Continuing education is increasingly growing in popularity and it is becoming more and more a necessity for the majority of us. In a variety of industries, such as medical industry, finance, engineering just to name a few, but also in many other professions, continuing education is mandatory to ensure that professionals are aware of the latest trends in their industry. Many of us nowadays are required to undergo training on a regular basis. Within the realm of continuing education, EdTech is increasingly gaining ground over in-person courses held in brick-and-mortar venues, considering that e-learning is more convenient, cost-saving, flexible and overall easier to organize than physical training.
Despite its popularity, however, traditional e-learning based on webinars and online classes has so far been missing something that can easily be achieved in a physical learning environment where a group of people gathers to learn: presence. With e-learning we gained in flexibility and cost-effectiveness, but this came at a price. We lost presence, that is an integral part of the in-person learning experience made up of collaboration, interaction and immediacy.
Bridging the Gap Between Online and In-Person Classes With Social VR
Virtual reality is now significantly advancing the online training industry and is set to disrupt the online learning experience. Thanks to avatar-based social VR, it is possible to create immersive learning experiences that combine the flexibility of online training, typical of e-learning, with the immediacy and real-life interaction, typical of physical in-person classes.
Learning institutions, enterprises, and trainers can create dedicated learning environments to provide content in a variety of formats. In virtual reality environments, it is now possible to do more than in traditional e-learning settings, since digital learning assets are not limited to slides and videos, but can also incorporate 360 videos, interactive activities, and 3D renderings of objects and equipment that allow for a more immersive training and more understandable and memorable learning experiences. This already by itself transforms the way e-learning is conceived.
The real game-changer of virtual reality in training, however, is the social component. Allowing avatars to interact and engage with each other as if they were physically in person in the same location, creates the sense of presence that was until now missing in traditional e-learning.
People can attend presentations as avatars, see each other, engage, move inside an environment to follow a learning path, ask questions to the presenter or talk and chat in groups during break-out sessions, team work activities and exercises. They can collaborate around content and present results of their group work to their trainers and colleagues. All these activities replicate the real-life dynamics typical of in-person training.
Gamification in VR as a New Way to Engage Learners
Additionally, inside a VR environment it is possible to incorporate gamified learning activities. Gamification has picked speed in the last few years as a way to keep an audience engaged during an online activity, such as a webinar. In VR, it is possible to finally blend virtual reality and a new generation of gamification activities performed in three-dimensional VR environments where people can engage also ‘spatially’ with the gamified environment during virtual reality classes of new generation.
Scoring, timed activities and rewards are some of the gamification activities that can help improve motivation, engagement and learning attention. When course participants are organized in teams competing against each other in a learning game inside a VR environment, they will be more engaged. In VR, it is possible to easily create a treasure hunt to encourage avatars to explore all booths and content, a team challenge that encourages participation, games, quizzes and tests spread throughout their environment providing people with certificates and badges upon correct completion. Companies and trainers can set up networking and social hours to provide attendees with an opportunity to participate in activities to foster team work and collaboration.
Gamification and Social VR: A Match Made in Heaven
Gamification in VR is also strategic to attract new customers with contests, giveaways and rewards that provide for a discount on their first order. Alternatively, gamification during a VR event also allows for people to earn points by performing certain actions inside the VR environment.
Social virtual reality brings back to e-learning the sense of presence typical of in-person training that is essential to the learning process. Gamification keeps the audience stimulated and concentrated. By blending avatar-based VR and gamification it is also possible to create three-dimensional games that can be performed in teams to enhance collaboration and interaction. Social VR and gamification in VR are therefore set to be the real game changer in the EdTech industry providing for limitless possibilities to change the training landscape forever.
About the Author
Martina Ori, PhD, is Vice President Business Development & Corporate Strategy at Hyperfair, Inc., a San Francisco-based SaaS company that created the world’s leading platform for enterprise events in virtual reality. Martina leads the strategic and operational vision of Hyperfair’s business development and marketing efforts. Passionate about virtual reality, immersive technologies and innovation, frequently featured as guest blogger and speaker about VR at events such as Augmented World Expo and Mobile World Congress.