Over the last seven months, as I’ve researched the use of virtual reality (VR) to support learning and explored its potential with numerous L&D professionals, it’s been really encouraging to see the focus expand from subject areas such as health and safety and employee on-boarding (always a sound starting point) to how VR could be used to support behavioural change programmes.
In part this stems from the power of VR to deliver the concept of “presence”, which – in fact – I maintain should be one of the primary drivers for choosing a VR option.
“Presence” is the sense of becoming someone else, being somewhere else, or interacting with something that’s not actually there.
It’s also down to the fact that the use of 360° video – one of the most straightforward means of getting started with VR – offers a lot of scope to deliver an appropriate immersive experience to support this type of training.
Putting the learner at the heart of the action
In any 360° video production, the camera is the learner. Whatever the learner sees when they put the headset on comes from the standpoint of the 360° camera, whether they look to the left or right, in front of them or behind, or even upwards or down towards their feet.
For behaviour skills training, this means that real time action can take place around the learner. Unlike with just watching a linear video, a 360° experience literally wraps the learner within the action and brings them face-to-face with the relevant interactions. Background sounds can also be brought to bear on the learning environment too. Wearing the headset also helps to minimise any distractions.
Don’t forget that a VR experience can be an intense one, so keep your VR sessions short. Between 3 and 5 minutes at a time is recommended. Though that doesn’t mean you can’t offer a number of linked scenes, possibly delivered in-class as part of a blended workshop, over which you tell the complete story.
Supporting one-to-one conversations
Role play is still a popular method of instruction in face-to-face training and – to date – it has also been possible to deliver this in a digital format, through branching scenarios within online learning. But this loses the impact gained in an in-person experience. 360° video can change that by literally bringing the learner “up close and personal” with another person.
The learner can be introduced to the other party (ideally played by an actor to provide the highest levels of authenticity) and by superimposing visual choices on screen, the learner can select different options to direct the conversation, with a simple tap of a button (on a Google Cardboard) – or touch pad (on a more advanced VR headset).
In such a VR role play, the learner not only hears what the other person is saying, they can also experience their body language first hand. Even cultural factors such as how much personal space is used by the other party – and how they night encroach on the learner’s – can be factored in.
Some of the more popular topics that L&D professionals are looking at here include:
- Handling conflict
- Customer service and sales
- Coaching and appraisals
- Recruitment interviewing
There is also nothing stopping you including two or more other players in the scene. Perhaps there are two client representatives who need to be placated in the conflict resolution scenario, or maybe you are able to call upon the services of a colleague to help you as the scenario plays out.
You might also want to consider allowing the learner to experience things from both sides, taking each role in turn and trying out the different options from both perspectives.
Supporting the learner as “director”
An alternative to placing the learner at the heart of the conversation is to have them take the role of observer and “guide on the side”. We often see this scenario in classroom role plays, where the observer learns from observing the behaviour of those playing the parts.
With 360° video, it’s possible for the learner to watch two actors undertaking the role play, to reflect on what they are seeing, e.g. how well did one party’s question move the conversation on; and then to guide the next stage of the conversation. As well as listening to what is being said, they can observe – in real time and close up – what the body language of each party is saying. Perhaps certain responses result in one party storming out of the scene.
Again, by using superimposed visual choices, the learner can pause the action when things aren’t going so well and make suggestions to one or more of the parties as to what to say next.
Some of the topics that might be addressed with this approach include:
- A coaching session
- A performance review meeting
- A recruitment interview
- A conflict resolution meeting
Supporting team leadership and meetings management training
Finally, given a 360° video experience means you have all the space around the learner to play with, it’s feasible – with careful scripting and rehearsal – to place the learner at the heart of a team working scenario or meeting.
You might decide to place the learner in the centre of the room or table and have them react appropriately to the conversations and debates that ensue during the scene. Or perhaps you will place them at the head of the table, looking across to their colleagues and leading the agenda. Again, using visual cues and option choices will enable the learner to control what happens next.
Some ideas for skills to practice here include:
- Encouraging contributions from all parties
- Dealing with those who are trying to monopolise the conversations
- Handling conflict between members
- Asserting yourself
- Reacting to negativity
- Acknowledging cross-cultural differences across the team
- Managing late-comers and other interruptions
- Kicking off a new project planning meeting
I’m sure you’ll be able to add many more to this list.
Again, you could potentially switch roles during the scenario, experiencing things from both the team/meeting leader’s point of view and that of an attendee.
Hopefully this has given you some ideas about how you could use the immersive nature of a 360° video VR experience to support behavioural skills training. Keep in mind the power that VR offers to create a sense of “presence” and set your scenes and write your scripts accordingly to place the learner firmly at the heart of the action. And remember that including VR as part of a blend is a good way to start out with this new form of learning technology, using it to provide the all-important practice layer.