Virtual Apprentice

Research Supports Learning in Virtual Environments

As technologies continue to advance and become more affordable, training strategies are evolving and expanding to incorporate virtual reality as a vital component of curriculum. Many studies validate this medium as valuable and potentially critical to job training, particularly in industries where risk is part of the job .

Instructors at Loyalist College have created a ‘virtual’ fully functioning border crossing and a virtual car to train Canadian Border Services Agents. Each student takes on the role of an agent, with his/her avatar interviewing the avatars of the travelers wishing to enter Canada. A secondary training for auto searches features a virtual car that can be completely dismantled so students learn all possible places where contraband may be concealed. Students participating in the first year of the virtual border simulation achieved a grade standing that was 28% higher than the previous class who did not utilize a virtual world. The next class, using virtual environments, scored a further 9% higher.

A study reported in Science Daily shows that employee safety can be improved by using VR in health and safety training, like fire evacuation drills. In the study, trainees were immersed in a virtual fire in an office where they must navigate their way to evacuation. A comparison study was done with training done by traditional PowerPoint. The results showed a significant decrease in knowledge retention when participants trained by PowerPoint were tested one week later. In contrast, the VR trainees showed longer knowledge retention, greater engagement, and a willingness to participate in more training in the future.

A study was conducted by the Yale School of Medicine and the Queens University Department of Psychology in Belfast to demonstrate that virtual reality training can transfer technical skills to the operating room environment. The study found that surgeons trained via virtual reality performed 29% faster and made six times fewer mistakes than those trained with conventional methods.

As virtual training spreads further into business and industry, research will continue to support its use in training and education. Stay tuned.