Across sectors and industries, COVID-19 has dealt a blow to our modus operandi. From medicine to education, our national lockdown and the threat of infection have required significant changes and enormous efforts to keep society and businesses going.
Now four months in, things are starting to return to normal. However, warnings of a second wave have been widespread since the pandemic took hold. With local outbreaks likely and a full second wave a very possible reality, many executives and managers will be thinking about how to COVID-proof their teams and work processes in case we’re forced to lockdown once again. Adaptation is no longer just a means of short-term survival, but crucial to long-term goals and progress.
The use of Immersive Technology, encompassing Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR), is an effective and fast solution to training staff in a variety of companies and institutions. At its core it allows users to experience simulations of real life demonstrative training and experiences without the associated costs and health risks these now pose. While lectures or training sessions have size restraints at the best of times, the nature of extended reality (XR) allows implementation on a much larger scale.
What kind of training can XR help with?
If COVID has taught us anything, it’s the value of the people in our teams who innovate in the face of a crisis. Many institutions and businesses have therefore seen the pandemic as an opportunity to upskill and retrain their existing staff. XR training can be done effectively anywhere in the world and by anyone who needs it. This technology eliminates the need for face-to-face contact and opens up learning to larger and more diverse groups. Students and employees get effective learning tools to empower their knowledge and skill sets wherever they’re based, ultimately benefiting the whole workforce.
We’ve been through how it works before, but essentially users can access immersive technology on AR/VR headsets, smartphones or tablets using platforms like Virti. We host video content, help create video content, or can make a company or institution’s existing 2D content interactive. Any manufacturer can create and upload their own visual and audible animation and instruction. Crucially, simulations can be turned around quickly so training can be rolled out in little time. With teams working separately from home, XR allows comprehensive and standardised training opportunities for everyone with tight turnaround.
VR is not only beneficial for its user experience. Immersive technology is able to track user engagement and performance with the help of artificial intelligence. Therefore, feedback is personalised, objective and comprehensive, able to analyse typically hard-to-measure and subjective soft skills.
Training NHS Staff and medical students
COVID-19 is primarily a health crisis and required specific training to medical staff at the start. The speed and scale at which it arrived meant that frontline staff needed fast and effective help to prepare them for working on COVID-19 intensive care wards. Right at the beginning of the pandemic, we were able to roll out our bespoke COVID-19 training modules across a number of NHS hospitals to do just that, following Health Education England approval.
Our immersive training platform was accessible to clinicians without any direct contact through a virtual reality headset, computer desktop or mobile device. Medical staff were able to use our interactive software to learn and practise how to safely apply and remove personal protective equipment (PPE), how to navigate an unfamiliar intensive care ward, and how to engage with patients and their families affected by the virus. This training was rolled out quickly and effectively to meet contemporary demands without requiring a number of training sessions or large gatherings.
The benefits of XR don’t stop at being contactless. Being able to make mistakes and learn from them in a virtual environment is at once safer and less intimidating. High quality experiential learning can recreate real-life processes without a danger to life. Our studies have found that healthcare professionals have a 230% increase in knowledge gain and performance, as well as improved confidence and less anxiety.
Current medical school students would similarly benefit from this technology. As COVID-19 marks the beginning of a new university experience, the key message that most institutions have taken is to minimise contact wherever possible. Practical training is a hugely significant part of a medical degree, and current conditions make this much trickier. XR allows students to complete a virtual version of their training without risking exposure, and enabling better results.
Helping companies operate at a distance
For many companies, the goals and objectives they’re now working towards might be drastically different to their pre-pandemic plans. COVID-19 has accelerated a lot of existing trends including the shift to digital, which looks likely to be sustained. Companies have had to adapt to a changed business landscape with new customer demands and internal processes that will have to continue until we get a vaccine. In order to excel in an updated market, regardless of sector, it’s likely that new skills and expertise are needed.
XR gives businesses the opportunity to transform their existing skill sets and competences to better reflect their updated needs. Teams can receive training from their homes while social distancing is still a priority. For larger businesses with teams in multiple global markets, training can be centralised and effectively monitored if they embrace Virtual Reality tools. We’ve seen a 52% reduction in skill-fade after employees have trained via our platform. Along with great knowledge retention and reduced anxiety, this level of preparation means employees are well placed to fight future challenges.
Training can also be used to develop a variety of knowledge and skills, both practical and technical, as well as in eliminating bias. It’s also useful in allowing potential customers to test out your product at a time where face-to-face sales are untenable. By embracing these possibilities now, companies should be able to cushion the sales blow if we were to re-enter lockdown with a second wave.
Adapt long-term for disruption
It seems fairly likely that we’ll experience a second wave of coronavirus in the winter, and that this could trigger another lockdown. Social distancing is not going to stop anytime soon, even if it’s merely precautionary, so the better prepared we all are for distanced learning and training, the more likely it is that our institutions and businesses will succeed.
Immersive Reality training allows teams of employees or students to familiarise themselves with new processes and equipment, with faster and more effective results. The need to travel or meet in person is completely negated. Remote learning is not only facilitated by digital platforms hosting video and audio content, but is improved by them too.