Interest in Virtual Reality training has grown exponentially as the world has moved to remote working, helped by increasingly powerful and accessible VR headsets.

When considering a VR training strategy, an important consideration is distinguishing between soft and hard skills that address very different training needs.

Soft skills typically refer to how we communicate and behave towards others - within our own circles, within a company and with our colleagues or customers. Interaction with other people is an essential part of most jobs - from satisfying a customer in a retail store to rallying a distributed team to lend their support to a project. Virtual Reality offers a way to conduct soft skills training remotely. Through an immersive virtual environment, participants can use voice and gestures to act our interaction scenarios. Walmart is an often-cited example, where centralised training academies are being made virtual. Following a successful pilot programme, Walmart is deploying VR training to over a million of its associates.

Hard skills address how we perform hands-on tasks and are, by their nature, more quantifiable than soft skills. Measuring how well someone communicates or interacts with a team introduces many uncertain human variables. If our football team loses or we miss a deadline, our mood can influence how we might interact with people and how receptive we are to compromise. In contrast, performing a hands-on task correctly and knowing the steps required is far more binary and relies on knowledge.

VR training coupled with our VirtualGrasp technology is especially well suited for developing hard skills. By making more natural hand interaction possible, VR training scenarios can offer participants the freedom to use complex equipment and tools that better reflect real-world scenarios.

Developing hard skills with VR training

The process of taking a physical training programme and turning it into VR training scenario involves first identifying all the micro-tasks that comprise the complete training programme.

For many larger companies, training programmes are often a hybrid mix of legacy material, e-learning and instructor lead training, dependent on physical training centres and specialist equipment. A typical training programme usually consists of multiple components, sometimes re-shared across other training programmes.

This makes the process of isolating all the micro-tasks more time consuming and difficult - often uncovering missing details along the way, which, in turn, slows the momentum to embrace training through Virtual Reality.  

In order to enable companies to move faster and get results, Gleechi has developed a new approach which we call bite-sized training.

Bite-sized training aims to address a particular task in a complete legacy training programme. These could be tasks that involve potentially dangerous real-life scenarios or using equipment with restricted access. While an entire VR training scenario might take around thirty to forty minutes to complete, bite-sized training isolates a specific task, typically taking about five to ten minutes to complete. 

Bite-sized training scenarios can be thought of as chapters in a book that are brought together to form a company library - a series of mix-and-match highly focused training VR scenarios addressing specific needs.

Why bite-sized training?

Bite-sized training offers a great way to get started with VR training with little upfront time investment and measurable results to validate the effectiveness. Participants can learn within an existing training programme and drop into VR training to develop specific skills, with the freedom of unlimited practice.

We work together to build a set of measurable performance indicators, captured automatically and made available through the Gleechi Cloud, that makes it possible to analyse the performance of VR training. Through providing a transparent understanding of how VR training is performing, moving more tasks to VR can be done with increasing confidence using result-driven training.

Bite-sized training is especially well tuned for the needs of participants on the go who want to learn on their terms with smaller allocations of time to minimise disruption.

Research suggests that our collective concentration is narrowing as we become better at being highly focused in short bursts - perhaps driven by social media and consuming small amounts of information constantly. By turning training into smaller pieces that require little time investment, bite-sized VR training can make the most of bursts of intensive concentration and offers participants a flexible way to learn - wherever they are.

This ability to isolate and practice specific hands-on tasks in VR also presents an opportunity to learn on the job. It becomes possible to grab a VR headset and practice in the field - to take a quick refresher on how to perform a task safely before encountering a potentially dangerous real-world job. 

The bite-sized learning strategy

The capabilities offered by VirtualGrasp technology included in bite-sized training make training tasks that require hand interaction especially relevant. Hard skills are typically the most difficult to capture in traditional training, where gaining hands-on experience is vital. 

A good approach is to look for intersections within existing training programmes where hands-on skills, often requiring an instructor, and access to equipment is needed. Identifying specific micro-tasks that are easily overlooked and could benefit from being made infinitely repeatable can help lift good candidates for bite-sized training. 

For example, the first step in an assembly line might be putting on safety gear correctly or being readily familiar with performing an emergency stop of a piece of equipment used in a process. While these might be relatively trivial tasks in the larger training programme, delivering them through bite-sized VR training provides participants with the opportunity to practice and perform them in safe virtual environments and, in doing so, build confidence through repetition.

Through using our extensive library of existing objects or with as little as an image of a specific tool or piece of equipment, a bite-sized training scenario can be built upon the Gleechi platform. Bite-sized training is delivered seamlessly to participants across a variety of VR headsets.

Bite-sized training is a rapid way to deploy and start exploring how Virtual Reality can transform training, offering transparent and measurable results. 

Thomas Bailey
August 12, 2021