Engineering News reports virtual reality (VR) has hitherto been primarily associated with the gaming industry, where the technology was largely developed and refined. However, as rates of digital penetration rise and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) increases the demand for new skill sets, the technology is also becoming a mainstream business and skills-development tool.
Management consultancy Accenture notes that, while passive learning and memorisation have featured prominently in the past, the modern workforce is increasingly attuned to a more active approach whereby employees learn through practical experiences with the aid of tools such as VR. As an experiential learning method, VR has the potential to increase learning quality and improve memory retention by up to 75%.
The technology provides a fully immersive three-dimensional experience, during which employees gain hands-on experience in a safe and controlled virtual environment that closely replicates the real-world environment in which they will work. This has proven particularly useful in the South African mining industry, which continues to face safety challenges, says data science and technology implementation firm Business Science Corporation (BSC).
With VR having changed the learning landscape from people being passive observers to being active participants, BSC associate partner and Reality Science portfolio lead Darren Cohen explains that it is “fundamentally disrupting the way organisations are driving behavioural change to achieve business outcomes, as well as proactively mitigating risk”.
The technology reduces overall training costs, improves training efficiency and provides authentic learning experiences, while, as a software, it allows for “powerful insights into the strengths and weaknesses of employees by monitoring metrics such as what was looked at, in what order, and how long it took to correctly complete an assessment”, he elaborates.
BSC claims that there is increasing movement towards using VR in employee training and education, with the mining, telecommunications, financial services and retail industries leading the pack in terms of adoption and implementation.
Research by the not-for-profit organisation the World Economic Forum, estimates that, by 2020, nearly 35% of the top skills required across all job families will change. Subsequently, there will be an increasing focus on retraining employees, says Accenture technology strategy MD Hans Zachar.
“We’re not saying that 35% [of jobs] will be redundant – we are saying that over one-third of the workforce will require a change in job description and activities on a day-to-day basis,” he tells Engineering News.
Essentially, there is massive demand for new forms of training linked to the digital evolution, as well as using digital technologies to deliver training more effectively, he adds.
“This intersection of a massive increase in training requirements and an already existing regime that needs to be overhauled . . . is what is really driving the use of technologies like assisted reality and VR,” Zachar highlights.