Virtual reality has been around for more than 50 years. We can establish its starting point with Sensorama in 1962 and the first head-mounted display system – The Sword of Damocles – in 1968. This technology has been improved and its uses have broadened since then. What initially was targeted at entertainment ended up infiltrating all sectors; today we can use it for a wide range of activities: from virtual visits and playing videogames to training skills or receiving therapy.
Not only has technology improved since those first devices, but also our understanding of it. In depth research into the effects of virtual reality has been conducted, with special focus on training and learning. Precisely in this environment, there are a number of benefits regarding the use of virtual reality for training, as summarised in the infographic below:
Improvement of the learning process
The training quality that has been most researched is its suitability to improve students’ learning processes and retention capacity. Learning through virtual reality has been reported to have increased attention levels by 100%, improving results in follow-up evaluations by 30%1.
Research has stated that this attention increase is due to two main reasons: firstly, the novelty of using a new technology and, secondly, the feeling of “presence”2. Because students experience the training as if they were actually in the simulated environment, they feel more involved and like they have a main role in the learning process, generating higher activation both on a psychological and cognitive level.
This leads to the belief that the student’s performance improves dramatically the more interactive the experience is3, and the more involved they are in the process, the better they will learn.
Practice in hazardous situations
Some scenarios that are too dangerous to recreate in real life can be simulated with virtual reality. By practicing in hazardous situations (such as working at height or confined spaces) or with hazardous elements (chemicals, electricity or machinery) inside of a simulation, the student can reflect and learn in a safe environment4.
Better prepared workers with VR
Being trained in a safe manner increases the awareness of hazards effectively. It also develops the ability to communicate in real time whenever the student has to face any hazardous situation5.
In short, not only are hazards reduced during the training, but, as they are learning in a safe environment, the student is better prepared to evaluate, communicate and react when faced with a real hazard.
More motivated students
The “feeling of being there” and the student’s active role increase the user’s involvement, not only having a positive effect on their learning, but also on their disposition towards the learning process6. Virtual reality is, above all, an immersive experience where the user is part of the virtual world. The simulation offers a feeling of exploration and participation that makes the student pay more attention7 (when compared with traditional methods).
Users of training with virtual reality report higher immersion and more motivation8, making training more manageable, productive and positive for students.
The benefits of virtual reality are not only limited to students, they also extend to the trainer.
Better performance record
Virtual reality, like any other IT system, offers greater accuracy. Besides having the training content, the use of this tool allows the trainer to evaluate what has been learnt as it has access to more data. For instance, after doing a basic CPR training, the trainer will have access to data that would otherwise be unavailable, such as compression depth and rhythm, and can be used to distinguish a correct intervention from an incorrect one.
Apart from recording performance, the simulation allows more people to attend a training session in a safe manner. This means that the student has a wider learning experience, as they can learn by experiencing a situation and by watching the rest of the participants experience that same situation.
Training with virtual reality not only grants better performance measurement, but it also gives the trainer full control of the simulation. This allows them to personalise scenarios completely, if required, adjusting the training to the desired objectives. Therefore, not only is the training content more relevant, but it also makes the training useful for any participant, no matter their previous knowledge or experience, as the content can be adapted to the student’s level.
Control is not limited to determining training content, computer programmes allow randomisation of the scenario details. That does not mean that they will be haphazard or uncertain, the computer will determine events randomly. This will achieve scenarios similar to real life, where it will be impossible to determine what or when things will happen, making this training closer to real life and always bringing something new to the learning experience, without becoming monotonous.
1 Elmqaddem, N. (2019). Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality in Education. Myth or Reality? International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning (IJET), 14(03), 234.
2 Huang, K.-T., Ball, C., Francis, J., Ratan, R., Boumis, J., & Fordham, J. (2019). Augmented Versus Virtual Reality in Education: An Exploratory Study Examining Science Knowledge Retention When Using Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality Mobile Applications. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 22(2), 105-110.
3 Alhalabi, W. (2016). Virtual reality systems enhance students’ achievements in engineering education. Behaviour & Information Technology, 35(11), 919-925.
4 Fertleman, C., Aubugeau-Williams, P., Sher, C., Lim, A.-N., Lumley, S., Delacroix, S., & Pan, X. (2018). A Discussion of Virtual Reality As a New Tool for Training Healthcare Professionals. Frontiers in Public Health, 6.
5 Wang, P., Wu, P., Wang, J., Chi, H.-L., & Wang, X. (2018). A Critical Review of the Use of Virtual Reality in Construction Engineering Education and Training. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(6), 1204.
6 Makransky, G., & Lilleholt, L. (2018). A structural equation modeling investigation of the emotional value of immersive virtual reality in education. Educational Technology Research and Development, 66(5), 1141-1164.
7 Yildirim, G., Elban, M., & Yildirim, S. (2018). Analysis of Use of Virtual Reality Technologies in History Education: A Case Study. Asian Journal of Education and Training, 4(2), 62-69.
8 Kavanagh, S., Luxton-reilly, A., Wuensche, B., & Plimmer, B. (2017). A systematic review of Virtual Reality in education. Themes in Science and Technology Education, 10(2), 85-119.