Guido Helmerhorst
Founder & CGO

VR training during COVID-19: Slow down to speed up

How the COVID-19 crisis impacted our path, but not our destination.

The renewed focus on digitized learning and minimizing costs has opened unexpected doors which have allowed us to share lessons learned with our customers in a different way.

Curveball COVID-19

Mid March we saw many of our customers being affected by the global pandemic and lockdowns. The human and immediate response was to react to the unknown, with full focus on day- to- day operations and putting everything else on hold.

As a vendor, for us that meant a number of projects in our pipeline were immediately put on hold. Most of the projects carried the weight of the next step in VR training for these businesses. Since these projects are in the freezer for now, we tried to find other ways to help move the needle of VR training maturity in organizations which I will share in the "Slow down to speed up" paragraph.

Three phases

From our learnings with our customers we have identified three phases in organizational maturity for VR training:

Pilot - the phase most (new) customers are in, carving out a successful pilot, testing feedback from users, often in small user groups, getting used to working with Warp Studio, testing the LMS integration, using mobile VR vs standalone VR headsets. #Validate

Implementation - the phase where VR training courses become available to bigger groups and implementation is executed as part of a program. Where the interest of other departments is sparked and Warp Studio and the LMS are connected. #BringItOn

Embedded - this is where the impact of VR training is felt across the board in a company. Where VR training is the new normal for a large variety of subjects. VR hardware is part of the IT departments’ toolbox and usage and engagement is continuous. #DidWeEverDoItDifferently

Key learnings

Every stage presented different challenges and together with customers we developed new features to meet needs, created different types of scenarios to meet the learning goals and guided the process where we collectively learned the do's and the don'ts.

People want to renew, but are wary of the new.

The technical VR training scenarios at KLM taught us that - regardless of the bigger picture - you have to start small. Start with one or a couple of scenarios at max and implement. As also that part of the process will have hurdles to overcome and the sooner you learn from them the better. People don't want something new, but they do want to renew.

We learned from Patyna the importance of a razor sharp focus on usability and the smallest details. Every week a group of 10 care takers would be part of a full day classroom program, part of which was a VR experience. Everything about this experience was new, the VR headset (Oculus Go), the controller (which we ended up disabling), the fact that you could and should look around, the experience itself and coming back to reality after the experience. Not to mention the learning curve the trainers had to go through to provide all participants with the necessary guidance and that - good - wifi is not a given in 2020.

The HSE Dropped Objects training taught us about the difference of being an active participant of a learning experience versus being an "observer" (VR training vs e-learning). We wrote a blog about this. Distributing VR training for 50.000+ employees brought us the insight that although VR is the current holy grail as it comes to ROI, experience, engagement and realism, it is not something organizations can deploy in an organization instantly, it takes time. In the same way us humans needed time to stand up, straighten our backs and learn how to walk, we found that for organizations in order to adapt to VR training they need stepping stones, varying from desktop to mobile VR.

The journey for organisations to use VR for training is not (necessarily) a straight line, it takes other more familiar media as stepping stones.
The journey for organizations to use VR for training is not (necessarily) a straight line, it takes other more familiar media as stepping stones.

Slow down to speed up

All sayings are true, like: "never waste a good crisis" & "every closed door opens others". Last few weeks we saw an acceleration of two very promising client segments: 1) Bricks: like training facilities and 2) Experts: like trainers.

Bricks - there are the mortar and bricks businesses: training facilities, often state of the art with the best technology in-house who are in the business of training employees of clients on location. Which meant flying them in, welcoming them with great hospitality, treating them to finger-licking good food and instructor-led training programs. With the closing of hotels and the imposed global travel bans those businesses hit their own brick wall at incredible speed. Full stop. But another door opened: these facilities have started reinventing themselves at the same speed as hitting the wall: utilizing their knowledge, technology (i.e. simulators) and facility and making them available online. Using Warp Studio and interactive 360 video allows them to easily create scenarios, use their facility as the ultimate film set and distribute their VR training to their customers.

This is true for Maritime Simulation Centers, Pharma Training Centers, Occupational Safety (BHV) Centers, and many more. They all face the same challenge: how do I utilize my expertise and facility now and in the future. And this change is not just intended to keep their head above water: their customers are demanding more online possibilities to deliver on business results.

Expertise - On the other side of that same coin there are the experts, the trainers, the influencers, the masterminds who make a living by providing training programs on site at companies around the globe. Also their business model was halted abruptly mid March and forced them to rethink their proposition. Companies are - were - paying premium dollars, euros for something they are now finding out - at least partly - can be done digitally. The trainers guild should take notice and adjust accordingly.

We are partnering with some great experts who are leading the way in their field to go from offline to online training. Take sales training: we are co-creating our first module (of many to come) which provides theory, knowledge and real life practice wrapped into one VR training experience. Available anytime, anywhere to anyone and using the different ways of distribution (from desktop, to tablet, to mobile & to VR) for organizations to accelerate their learning digitization efforts. And so we come full circle.

Full circle

Before the pandemic we were well on our way to help many businesses fuel a new phase of VR training for their work force, going from implementation to embedding, often driven by custom made VR training courses. Curveball COVID-19 has forced us, and - many of our clients to change strategy and approach. This new route hasn't slowed down our mission to accelerate immersive learning within organizations, but has required us to rethink in order to speed up to execute on that same mission. Stay tuned.

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