Virtual reality (VR) is a fascinating technology that allows users to immerse themselves in a dynamic and adaptive 3D world of 360 degrees. In this digital universe, they can move and interact with tactile and sensory feedback by simply wearing a visor and, if necessary, haptic gloves. Primarily associated with the world of video games, VR is increasingly becoming a training tool. It even appears to be the technology of the future for acquiring a wide range of practical and experiential learning necessary for the initial and ongoing training of professionals in various fields. Here are eight of its fascinating advantages in this regard!

Versatile and adaptive. Virtual reality offers the possibility of recreating a wide variety of professional environments and a diversity of tasks that learners can practice to the point of complete mastery in customized scenarios. While it is ideal for honing specific technical skills, it is also excellent — thanks to the integration of avatars in the scenarios — for developing soft skills such as communication, critical thinking or decision-making. VR can also be used to become more empathetic, better manage stress and increase self-confidence in specific situations. Furthermore, by collecting data on user behaviours and performance, this technology allows training to be fine-tuned and personalized with great precision.

Safe and standardized. Virtual reality is ideal for training to develop skills required in environments that are complex to reproduce, remote, or involve a certain degree of danger. In addition, it allows educational institutions to offer standardized, empirical-based training to large numbers of learners.

The most immersive and realistic. Of all the high-fidelity simulation technologies, it is by far the most powerful in convincing the users’ brains that they are indeed in a world of their own and in generating sensations and emotions of the intensity of those felt in a real context. A high level of fidelity and realism is associated with effective learning.

It gives the right to make mistakes. It is by practicing that we learn best and the right to make mistakes is fundamental in this process. In this sense, VR is an ideal playground: not only does it allow the learner to make mistakes safely and without the judgment of others and to practice as long as necessary, but it also corrects the learner in real-time. Thanks to neuroscience, we now know that this immediate feedback, this return on error, is a crucial step for effective learning.

Playful. The possibilities of gamification offered by virtual reality are not insignificant since we know today that the virtues of play for learning are to be taken seriously, even among adults. VR gives the opportunity to create realistic or non-realistic universes that include gamification elements. Let’s remember that gamification consists in integrating into the design of the training course mechanisms specific to games: challenges, rewards, personal progress, etc. It encourages learners to develop their values and attitudes, such as openness to new experiences, curiosity, risk-taking and the ability to learn from their failures. It also helps them maintain a positive attitude, focus on achieving their goals (e.g., getting a reward), and encourages discussion, competition and collaboration among participants. Finally, gamification can help develop motor skills: video games, in particular, can be used to improve reflexes and accuracy.

Convenient and flexible. Virtual reality meets the needs of today’s learners for flexibility and autonomy, giving them access to hyper-sophisticated distance learning that requires little set-up time and practice space. And since the equipment is increasingly portable, it can be used anywhere and at any time, which is beneficial in terms of convenience and learning since the user can optimally stagger their training.

A profitable choice for the future. While VR equipment remains expensive — although it is becoming more and more accessible — it can be a worthwhile investment when compared to the other resources required to ensure quality simulation training (various technological devices, physical locations, teaching staff, facilitators for the design of simulations, etc.). Not to mention that with the new realities brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, educational institutions can no longer postpone their entry into the digital age, and, as a result, VR has become a wise choice to invest in for the long term.

Peer learning and teamwork. With its multiplayer feature, VR opens the door to peer learning and teamwork, where multiple users can come together in the same virtual world, interacting with each other and the environment. With this boundary-breaking feature, a learner can be supervised by an expert anywhere in the world or join a group at a distant university to learn a new approach. This advantage of virtual reality allows for collaborations and sharing of best practices in various fields on an international scale, which also means greater democratization of access to such education.

Catherine Meilleur

Catherine Meilleur

Communication Strategist and Senior Editor @KnowledgeOne. Questioner of questions. Hyperflexible stubborn. Contemplative yogi

Catherine Meilleur has over 15 years of experience in research and writing. Having worked as a journalist and educational designer, she is interested in everything related to learning: from educational psychology to neuroscience, and the latest innovations that can serve learners, such as virtual and augmented reality. She is also passionate about issues related to the future of education at a time when a real revolution is taking place, propelled by digital technology and artificial intelligence.