Technology has been the common thread of Generation Z, the first group of humans who have had access to the internet since the day they were born. Just like their recreational activities, their educational experience has been scattered with smart devices, apps, online learning platforms, and other technological tools.
Classrooms are often at the forefront of technology adoption. Even with limited budgets, K-12 schools utilize technology as a way to get more out of education with the resources they have. Many children have had access to individual laptops and tablets for a decade or more, and the pandemic ensured that nearly every child in America had access to a device through their school.
More recently, classrooms have adopted augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) tools to expand opportunities for students to interact with the world around them.
This year, Avantis in the UK announced Eduverse, a metaverse platform for K-12 classrooms. Here in the US, McGraw Hill has partnered with Version to launch a free AR app designed to supplement core curriculum with more immersive experiences.
The VR experience is also being utilized in secondary education. Universities across the globe are already using VR to teach languages, gather research data, and help students experience empathy and learn communication skills across a variety of disciplines.
All of this adds up to an entire generation of young workers who are used to viewing the world through a technological lens.
If VR and AR experiences are driving the education of Gen Z and the upcoming Generation Alpha, are the old ways of training workers the best way to engage with people anymore?
Presentation slides and even multimedia courses may feel dull and impersonal in comparison with the digital experiences of younger recruits.
Corporations hoping to find, train, and retain talent in the coming decades should be honing in on the learning techniques used by K-12 institutions.
With VR becoming an increasingly useful tool for teaching foundational skills like social studies and critical thinking, the business world should channel those familiar tools to immerse their workers in their new roles to ensure success.
Some companies have taken note, and are already embracing VR as the future of corporate learning.
FedEX is a great example of this. In 2018, the shipping giant implemented a virtual reality program that gave new delivery drivers a real feel for the work they were signing up for. The immersive environment helped train employees on loading and unloading on the docks, the back of the truck, and at home. The technology is precise enough to follow workers' eye movements and detect if they are off track in an unsafe manner.
According to FedEX, the results were almost immediate––workers were more knowledgeable and safer at work. Beyond that, employees were excited to use the technology, even asking to stay after hours to continue learning.
Luxury retailer Fendi adopted a similar approach, using immersive learning to train employees in an environment as close to the physical store as possible. The training met learners where they were already likely to be––on their smartphones. Ultimately, the training helped Fendi reduce theft by 55% over six months.
Some organizations have been hesitant to adopt VR as a training method, often citing the high cost.
The reality is, VR training doesn’t have to be overly expensive. VR or AR training can be accomplished with a 360-degree camera and the devices employees already have.
Other barriers to entry include things like motion sickness, and workers’ unwillingness to figure out new technology. However, as new generations age into the workforce, they are coming from an academic environment that already includes VR technology, so these hesitancies will likely fade over time.
Just like most human behaviors, it seems that learning is habitual. Once our brains have figured out how to process and retain information, it is difficult to change that way of thinking. The internet forever changed the way we all learn, and virtual reality is building on that. If students are learning with VR in the classroom, the workplace should be prepared to extend that experience within their own training programs. Companies who fail to recognize this fact and implement immersive technology into their training programs will quickly be left behind.
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