No doubt you’ve heard all of the buzz surrounding virtual reality (VR) technology. It’s often talked about in context of gaming and entertainment – but the implications are much further reaching, and can already be seen.

It’s becoming more and more obvious that this platform is going to have an enormous impact on training and development content. Virtual reality will ultimately lead to a more immersive and engaging training experience than just online training or in-person workshops. This will have the ultimate impact of making development efforts more efficient and increasing knowledge retention in learners.

VR has already penetrated the mainstream. Facebook, YouTube, gaming systems, and smartphones are all supporting VR experiences. 360-degree cameras that capture virtual reality footage have become available at the consumer level.

You can get a VR headset and corresponding smartphone for just a few hundred dollars, record 360-degree content, and upload it to social media for anyone to see.

The point is that VR has broken through. The desire is there, the support structures are in place, and the tools for fully implementing VR content are more available now that ever before.

Ok, so we get it. It’s accessible and available, but so what? What is so important about virtual reality that it can change the way we approach training forever?

Take a look at these still captures taken from a video that Virtuality published recently on Facebook. The setup is that people put on the VR headset and stood (or crawled) on an actual narrow wooden plank. Within their headset, they saw the scene below – where the ultimate goal is to rescue a kitty from a wooden plank stretching out from a skyscraper.

This is their view:


What’s fascinating is seeing these very real reactions from people safely on the ground. They’re cautious, timid, terrified.

They are actually experiencing the fear of falling. Look at their bodies. That’s real reaction to a simulated environment.

You can watch the full video from Virtuality here (:44):

So what does this all mean?

It means that people are actually having an immersive experience. They are reacting physically to a simulated environment – creating new patterns of firing neurons in their brain. Learning by doing.

The goal of training and development should be to make people feel and translate their experience into retained knowledge. With virtual reality, now more than ever this is possible.

Here are just a couple specific potential uses of VR technology in training:

Online Training

Imagine a simulated dialog where you’re at a conference table with a project team. You look to your left, your co-worker scribbles notes on a pad. On your right an un-ruley manager is checking his cell phone not-so-subtly under the table. The boss actually makes “eye contact” with you multiple times, addressing you as part of questions you’ll have to answer in the next section.

Live Training

Imagine live training with the benefit of immersive simulation experience. Instead of lecturing, then just playing a video for participants to watch – you load the video simulation into everyone’s headset and allow them to experience the content in first person.

Compliance / Safety

When the stakes are high and training is a matter of safety, virtual reality will give the ability for trainees to experience an immersive environment where they may face the most difficult and potentially dangerous challenges. They can go through the experience in the safety of simulated world and prepare their mind and body to recall proper actions when the time comes.

Consider how much more of an impact this would have on the person experiencing this training. Consider how much more memorable those skills would be.

The significance of virtual reality in training and education can’t really be overstated.

Here’s what the President of the SP Jain School of Global Management, Nitish Jain recently told The Economic Times,

“VR can take education to a whole new level. VR can mimic any situation and we will learn by deep immersion. In other words, we can create real life experiences.”

SP Jain is considered by The Economist to be among the top 100 schools in the world. They are in the process of opening a new campus in Silicon Valley, which will contain virtual reality classrooms.

“Take for example we teach our students how to lead a team of difficult people. Students would actually be able to “be in the room” and experience leadership as though it is really happening.” Jain said.

Virtual reality is truly here and that should be incredibly exciting for anyone who has a role in training employees. At Exploring Potential, we’ve begun working with VR production equipment, testing platforms, and optimizing best practices to ensure we’re at the forefront of training possibilities as the technology continues to evolve.

This technology and experiential learning shift may very well be one of the largest, and most exciting disruptions to the training industry (among many others) ever.

How do you think virtual reality might affect the way you train your employees? Can you think of a way employees could benefit from a more immersive experience?