Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality – The Future

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality – The Future:

Over the last few years, huge changes have occurred in the production of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR). In some cases, we have seen this push within our more mainstream media consumption – i.e. through 360-degree cameras, or virtual reality headsets that allow the outside world to drop away while focusing on the generated tasks and games in front of us.

The History:

Some of our first experiments in AR and VR have included VR gaming headsets, QR codes used to unlock apps, prizes and website additions to users, and of course the infamous Pokemon Go game – which allowed users to download an app-based game and utilise the camera on their smartphone to find and ‘catch’ pokemon with a visual on-screen representation.

AR vs VR – What’s the Difference?

Augmented reality means the user is still in the world – but something has been added to it, enhancing or intensifying our experience. A VR headset, however, closes the rest of the world off, transporting us into a different mental state. Virtual reality is often described as a ‘fully immersive’ experience – offering sights and sounds and blocking out the outside world using technology such as headsets. With VR some users experience something akin to a dream – where they can feel emotions and physical sensations if the visual effect is hyperstimulating.

Where augmented reality could best be described as digital overlays such as HoloLens by Microsoft which adds windows apps to your surroundings, and allows you to view windows apps almost as if you are inside a computer screen. This, VR headsets and 360-degree video have illustrated the future revolution of a digitally edited reality.

Lesser known MR (Mixed Reality):

MR – or mixed reality – is another newer version of an editorial reality. Mixed reality is a somewhat more sophisticated version of augmented reality where the digital overlays perform a task or operate as a tool or useful technology within the world. The two interact and react – the real world and the virtual tool and play off one another.

How can they work in the real world?

It’s no secret that the virtual world has spilled over into the real world in more ways than one. While virtual reality has taken off in the gaming industry – other industries are becoming interested in adopting some of the VR, AR and MR techniques to evolve current standards of practice. VR can be used to take virtual tours of properties, homes and holiday destinations in the real estate and travel industries. Gaming techniques have and can be adapted to education, and mixed reality tools and overlays are peaking interest in manufacturing and advertising – giving users a taste of new products.

How can VR and AR help your business?

Some of the market drivers behind VR and AR predicted to involve a cost-effective and otherwise efficient nature. Construction, manufacturing and other large-scale, expensive industries could potentially benefit from further digitised planning and walkthroughs when it comes to building major architecture. For the education industry students could benefit from the attention-grabbing nature of a fully immersive experience. Remember the Magic School Bus? Students could, in theory, be sitting in a room that takes them through a field trip detailing the solar system, or the depths of the ocean. Medical students could use augmented and mixed reality tools to simulate operations, diagnoses. Emergency response teams could offer more in-depth training sessions using mixed reality to create scenarios that force first responders to utilise critical thinking skills and problem solve in a fast-paced environment.

Darlo Digital’s Guide on How to Refresh Outdated eLearning

Do you ever get the feeling that your employees no longer want to engage with your training packages? If it’s been a while since you refreshed your eLearning content, that could be the reason why. From graphics that no longer run as well as they should through to unnecessary content, there are lots of ways to refresh outdated eLearning. At Darlo Digital, we’re here to give you some of our favourite examples.

Ditch the old-fashioned images

Try looking at your eLearning package like it’s a class you sit through at school. Most people can empathise with how ridiculous a lesson seems when the textbooks feature images that are outdated. If your eLearning package is the same, it’s a good idea to upgrade your visuals.

Old-fashioned images are likely to frustrate adult learners who are trying to enhance their professional skills. Fortunately, switching up your online course’s photos for a newer version is easy. Stock photography sites provide professional-looking photos. Additionally, you can turn to websites such as PixaBay if you’re looking for free options.

Exchange heavy data for attractive graphs

Although it may seem sensible to write down numbers and create bullet point lists of percentages, doing so makes the content difficult to absorb. According to the Barcelona Field Studies Centre, graphs allow learners to contextualise numbers better than when you add data to a table.

When choosing graphs to add to your eLearning package, make sure you stick to a format that most people are familiar with. For example, pie charts or bar charts. Only use more complex data visualisations such as scatter graphs if it’s necessary, and try to veer away from the types that feature statistically-heavy research papers. Making sure the data is easy for your employees to apply to their working life is the goal here. When the information is easy to read, it’s easy to remember at work.

Use soothing colours that are easy to look at

The days when creating PowerPoint presentations bursting with vibrant colours was acceptable are long gone. While an explosion of colours and tones may feel fun to create, it’s not easy for learners to stare at for hours on end. In the pursuit of refreshing your outdated eLearning packages, try using black for the writing and plenty of white space.

