Bridging the skill gap: XR for Learning and development
The skill gap is a growing concern for organizations globally. In today’s fast-paced and significantly evolving job market, organizations face a major challenge when filling the skill gap. This skill gap, which is the difference between the skills needed for a job and the skills possessed by the available workforce, can significantly impact the productivity and success of an organization.
As the nature of work evolves rapidly, the demand for new and specialized skills has increased, making it more challenging for organisations to fill vacancies with the right talent. The Skill Gap Report 2023 by John Wiley found that the skills gap is one of the organizations’ top challenges today. This is where extended reality (XR) comes in. It not only improves the process for organizations, but also increases their ROI by cutting down on operation and training time. Today, we will explore in depth how XR can be used for learning and development to bridge the skill gap and improve employee performance.
Understanding Extended Reality (XR)
Before we delve into the potential of XR for Learning & Development, let’s first understand what XR is. XR is an umbrella term that encompasses augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR). It refers to a broad category of technologies that enhance our perception of the world around us by overlaying digital information on top of the physical world. Each of these technologies offers a different level of immersion, but all involve the integration of digital elements into the physical world or the creation of a completely digital world.
Augmented Reality (AR) overlays digital information over the physical world in real-time, enhancing our perception of reality. AR can be used to provide visual instructions, display data in real time, or to help users navigate complex environments. Examples of AR include Snapchat filters and Pokemon Go.
Virtual Reality (VR) is a wholly immersive experience that simulates a real-world environment or creates a completely artificial one. VR can be used to provide hands-on training for complex tasks or to simulate dangerous or challenging environments. VR involves creating a completely digital environment that can be explored using a VR headset.
Mixed Reality (MR) is a combination of AR and VR, where digital objects are placed into the physical world and can interact with it. MR can be used to provide interactive training or to create immersive experiences that enhance learning.
Advantages of XR over Traditional Training Methods
XR offers several advantages over traditional training methods, such as classroom training and e-learning. Firstly, it provides a more immersive and engaging experience for learners. By simulating real-world scenarios, XR can help learners develop practical skills in a safe and controlled environment. When learners are immersed in a digital environment, they are more likely to retain information and remember what they have learned.
Secondly, XR can be used to provide personalized training experiences. With XR, learners can progress through training at their own pace, and trainers can track their progress and provide feedback in real time.
Finally, XR can be more cost effective than traditional training methods. By using XR, organizations can reduce the need for physical training environments, materials, and equipment.
Another advantage of XR is that it allows learners to practice and apply their skills in a safe and controlled environment. For example, surgeons can practice complex procedures in a VR environment before performing them on real patients. This not only improves their confidence but also reduces the risk of errors during the actual procedure.
XR in Learning and Development
XR can be used for both technical skill training and soft skills training. As we look at some stats, use of XR makes it 4 times faster to train compared to classroom training, the confidence to apply skills learned after training becomes 2.75x, learners feel 375% more connected to XR content than traditional content, and they are 400% more focused than e-learning peers.
It has the potential to revolutionize Learning & Development, particularly in industries that require technical or practical skills. Technical skill training involves training employees on specialized skills, such as engineering and medical procedures. Soft skills training involves developing interpersonal skills, such as communication, leadership, and teamwork.
For example, in the medical industry, XR can be used to simulate surgeries and procedures, allowing medical students to gain practical experience without the need for a physical patient. In engineering, XR can be used to simulate the assembly of complex machinery, allowing technicians to practice and improve their skills in a safe environment. Ford Motor Company uses VR to train its employees on assembly line procedures. The VR simulations allow employees to practice assembling car parts without having to shut down the production line, saving time and money.
But XR isn’t just limited to technical skill training. It can also be used to develop soft skills, such as communication and leadership. XR can simulate team-building exercises or provide scenarios that require effective communication and collaboration.
As an example, Walmart has used VR to train its employees in customer service. The VR simulations allow employees to practice interacting with customers in different scenarios and receive feedback on their performance. This not only improves their customer service skills but also their confidence in dealing with customers.
Implementation of XR
While XR offers several advantages over traditional training methods, implementing XR in Learning and Development can be challenging. Organizations need to consider several key factors before implementing XR, such as the cost of equipment, the need for specialized trainers, and the availability of suitable software.
Implementing XR for learning and development requires careful planning and consideration. Before implementing XR, organizations must identify the skills that need to be developed and the learning objectives they want to achieve. They must also ensure that the technology is accessible to all learners and that they have the necessary hardware and software to use XR. The organization must also have a team of experts who can design and develop XR content that aligns with the learning objectives and is engaging for learners.
To implement XR effectively, organizations need to consider the following:
Identify the right use case
The first step in implementing XR in Learning and Development is to identify the right use case. Organizations need to determine which skills can be effectively trained using XR and which training methods can be replaced by XR.
Choose the right technology
Once the use case has been identified, organizations need to choose the right technology for the job. This includes choosing the right hardware, such as VR headsets or AR glasses, and the right software, such as simulation programs or interactive training modules.
Develop the content
Developing content for XR training requires a different approach than traditional training methods. Content needs to be interactive, engaging, and designed specifically for XR. This requires the input of subject matter experts, instructional designers, and XR developers.
Implementing XR in Learning and Development requires specialized trainers who understand how to use the technology and how to train learners effectively using XR. Organizations need to invest in training trainers to ensure they have the skills and knowledge required to deliver effective XR training.
Organizations need to evaluate the effectiveness of XR training. This includes tracking learner progress and performance, assessing the impact of XR training on productivity and skill development, and gathering feedback from learners and trainers to improve the training experience.
One of the key considerations when implementing XR for learning and development is the cost. XR technology can be expensive, and organizations must determine if the benefits outweigh the costs. However, the cost of XR technology has been coming down in recent years, making it more accessible for organizations.
Support and Maintenance
Another consideration is the need for ongoing support and maintenance. XR technology requires regular updates and maintenance to ensure it functions properly. Organizations must have a strategy and roadmap in place to provide ongoing support and maintenance to learners who use XR for training.
XR is here to revolutionize learning and development by providing an immersive and engaging learning experience that can bridge the skill gap and improve employee performance. By providing immersive, engaging, and personalized training experiences, XR can help organizations develop the skills necessary to succeed in today’s competitive environment. While implementing XR in Learning and Development can be challenging, the benefits are clear.
While XR technology can be expensive, its benefits make it a worthwhile investment for organizations that want to bridge the skill gap and improve employee performance. As the cost of XR technology continues to decrease and more organizations begin to adopt it for learning and development, we can expect significant improvements in employees’ skills and performance across various industries.