understand topics that are too complex to describe with traditional media, such as anatomical concepts and space phenomena.
Augmented and virtual reality enable learning designers to create courses and experiences that offer practical, hands-on training rather than just theory-based training. There is no substitute for actually doing it when trying to explain certain physical concepts or manual processes.
AR and VR can facilitate this kind of hands-on learning in a far more cost-effective way rather than learners practising with expensive equipment that may cause harm or risk injury or damage. Another advantage is that the learner does not need to leave the office or work from home environment, unlike facilitator lead or hands-on training where the learner has to travel to an educational facility.
Putting the learner first
Augmented and virtual reality learning materials can help to facilitate equal opportunities for learners of all abilities.
The ease of access to augmented reality, in particular, means that all learners with a smartphone can access the materials in the same way, whenever it suits them. Alleviates the need for travel and other measures that may be restrictive for learners with accessibility requirements.
Through AR or VR integration, learners can take part in lectures or practical classes from the comfort of their homes, anywhere in the world. They can also access courses and other learning material retrospectively, without losing the impact of the experience, which gives them the flexibility to learn and explore at their own pace.
Putting the learner first has direct and positive effects on learner retention and the achievement of learning objectives.
Create immersive gamification in eLearning
AR and VR create immersive experiences that place the learner inside the material, harbouring a better connection with - and a deeper understanding of - the subject matter.
Gamification takes gaming elements and incorporates them into the learning material to create a more engaging and enjoyable experience. With AR and VR technology, learning designers can take the gamification of their courses to the next level, with truly interactive and immersive experiences.
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Why AR and VR are effective
The two main reasons that make AR and VR technology immensely effective as eLearning tools are that they place the learner at the centre of the material and demand a focus on excellent content.
The very nature of augmented and virtual reality is that it compliments real-life workplace scenarios. The learner is part of the experience, accessing content first-hand, which creates a deeper connection with the material and inspires greater engagement.
As a predominantly visual medium, AR and VR materials demand the highest quality content. The content in any course is ultimately what attracts learners to return and what helps them to learn, so applying a medium with quality content at its core is a win-win for learners and learning providers alike.
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