Research from Malaysia has discovered how the use of colour can affect information retention. To demonstrate this, the research team examined whether participants remembered statements better when reading them from a white background or a blue background. Those who fell into the white background group had a higher retention rate. While a white background alone won’t guarantee that your employees will remember what you write, it can at least help with retention.

Analyse whether your eLearning package meets current training needs

Even if an eLearning package has worked well in the recent past, it may not remain relevant for long. If your company is rapidly evolving, it’s worth taking a look at what the current training needs are and whether your eLearning packages currently meet them. Failing to do so means your employees may not see how the package could help them, which then leads to disengagement.

A simple way to achieve this is to survey those who’ll take the course and ask them where they feel the gaps in their training are. Take some time to analyse the results and try to identify common trends. If you don’t feel as though the course tackles these learning gaps, adjust the content accordingly.

Give your employees a break and treat them to a video

Although many people enjoy reading, facing page upon page of text can feel tiring. To refresh your outdated eLearning package, try replacing some slides with video content. The use of video in eLearning isn’t about propping up half-hearted learning practices either. Most academics agree that visualisation promotes memory retention, which means your employees will absorb more of their training. You can use video to reinforce the information conveyed through text or to explain a topic that’s difficult to communicate fully through words alone.

The use of video also gives your employees the chance to learn about how your organisation operates in a different culture. If you’re running a multinational business, a sharp understanding of cross-cultural interactions promotes lots of benefits. It allows managers to become better leaders and it ensures that employees from different branches have a comfortable experience when interacting with each other.

Make sure each package features your current branding

The correct use of branding doesn’t just make your company recognisable amongst your customers. It also promotes a sense of unity among your employees. If your branding has evolved since you first created an eLearning package, it’s time to return to it to see if you can make some tweaks.

If your current branding doesn’t match the logos and colours that feature as part of your online learning, change them. Your employees may find that the content resonates with them a little more if it comes in a format they recognise.

Create an eLearning experience that works across multiple platforms

Finally, consider how accessible your eLearning package is. If it’s responsive to certain web browsers but not others, are you shutting out some of your employees? Similarly, do you feel as though you could benefit by creating a mobile-friendly version? Bringing your eLearning to the mobile world gives employees the chance to learn in different settings or while they commute.

Even if your eLearning experience was mobile or tablet-friendly before, is that still the case? Both Android and Apple regularly update their operating systems. Although you’re likely to receive a prompt when creating an app, that won’t always happen with online learning. Ensure you test drive the package before each training period to make sure it’s still compatible.

When you leave your eLearning package to sit in its current state, it’s unlikely to appeal to your employees over time. To avoid your content becoming outdated, update the pictures, ditch bright colours, and use black text with lots of white space. Once you incorporate videos and different types of platforms for accessibility, your package will become easier to absorb.

Why you need to include VR/AR in your business strategy

Virtual reality and augmented reality: buzzwords with a shelf-life or here to stay?

For a while there, virtual reality was a gimmick to get the technology started, an obvious and natural segue into gaming software and hardware advancements.

But the moment you open up a new technology to consumers, and the cost-point isn’t too prohibitive, you have the opportunity to develop better, more effective and even more creative uses for the technology. Such is the case with VR/AR technologies.

Today, VR and AR technologies are touching every sphere. Consumers, businesses and technologists are keenly watching its rise, waiting to see how its applications will evolve when people use and interact with it.

Besides its early-stage application in spheres as diverse as project management, gaming, and healthcare, augmented reality and virtual reality have a real business use.

Employing VR and AR as part of your business strategy can streamline your processes, help you bring in more customers, train your employees more effectively and boost profits and productivity.

Customer product trials

Some aspects of VR/AR technology have a direct impact on your bottom line and business, while some simply enhance the customer’s experience, thereby trickling down and positively affecting your sales and/or brand perception.

Product trials and ‘demos’ offer that kind of customer experience enhancement. Product trials through a virtual environment allow the customer to experience the product, touch it, look through it, feel it and build an emotional connection.

Consider the fact that this sort of experience of a product not only helps drive more value, educating the customer, it ends up subtly convincing and converting them. It’s hard to walk away from a memorable and tangible experience such as the one virtual reality affords customers.

Driving marketing efforts

Experiential marketing and location-based promotions have always been one aspect of marketing that draws people in and creates an instant customer connection.

