Guido Helmerhorst
Founder & CGO

Benefits of immersive learning

Research about retention on the short term and the long term.

As a company operating in the immersive learning space, positive studies about learning with VR can boost our entrepreneurial spirits. But they need to be treated with care. Results can be promising (but often not conclusive and in need of more research) and - when interpreted in the right way and supported with the right structure - can predict positive results and impact, also in your context.

In this post I will discuss three of those studies and trying to answer some questions you might have on the results using immersive learning for your organisation or profession.

The 3 studies are:

  • Virtual Reality: CPR training in the Airline Service - the MBO College Airport is the leading mbo (vocational education) | March 2019
  • Virtual Reality: CPR training in the Airline Service - the MBO College Airport is the leading mbo (vocational education) | June 2020
  • The Effectiveness of Virtual Reality Soft Skills Training in the Enterprise | PwC June 2020

Note:  the 3 studies are in a way complementary: the PwC study presents short term findings in relation to retention and is a great resources for setting up VR at scale in enterprises. The ROC study is followup study on a previous study in 2019 and dives into long term retention.


Looking at results and conclusions should be done on various levels. There is no one answer to the question. I get often asked by people who are interested; "What are the results"? The main themes are:

Learning efficiency - Retention

Retention can be found in both studies but have very different meanings: the PwC study talks about relative short term retention (30 days), which would translate more to "learning efficiency" and the ROC study about long term retention(1 year). Both the ROC study from 2019 as the PwC study show no significant learning efficiency improvement using VR in comparison with traditional forms of learning.

The ROC study (2020) however does show a significant difference, which could indicate that VR has no significant impact on short term memory but does have a significant impact on the long term memory, and thus retention!

Note: learning efficiency is often measured with a pre and post test. These test are catered for knowledge retention: the cognitive part of our brain, while this is only 1 part of the brain involved in learning. The experiential and behavioural part are just as important, and therefore we are of the opinion a story-based (hitting all three parts) approach is key to maximise impact.

In order to get a more holistic picture of "results", the performance and the setup are worth exploring further.


Performance I would argue is where cognition, experiential and behavioural meet and is observable in real life. By the learner himself and by their context. Immersive learning has introduced a medium which builds on the qualities of other media, like is shown in this graph of Deloitte in their article (A new approach to soft skill development - Immersive learning for human capabilities) and has now the ability to reach the other parts of the brain simultaneously.

The PwC study used three interesting themes to capture this: confidence, emotional connectedness and focus. Where the latter is more around on how the medium is used, confidence can be connected to behavioural and emotional connectedness to experiential.

And where VR didn't show a significant result on learning efficiency it did on:

  • more confident to act: 275%
  • more emotionally connected: 3.75x

Similar but more qualitative results are mentioned in both ROC studies.

These results show a first glimpse of the fact that immersive learning opens up a way of broadening the assessment of performance, supported with data.

The setup

Content is king, but the results as discussed above are heavily impacted by the setup of the VR training, since it is still early days. That goes both for hardware as for culture and organisational support.

The ROC 2020 report for example states the importance of facilitation and the guidance for the learners as well as the first time facilitators who are dealing with a room full of headsets for the first time. In order to facilitate the trust of the learner to engage and immerse him or herself in the training all obstacles should be removed. Or otherwise put: hardware, software and context should form a perfect harmony. A challenge but certainly not impossible.

The PwC report is elaborate on the what they call the "Technology and Operations Considerations". Things to consider are:

Accessibility: the number of people to be trained versus the hardware model (1:1 or 1:to many) and geographic locations(s). Not every company has the resources, or organisational will power (yet) to deploy thousands of headset. Providing you users with ease of use and stepping stones (from desktop, tablet, mobile phone to VR headsets) is a deliberate choice we made.

Security: protection of the personal data. Companies often have enterprise hardware in place which immersive learning should be a part, also because as also the PwC report states immersive learning is part of a blended learning approach. The connection with a Learning Management Systems enhances security and lowers the threshold to move from training to performance.

Sanitation: specially in these COVID times; the spread of the virus makes hygienics more important than ever and having VR headsets going from hand to hand and face to face is not something people are comfortable with (and rightly so). Various intense cleaning options are marketed - UV cleaning for example - to reduce this risk, but headsets going from face to face is not a hurdle people are taking lightly.

This is one of the reasons we provide a mobile phone app which allows for individual use of universal headsets.

Next time, when someone asks "what about results"  during a conversation on immersive learning, you have a more holistic way to answer that question. Want to talk more about results, performance, story-based, the three parts of the brain or the setup, please connect with me or the team!

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