Instructional Design in VR Training

360 immersive had the pleasure of discussing instructional design with Monica Price, a noted instructional designer, and self-proclaimed Virtual Reality enthusiast.  Monica has a unique perspective on the value of VR and how micro learning simulations can enhance engagement and ultimately increase retention rates.

David Cleverdon: Hi, this is David Cleverdon from 360 Immersive. Today, we have the pleasure of discussing instructional design and Virtual Reality. To lead the discussion, we have Monica Price. Now, Monica is not only an instructional designer, but she has extreme interest and passion for VR or virtual reality. Can you tell us just a little bit about how that stated and where it’s led you?

Monica Price: Right, so I started my master’s in, I think 2009. I did a paper on a game that I was playing at the time. It was a Wii game, and you were a surgeon, and you excised cancer tumors, right? As I was playing that game and learning about all the instructional design –

David Cleverdon: Virtually, right?

Monica Price: Virtually, right.

David Cleverdon: Virtually, sure.

Monica Price: It was totally virtually. I’m not a blond girl, so that’s not gonna happen. As I was learning about the theories and the scientific basis for modern instructional design, it occurred to me that these games and these virtual realities, that this could be a really powerful overlay for the theories that we currently work with, right? Because, currently, we have these theories. We put them into instructor-led training, in person or virtually. We put them into PowerPoint. We put them into eLearning. We put them into learnings. You put them up on your phone. We don’t have the ability to have a saleable and cost-effective way to create an environment for people to apply knowledge, right?

What really excites me with the VR is that you can build an environment, right? Your brain works on patterns. It’s always looking for pattern recognition. If you’re walking into an environment that you’re gonna be working in, right? Your training should always center on the work environment. You want it to be as close as possible. VR allows you to make almost exact, right? If you had different terrains that you needed to be mapped in there, you can get those. Then if you put somebody out on the field and they can see the terrains, it’s gonna feel like they’ve been there before.

David Cleverdon: You use the word feel. We use that a lot where if we’re watching a PowerPoint presentation or if we’re watching – let’s look at a video, even a YouTube video – it’s a passive experience. You’re just watching. In VR, you feel like – you feel. You feel.
Monica Price: Yeah. Your brain is engaged with your eyes and your ears. What it sees and what it hears is real to it. Doesn’t make a difference that it’s virtual or not. To your mind, to your brain, that’s real, right? It depends on the learning. You can pick up a lot of information on YouTube videos. How do I groom my poodle, right? That’s great, but you’re only gonna learn so much and at a certain level, right? Every time I need to groom my poodle again, I have to go back and look at that video because I’ve forgotten, right?

David Cleverdon: Right.

Monica Price: I haven’t integrated it into my world. VR, I think, with some Merrill’s Principles overlaid into the VR, you can teach inside that environment, you can do the application inside that enlightenment, and you can have the learner integrate the knowledge into their world. Once the knowledge is integrated into their world, they retrieve it at will whenever they need it.

Or, even sometimes – if you’ve ever walked into a room and you felt like you’ve been there before because there’s a certain wallpaper or whatever – something feels familiar, and you can almost get that sort of déjà vu training, right? They’ve been in this environment. They’ve learned these things. They walk into this environment in the real world on the job, and it’s almost like they’ve been there before. There’s a sort of déjà vu experience where they can then – I know what to do, right? I don’t have to be trained. I don’t have to go back and look. I don’t have to upskill.

David Cleverdon: Because you’ve done it before.

Monica Price: Because you’ve done it before.

David Cleverdon: That’s right. If you think about it, the most impactful – let’s use training for a second – experience is something that you go out and do. Of course, that’s different in the training world. People in organizations run simulations all the time to help replicate that. What if we could take that same experience that would build that degree of impact and ultimately lead to a degree of retention? So, course and content retention is really your gold standard, right?

Monica Price: Right.

David Cleverdon: You’re looking for people to retain the knowledge that you design into a course, and VR, it actually engages at a different level from a brain activity – correct? When you’re actually – it’s like muscle memory. An athlete will go out. They’ll do the same play, the same task over and over again to excel on the playing field. Why don’t we apply that same thing in training our education? VR lets us do that.

Monica Price: Right, and training costs money.

David Cleverdon: That’s right.

Monica Price: It does. It costs time. It costs money. Anytime you can go from novice to mastery and you can shorten that distance, you’re gonna save money, right? The athlete who just knows how to throw that ball or knows how to run, they’ve done that to the point of mastery. It has taken the time – a lot of time. Well, when you’re training your employees, you don’t always have that amount of time to teach them to the mastery level. If you can teach them to the mastery level, your business is going to do better because, now, you have a whole field of people who are experts at what they’re doing as opposed to some are in the middle, right? Or at the novice level.

You can say you’ve got onboarding training. You’re onboarding your new employees. You talk about a lot of investment in time and training to onboard the new employees to get them up to a level where they can be productive, whether it be manufacturing or on the phone. If you can reduce that time, and you can put them into that virtual environment and, like I said, overlay some of those principles and get them to pull that information into their world, then they’re gonna be able to excel to the mastery level faster. It’s gonna cost less overall. You’re gonna have more productive employees in a shorter amount of time.

David Cleverdon: There’s a chart called the Cone of Experience. I don’t know if you’ve seen that, but it basically deals with ways that we learn. Ways that we learn are reading a book, hearing something, seeing something, watching a video, maybe watching a PowerPoint presentation. The amount of information that we can actually retain and take away from it, we can actually learn and go on and apply to our job or whatever the task that it might be.