Leisure events, pop-up booths and promotional materials are a traditional use of marketing dollars but not usually one that can be directly tacked on to a specific number of sales.

VR/AR emerging technologies are poised to change all that. Through geolocation, a company’s AR app could deliver a promotion specifically when a customer walks into the designated geographical zone. Through AR, a customer could then experience the product offering right then and there.

Travel companies, for example, demonstrate a creative use of VR technology by offering users an ‘immersive’ experience into their tours.

LiveNation, an online events promoter and ticket hub, similarly used VR apps to allow users to stream concerts through their headsets, giving them a sneak peek into the action and creating an urgency for purchase that is far more emotional and subtle than the simple words-and-graphics combination that most ads offer.

Training an aging employee population

One of the best ways to retain talent, according to a Gallup poll of ‘disengaged’ workers in companies and organisations today, is to invest in and actively support employee ‘L&D’ (learning and development) initiatives.

At the same time, 73% of all workers today who are 50 and over say that one of the most significant issues they face with online courses for workplace training is the amount of time it takes to learn to navigate their way around the software or platform.

AR and VR could change all that. Part of business development is skills development. Incorporating VR/AR technology into online training can help to shorten the onboarding process, help employees retain skills more effectively, and allow them to complete the training in a hands-on way.

Working with clients by ‘seeing what I see’

For agencies that want to articulate a vision or outline a campaign, using VR or AR allows them to not only enhance the presentation but use these virtual environments to convince clients of a project’s viability.

AR apps, for example, allow users to ‘see what I see’, and businesses can use this feature to create a presentation that is interactive and demonstrative.

Spotting time and money drains

What if you could fast forward down the progression of a project and identify any pitfalls or possible issues through more than just hypotheticals?

Another great reason to incorporate AR and VR into your business strategy is the opportunity it affords companies to do precisely this. Using VR environments or interactions with an AR app, employees or project managers could essentially spot issues that are likely to arise in a given future context.

Predictive possibility, promotional viability and enhanced performance, productivity and profitability: incorporating VR and AR into your business’s everyday strategy could serve you on multiple fronts.

How you can apply VR/AR to your customer experience

Part of the reason why technologies that are ’emerging’ progress so quickly is the way that businesses focus on new technologies for the purposes of competitive advantage.

And thank goodness they do, because a business’s natural pursuit of profit is what can take VR and AR technology — both hardware and software — to the next level of maturation.

Namely, applying it within a customer experience context.

VR’s potential use in customer experience

The very nature of AR enhancements and VR environments can make an impact in various situations as part of the customer experience. Their potential use spans various touch points and, together, interaction to interaction builds an experience of an environment — which is a stand-in for the brand

Immersion — Enhancing customer experience

First off, the experiential environment should be immersive. This is, of course, part and parcel of virtual reality environments that encapsulate the user in its entirety.

But augmented reality is all about enhancing the experience of a real-world environment by offering up more information or a sensorial experience of, let’s say, a product within a real-world environment.

Amex’s recent initiative of a shoppable AR feature is the perfect example of immersive customer experiences that enhance purchases. At Coachella, the yearly music and arts festival in California, Amex, via AR, allowed cardholders access to merchandise using Coachella’s own official app and camera anywhere on the grounds.

This is a form of experiential marketing that helps customers make two specific connections: One, that Amex is the purveyor of a heightened experience and that, secondly, Amex customers have access to opportunities that regular cardholders simply do not.

These memorable AR experiences are also prime marketing moments on social media, bringing the financial and credit card brand organic traffic.

Emotion

Immersion is directly related to emotions. The truth is that our buying decisions are far from rational. Rationales and justifications are the logical reasonings we give for our entirely emotional decisions.

Your AR and VR environments relating to your customer experience should be designed to elicit an emotional reaction.

The New York Times’ VR app, for example, ‘enhances stories where time and place is key, putting the reader alongside journalists at the front lines’. In 2015, the news outlet behemoth decided to launch a VR film about three children displaced by war in order to allow viewers to ‘experience what it’s like to be inside a refugee camp, from the viewpoint of those affected.’

The resulting positive experience of readers — essentially the customers of the Times — fuelled further interest in VR stories and subscriptions.

Because of the use of augmented or virtual reality environments, companies can create truly imaginative experiences that encourage an emotional connection to the product or service. They also give the customer easy access to information about the product or service.

