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Virtual Reality Learning: Does Mobile World Congress 2016 offer a look into the future of eLearning?

The Mobile World Congress 2016 got under way this morning in Barcelona, and a theme has already emerged that hints at what the future may hold for eLearning: virtual reality.

Leading manufacturers including Samsung, LG and HTC have all focused on VR, suggesting we could soon see growing adoption of the technology, both at home and in the workplace.

As mobiles and tablets continue to usurp PCs as the device of choice for Internet browsing, they increasingly influence eLearning. Just look at the recent surge in responsively designed eLearning courses.

So, let’s take a moment to imagine the training possibilities if (or when) virtual reality does become a dominant computing platform.

Virtual Reality Scenarios

Scenarios are one of the most powerful techniques for designing effective learning experiences.

Rather than simply presenting facts to a learner through videos, images, or (worst of all) paragraph after paragraph of text, scenarios engage the learner’s emotions, put them in a position where their responses influence outcomes, and therefore increase engagement and retention.

In short, we love scenarios! Confined to a screen though, scenarios will always have to compete against external distractions like conversations going on around the office, commuters on the tube, and things going on in learners’ peripheral vision.

Virtual reality scenarios, on the other hand, would provide the most engaging, immersive learning experience possible outside of real life – without the risks that come from making real life mistakes.

Augmented Reality

As well as VR headsets, several manufacturers at the Mobile World Congress have announced 360 degree cameras, which would make it possible to place a learner in a virtual recreation of their actual working environment.

One of the biggest challenges faced by any trainer is ensuring learners actually put theory into practice once back in the workplace. The big problem here is context. It’s not typically possible for an eLearning course to feature a learner’s actual office – there are too many combinations of offices and learners – so courses tend to feature generic offices, not ideal for putting learning into context.

Augmented reality could be a solution to this problem. Being able to overlay training onto the learner’s own workplace would contextualise it. With technological advances, it’s not inconceivable to imagine a training course that is actually able to identify risks in the learner’s workplace and point them out to learners.

Virtual Classrooms

When you think of a term like ‘Virtual Classroom’, we bet what comes to mind has more in common with webinars and meetings than classrooms. But that could be about to change.

Facebook have just announced the creation of a social VR team, tasked with creating technology to allow people to connect in a virtual environment, wherever they are in the world.

This technology would revolutionise training, enabling us to deliver a true blend of face to face and eLearning. Imagine whole teams being able to get together in virtual training rooms without the need (or cost) of travel, and course leaders presenting from anywhere in the world.

What’s more: it could take place in a virtual classroom that actually looks and feels like a classroom.

Image by Maurizio Pesce, used under CC2.0

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