Extended reality (XR), the colloquial term for the variety of immersive technologies encompassing VR and augmented reality, holds significant promise as a learning tool to enhance traditional training programs and methods – but only if implemented and executed correctly.
While many subjects and skills are effectively taught solely through hands-on learning, trainees are beginning to expect more creative and engaging learning and development pathways. As the rise of Extended Reality (XR) gains major traction on a global scale, the opportunities to blend and integrate technology-driven, interactive, and experiential methods of workplace education have never been greater. Recognizing these opportunities, NORCAT has prioritized adding new technologies into our current instructor-led training programs to create a new level of engagement in our students.
Engagement in Training
Blended learning methodologies utilizing technology that our students have exposure to in their everyday lives has the ability to bring training, engagement, and knowledge retention to the next level, resulting in a more productive, efficient, and safe worker who possesses the skills and abilities essential to thrive in the future labor market.
A fancy headset may be the first thing to catch the attention of a student, but the end goal of introducing new technology in a classroom setting is ultimately to enhance – not replace – the learning experience. A common misconception surrounding the use of VR in education is the requirement to replace whole curriculums in order to accommodate the technology. Despite advancements in learning technology, certain topics and courses are more appropriately taught through traditional methods.
VR should be used to explore what would otherwise be impossible for students to experience, for example, NORCAT’s Vale VR training allows trainees to complete virtual reality (VR) pre-operational circle check training tools and exercises for mine equipment, including forklifts, LHD’s (Load, Haul, Dump) and utility vehicles, safely and efficiently without the need to be in the physical mine environment. When a student first dons the VR headset, they can immediately experience an actual underground mine environment, and subsequently, gain spatial awareness of what to expect when taking their first steps underground.
The Key Benefits
The benefits associated with these types of experiences within the mining industry are numerous. Virtual reality technology has the ability to remove barriers of entry and expose trainees to experiences that would otherwise be inefficient, costly, or even impossible in the “real world”. Additionally, these technologies provide a safe and engaging space for exposure to potentially dangerous scenarios and hazardous situations without the risk of bodily harm. Allowing students to have autonomy when training using XR technologies allows them to take charge of their own training, try new things, take risks, fail and ultimately learn from their mistakes without potentially putting themselves in danger or at risk of injury.
The main advantage that we have seen in creating these new experiences is the convenience to train in specific situations and processes. For NORCAT specifically, this means training for underground processes that require access to expensive machines that are located thousands of feet underground is no longer an issue. Instructors have the ability to train their students on the surface more rapidly on a variety of equipment and can extend the duration of training when appropriate to ensure that students have ample time to understand these new processes.
This is applicable not only to our virtual reality technologies but also to the augmented reality technologies that we have developed, including FiAR, the world’s first augmented reality fire extinguisher training tool. Utilizing AR technology, FiAR delivers a realistic fire safety training experience while leaving the learner out of harm’s way. The tool gives trainees the ability to scan their environment, creating custom fire training scenarios with varying types and sizes – without having to start an actual fire.
Overall, we have found that students utilizing our virtual and augmented reality programs for process training are more engaged and have higher levels of knowledge retention than ever before. This not only benefits the student but also the trainers themselves, as it provides them with new tools to effectively deliver content and benchmark and evaluate their own training practices to ensure students are being trained to their utmost potential. With these technologies, trainers now have the opportunity to see where a student is missing knowledge and the power to fill in the gap immediately. At the end of the day, the onus is on the instructor to ensure that students are properly trained and have the necessary skills to do their jobs competently and confidently. These new technology systems make this easier to do by providing trainers with access to content and experiences that would otherwise be next to impossible to access using traditional means.
While the use of virtual reality in the education and training sector is not a new phenomenon, the benefits for students and advantages for learning outcomes will make the technology a game-changer. With careful planning in the implementation process, limitations on knowledge and experience will cease to exist.
Studio NORCAT is the winner of the 5th International VR Awards VR Education and Training of the Year, to learn more about nominations and tickets for the 6th International VR Awards register your interest here.