Innovations such as augmented reality and gamification are helping to deliver new learning and development experiences that cater to the individual needs of the learner.
Businesses seeking to remain at the cutting edge when it comes to their learning and development approach are constantly having to update their methods to account for the latest technologies and innovations.
In recent years, the training and development paradigm has been shaken up significantly by augmented reality (AR) technologies and gamification techniques - two advances that are leading to major changes to the way that learners engage with training, and are yielding significant benefits for companies with enough foresight to invest early.
With both of these concepts having already proven their worth, it's time for organisations of all shapes and sizes to get to grips with what these innovations have to offer, and understand how they can play a crucial role in revolutionising their training activities.
As the name suggests, AR is conceptually similar to virtual reality (VR), but with a few key differences that give the technology unique advantages as a learning and development tool in many cases.
VR is based on the principle of fully immersing the user in an entirely virtual space, usually through the use of a special headset and software that recreates a three-dimensional environment. AR, on the other hand, is geared around transposing virtual elements over the user's real-world surroundings; sometimes, this can be achieved using dedicated headsets such as Google Glass or Microsoft's HoloLens, but it can also be achieved using a regular smartphone camera, as the success of the mobile game Pokémon Go has demonstrated.
The benefits of using AR technology in corporate training are considerable. They allow learners to engage with the material in a more tactile way, with relevant information and guidance popping up as virtual elements in their field of view as they work through a task. Moreover, since AR applications work with most camera-equipped smart devices, they are often cheaper to utilise than VR systems, with the added benefit of providing access to real-time information within a practical, functioning workspace, rather than a virtual one.
Gamification is another new advance that transforms learning into a more interactive, enjoyable experience, and it's designed to take advantage of the fact that an increasing proportion of modern workers were raised as gamers.
Essentially, this principle takes many of the mechanisms that make games so fun and rewarding, and applies them to learning programmes. In a gamified training experience, users will be able to progress through different levels, unlock badges and achievements, and compare their performance to others via competitive scoring systems; sometimes, they can even involve a narrative element, with interactive storytelling helping to enliven potentially dry activities such as compliance training.
By embracing gamification, learning and development professionals will have a range of new tools at their disposal to keep users feeling interested and inject an element of fun to the proceedings. With this in mind, it's little wonder that gamification is expected to be widely adopted by most industries in the coming years.
Although AR and gamification are very different techniques, what brings them together is the way that both are able to place the needs and preferences of the user at the centre of their own learning journey.
With both approaches, learners will benefit from a significantly more engaging experience than a basic lecture-style training session could ever deliver. Instead of simply reading about a subject, users can take part in sessions that provide rich, memorable media-driven material, thus bolstering retention; they can also enjoy an increased sense of progression and accomplishment, with the gamified aspects of the learning structure helping them approach training with genuine enthusiasm.
What's more, the nature of the technology means that these experiences can be delivered more flexibly than ever before. Many AR applications and gamified systems can be viewed and accessed at any time from a smart device, allowing learners to absorb and revisit the material at their own pace, whatever their location. At a time when home-based and remote working is becoming more common than ever before, this is practically an essential requirement.
As such, organisations that have not yet invested in AR and gamification should start giving serious consideration to the matter. Integrating these advances into your learning and development strategy may require an initial investment of time and effort, but the rewards could be significant and long-lasting.