Instructional design
Danny de Bruijn
Founder & CXO

The key difference between creating VR learning scenarios and e-learning

Creating a VR training scenario isn't the same as creating an e-learning. You need a different mindset. Let me explain.

Four years ago I wrote my first VR learning scenario based on interactive 360˚ video. Together with the Amsterdam Academic Medical Center (AMC) I created a CPR training. Since then, I have made many more VR learning scenarios for, among others, airline companies, banks, government institutions, educational institutions, pharmaceuticals, oil companies and steel producers. In this blog, I will share the most important things I learned about creating an impactful VR learning scenario with you.

You can find a lot online about active learning strategies such as Problem-Based Learning (PBL) or Scenario-Based Learning (SBL). But little has been written about SBL with the focus on interactive 360˚ video. It’s a shame since a good and effective scenario in VR really change how people learn. In this blog, you will learn what a VR learning scenario is.

An e-learning mindset

It is the third half-day meeting with the client, a major multinational. I am convinced that at the end of this meeting we have written down the basis of the scenario. But at the end of the meeting, I go back to the office with nothing on paper. Why is that?

To start, I do use the same terms as our client, but we unknowingly mean something else. Before you know it, a lot of words and examples are used and everyone sits at the end of the meeting with a headache.

But the main reason why it is a challenge to create a VR learning scenario is that the previously made training courses (also e-learning) were always more about the matter than about the employee. For that reason, I am unable to get anything on paper in the third meeting. The client uses the knowledge and experience they have from E-learning to make a VR learning scenario. And that doesn’t work. So first I have to change the client’s mindset and for that, we need to know the difference between E-learning and SBL.

What is scenario-based learning?

SBL puts you in a real situation that is described in an interactive scenario. You must apply your (professional) knowledge, critical thinking and problem-solving skills by making choices and trying to achieve a successful result. There are no right or wrong answers, but paths for success and failure.

Scenario-based learning is popular with role play. You simulate a situation by playing different roles. For soft-skill training, a situation with an angry customer is often used. One trainee plays the angry customer and the other trainee has to help the fictional customer as well as possible.

E-learning with scenario-based learning makes it possible to play role-playing independently. For instance with a traditional video or with a comic. You can play at your own pace regardless of time and place. You learn how to deal with situations in real life, without anyone else having to play along.

With interactive 360˚ video, you create a VR learning scenario that is even more immersive. You combine the reality of a face-to-face role-play with the scalability of e-learning.

Someone who plays a VR learning scenario on a VR headset.
Someone who plays a VR learning scenario on a VR headset.

It differs from other forms of e-learning because you go through a storyline with answers, rather than answers to different content questions. As a result, SBL focuses on performance improvement rather than correct answers, provides information only when needed, and increases engagement through the use of videos, images and sound.

There is also an important difference in which the content is designed. I often sit with Subject Matter Experts (SME’s) who are used to coming up with content questions about the situation based on their professional expertise. Such as “What makes this an unsafe situation?” Or “What do you need to work at height?”

SBL requires a real (work) situation and activities that go with it. You are part of a story and you can make choices there. I, therefore, ask the SMEs about their experiences, behaviour that is shown in the relevant situation that needs to be trained and what the desired behaviour is. They are often not used to thinking about what can go wrong. Where their focus is on training to do the right thing. It ignores why that choice leads to success or failure.

By understanding why you should or should not do something, you build experience. You can use that in combination with your critical thinking when situations are different from what you have learned. It improves your problem-solving capacity.

It always helps me to illustrate the difference with a (visual) example. In the example below, the scenario is about dropped objects. While creating the scenario, an SME quickly says: “We can make a video of a pump with a camera hanging above it. Then comes the question; What makes this an unsafe situation? “

In this way, it is a question about the content.

E-learning variant of situation A.
E-learning variant of situation A.

Now a VR learning scenario variant of this situation and that starts with a story. You are a mechanic and during the toolbox meeting, you are told by your supervisor that you have to make a pump. That must be done quickly. When you arrive at the pump you will be asked: “what do you do?”. You can select the pump, but you can also select the camera that hangs loose. We do this with hidden Hotspots so that the trainee must actively look around. If you do not see the camera, your colleague will start fixing the pump and the camera will drop on your colleague.

In this way, the question is about an action that you can perform in the story. Instead of a question about the content. That is why we often use verbs in our question to make it active.

VR learning scenario variant of situation A with the hotspots visible for illustration.
VR learning scenario variant of situation A with the hotspots visible for illustration.

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