Virtual learning entails a different training paradigm, one where learners are fully immersed in the learning—more so than other training forms. The COVID-19 crisis makes delivering immersive virtual learning experiences even more imperative.
Create An Immersive Virtual Learning Experience For Your Learners
Connecting with distant learners and keeping them engaged throughout the learning journey is a challenge for L&D professionals. For corporate learners, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has created an additional challenge: How to make the best of training from the comfort of your living room or home office as opposed to the desk in your work cubicle.
This new learning environment means trainers need to work “differently” to keep learners engaged. Given that this non-traditional learning environment requires an equally “non-traditional” training approach, L&D teams must look at offering more immersive virtual learning experiences.
What Is Immersive Learning?
Immersive learning techniques are used across all modes of training delivery—from classroom to blended or fully online mode. Given the mode of delivery, the nature of the content, and the intended cognition level to be achieved, the approach and strategies vary.
What is common across various modes of training delivery is the fact that well-crafted immersive learning techniques help you achieve:
- Positive learner reaction
- Higher engagement
- Better completion rates
- Higher recall and retention (a more sticky learning experience)
- Improved application of acquired learning
- Change in thinking
- Behavioral change
What Is Immersive Learning In The Context Of Virtual Training?
Immersive learning (in the context of virtual training) is essentially training that’s facilitated through a learning environment that moves learners away from just learning through PPT, visuals, video, and audio and trains them by using virtual and artificially-augmented environments. These environments mimic the settings where learners will not only learn better but also apply the knowledge learned through such training. Through specific measures (like spaced repetition), they can effectively trigger behavioral change too.
What Are The Benefits That Immersive Virtual Learning Offers?
Immersive learning offers all the benefits that traditional virtual learning delivers, but it has a host of additional advantages, including:
- Personalized learning: Immerses learners in uniquely customized learning environments (for example, performing work using accessible features of equipment for workers with special needs).
- Do and learn: Interactivity results in more effective knowledge transfer.
- Realistic learning: Produces learners better equipped to take on real-world challenges.
- Fail earlier: Ability to simulate a broad variety of scenarios and prepares the workforce to handle remotely possible, yet difficult/challenging situations.
- Risk-free training: Eliminates training risks associated with high-risk learning (for example, dealing with highly contagious or flammable substances, performing high-risk surgery, etc.).
- Data-driven interventions: Harvesting real-time data on learner interactions. This allows for better and more focused intervention and remedial action.
- Better ROI: Finally, the focus is primarily on a more effective application of knowledge, which typically delivers positive impacts on business outcomes and, therefore, better ROI.
What Immersive Virtual Learning Tips And Strategies Can You Use As You Plan A Transition From Classroom To VILT Or A Blended Or A Fully Online Mode?
The transitioning from classroom-based to 100% online, immersive virtual learning must be gradual, and each phase of the transition demands different approaches to create immersive virtual learning experiences.
Initially, your strategy must support the switch from Instructor-Led Training (ILT) to largely Virtual Instructor-Led Training (VILT).
- Tip 1: At this stage, you need to map the interaction and participation techniques used in the classroom setting to what the VILT delivery platform enables you to do.
- Tip 2: You can also identify new interactions that are now feasible—this wasn’t the case with the classroom mode.
Over time, you’ll transition to a blended model, with employees learning largely on their own (self-paced), but also supported by VILT when required. This would require a different set of strategies.
- Tip 1: At this stage, not only can you leverage the interaction and collaboration features of the VILT delivery platform, but you can also augment them with the wide-ranging immersive techniques that self-paced training offers.
- Tip 2: You can opt for mobile learning or mobile apps for learning and offer a microlearning-based learning journey that can be personalized . Additionally, you can pick from wide-ranging strategies, including gamification; scenario-based learning; complex branching simulations; or, go for super immersive techniques, like AR/VR techniques.
As you then move to fully online virtual training, there’ll be intermediate phases where you enhance, enrich, and re-purpose content throughout your journey to create immersive virtual learning experiences.
- Tip 1: As highlighted above, you can pick from any of the abovesaid strategies to create immersive virtual learning.
- Tip 2: Additionally, you can offer connects to the learners that help with reinforcement, practice, proficiency gain, and so on.
What Immersive Virtual Learning Strategies Can You Use As You Opt For A Fully Online Mode?
To create effective and immersive virtual learning experiences, consider leveraging our learning and performance ecosystem for your workforce, and provide value-adds in their learning journey through the following:
- Capture attention about training opportunities: Leverage newsletters and teaser videos to highlight the significance of the initiative
- Build awareness around What’s In It For Me (WIIFM): Highlight what is the value this training will provide to learners
- For formal training, opt for immersive learning strategies like:
- Gamification 
- Scenario-based learning
- Interactive story-based learning
- Branching scenarios
- Complex decision-making simulations
- Augment formal training with performance support tools (PSTs) or job aids: For knowledge application/assisting the learners at the moment of need
- Post the training
- Reinforce learning to minimize knowledge erosion (addressing the forgetting curve)
- Continually challenge workers with more complex and advanced learning content
- Provide practice zones where learners can hone their skills
- Reconnects: additional cues through related curated assets to keep the learning journey going
- Offer social or collaborative learning opportunities so learners can learn through peer networking and other group forums—both within and outside of the work environment
The unique capabilities of an immersive virtual learning experience help seamlessly connect learners with a broad array of learning content, best practice processes, and supporting tools. They provide a richer and holistic approach to delivering virtual training, which helps to enhance workforce performance. Before embarking upon a path of creating immersive virtual learning experiences, it’s important to put together a strategy for success. L&D professionals must undertake a detailed learning resource audit to identify content changes to support immersive learning. Next, make decisions about appropriate technologies and learning platforms. And finally, ensure your L&D teams, as well as frontline support staff, receive adequate training to support the new solution.
I hope my article provides insights you can use to create immersive virtual learning experiences for your learners.