We know, for instance, reading a white paper is pretty low. You might retain ten percent of it. It’s just the way it is. Listening to something, a little bit higher. Watching a video, maybe it’s at 30 percent retention. Doing something is, suddenly, you’re 70, 80. 90 percent retention and application of that knowledge and that’s where VR, officially VR simulation, really falls into it because you can fall into that same category of taking the employees out and having them perform the task, but it’s all virtual, so you can replicate it over and over and over again in a cost-effective manner.

Monica Price: Right, and you can coach them while they’re doing it.

David Cleverdon: That’s right.

Monica Price: Right? Say you have a bank teller. They need to be able to interact with our customers, do procedures, follow regulations, and you can put them in that experience rather than having them read. Here are the regulations, right? Because this is what happens a lot of time. Here’s some compliance training. I’d like you to get through that, and then you come back to class, and we’re gonna do a little exercise. They read the compliance training, great.

David Cleverdon: Or they checked the box.

Monica Price: They check the box, but that doesn’t mean they know what it is or how to apply it, right?

David Cleverdon: That’s right.

Monica Price: If you could take somebody and – you just sat down with them virtually and coached them through the whole process, they’re gonna integrate it into the world because, now, they’re in the place where they’re gonna be doing their job, and they’re learning in that place. Everything becomes more natural, right? It becomes easier to access. Your brain is all about – it looks for patterns. Patterns are what pull up information. You wanna activate those neurons. The best way to do that is to make sure that it’s close to reality as possible, right? That’s why, white papers, you retain so little, right?

David Cleverdon: Right.

Monica Price: Because your brain has got to work hard.

David Cleverdon: It looks like this.

Monica Price: Right, your brain’s got to work hard to translate this into something that is actually gonna happen in the real world, right? You lose brain power, so you only retain ten percent of it.

David Cleverdon: Here’s an interesting article. Last year, in Forbes Magazine, one of the top five industries to be dramatically changed by virtual reality in the near future is education and training. It so cries out for a new tool. We joke about the best tool that education and training has come up within the last 20 years is PowerPoint.

Now, we’ve all sat through, what we call, death by PowerPoint. It’s literally you’re just grinding through it so you can check that box off. Imagine being able to take a view VR experiences and sprinkle into that four-hour presentation. Suddenly, your impact goes way up. Your retention is off the charts only because you give something – a learner something they can actually tie to – ties them to the content rather than just watching.

Monica Price: Right. It’s great for me as a designer because you don’t know how many books I’ve had on how to not create death by PowerPoint presentations. You struggle with that. Sometimes it’s hard. To be able to put that application process in there in a way where you’re just dropping them in a world, right?

David Cleverdon: That’s right.

Monica Price: That is so exciting for an instructional designer for myself because they think us all about application, application, application. That’s where learning happens, right? You can present new knowledge, but the application’s where actual learning happens, where you encode it into your brain and store it in memory so you can pull it back up, right?

Just to be able to drop somebody in there and have them apply it, you know that they’re going to be – they’re absorbing it because it’s so real, right? You have a lot of control because they’re looking. You can see where their eyes are going. You know if they’re engaged because you can tell if they’re looking off to the side and not engaging with the content. You can track their eye movement.

David Cleverdon: What we’re really talking about here is what we call embedded assessments. The whole idea of being able to test a group of learners is maybe not even allow them to know that they’re being tested or evaluated within this learning experience. Because we can actually track exactly where they’re looking and how they’re doing specifically to that course content, we can understand a great deal. Some of the other technologies that are coming down the pipe – obviously, multiplayer. If you have a team situation where we want – let’s say we’re doing a hazmat circumstance. We wanna have an instant commander. We wanna have, maybe, three or four other team members. They all have specific roles, and they’re all in this virtual environment acting out the roles, doing the best practices and learning from it, and it’s not just a singular experience. It’s something that is shared, and so they learn better. Biometrics is another technology that’s coming down the pipe. Technology like alternative endings, certainly embedding testing strategy within that content. That all comes back to instructional design.

Monica Price: Yes, because of one of the things that I love and hate – multiple choice, right? I love it because it’s easy. It’s easy for me to create. I hate it because it’s not really a test. It’s not testing you in a real-world environment. Really, what I’m testing is, can you multiple guess this? Do you know enough – in the real world, when you go out to do your job, does anybody give you a bubble sheet at the end?

David Cleverdon: No.

Monica Price: Right? It’s just not realistic, but it is – the world that I have now, in order to build instructional design, it’s a constriction. I have no tool, other than bubble sheets and multiple-choice questions. It’s really hard for companies to invest the money into doing more realistic tests, right? Virtual reality is more cost-effective. You could actually get a better test and not be so far out of the budget, right? What I would love to do on my tests is put people in the situation, and let’s test them out, but the reality is that’s gonna cost a lot more money. Companies can’t invest that. I understand that, right? There’s what I would love as the instructional designer, and then there’s what your manager tells you that you have a budget for.

David Cleverdon: Understood, but if you had a tool that fit those budgetary constraints and actually gave you everything that you wanted from an instructional standpoint, we’re there.

Monica Price: Right.

David Cleverdon: I hate to tell you this, but we are there. Virtual reality will do that.

Monica Price: That’s so exciting.

David Cleverdon: We’ve had an opportunity to really talk about some in-depth conversation regarding instruction design, courseware, and a new technology called virtual reality, or VR. It’s exciting, and we’d like to thank you for joining us.

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