Demonstration — Supporting the online shopping experience

To allow customers to benefit from the ‘try before you buy’ aspect that VR and AR afford consumers, IKEA worked together with Apple’s ARkit unveiling. They created an app on the platform that would allow customers to virtually ‘place’ furniture around their homes.

Together with ARkit, IKEA’s app was able to scale and place products in real-world settings with a 98% accuracy point. For the customer, this is invaluable. They can skip the whole ‘at home measurement process’ and try things right away.

This also empowers them to make faster and more knowledgeable purchase decisions — with less of a chance of returns due to miscalculated size or orientation.

Michael Valdsgaard, director of the Digital Transformation department at IKEA Systems says of the initiative, ‘Augmented reality and virtual reality will be a total game changer for retail in the same way as the internet. Only this time, much faster.’

Integration — Creating educational moments

Another great way to enhance the customer experience using AR and VR is to integrate it into the everyday. That’s just what Phil Schiller, SVP of Worldwide Marketing at Apple did at the Steve Jobs Theatre in September 2017. In conjunction with the MLB — ‘Major League Baseball’ — association, Schiller and Apple decided to create an Bat’ app, which uses AR functionality to allow fans and audiences to learn more about players in real time, simply through their own devices.

Using Statcast, MLB’s analytics tool, the app delivered detailed stats on each player’s past and current performances. The trick, of course, was to provide just the right amount of data to create a story that would engage but not overwhelm ‘regular’ game-watchers while still keeping die-hard fans enthusiastic and involved.

The most critical function of VR and AR in customer experience is to provide a healthy middle-ground for customer experiences, taking them from a case of ‘either physical or digital’ to ‘both physical and online’.

Augmented reality, in particular, can serve a potential customer well when they’re trying to shop for products online and they want to ‘try’ them out before buying. Meanwhile, virtual reality can allow in-store shoppers to experience the product. Big brands are already taking advantage of AR and VR, and are developing more creative ways to elevate this technology from novel to necessary.

The Virtual Future of the Digital Classroom: Does VR Have a Role in eLearning Development?

The most innovative development in eLearning used to be gamification.

Now, it’s virtual reality.

But is VR ready for its moment in the learning spotlight? And has eLearning matured quickly enough, reaching a large enough swath of the population to warrant an integration with VR and AR?

Indeed, the global VR market is still on the rise: a Zion Market Research report puts the global VR market at $26.89 billion by 2022. Ever since Oculus Rift came out and was bought by Facebook, consumers have associated VR with gaming.

But, contrary to popular belief, it’s not just for the gaming industry. It’s also popular in educational software. Goldman Sachs reported that educational software incorporating VR and AR is set to bring in $300 million in revenue by 2020, rising to $700 million by 2025.

So the big question is not simply whether or not VR has a role in eLearning’s development — because it clearly does. The question is why VR and AR are enhancing eLearning and how they will be used within the eLearning industry as the two entities mature.

A More Perfect Union — Bringing VR Together with eLearning

Why is the present moment the right time to start integrating VR/AR technology into eLearning? Marketers can answer that one for you: No one is quite there yet, which means eLearning course developers are relatively free to test new strategies and see what learners respond to, where the opportunities lie and how the technology can be improved on.

Immersive and Hands-On Training

Digital learning is, by nature, a medium that requires connection and immersion.

When MOOCs were first created, they were intended to provide a ‘constructivist’ perspective of highly connected, ‘nodal’ learning. In other words, students took learning into their own hands, forming diverse networks of connection between each other as peers.

VR

Rather than a top-down model of instructor-led lectures, digital learning relies on shared and open-source information across a vast network.

And VR/AR technologies take that nodal learning one step further, catapulting them to a truly immersive experience. This allows eLearning to go further, offering students hands-on learning opportunities, simulations and trial-runs that might not otherwise have been possible. Tactile or kinaesthetic learners, for example, can truly benefit from this addition.

Engagement Ramps Up

Which leads to the next aspect of digital learning: engagement. ‘Engagement’ is a big deal for companies who invest in digital learning and e-courses as a way to both retain their top talent, making them more competitive, as well as engage them through these L&D (learning and development) initiatives.

Ideas for VR Use in eLearning

So how exactly does VR fit into the broader eLearning landscape? And how can course developers begin to use VR/AR technologies to give students a leg up, making sure they gain tangible value from their digital experiences?

In other words, where do we go from here?
Product demos

While product demos aren’t necessarily relevant in the world of MOOCs, consider how useful it would be to be able to have an engineering student take apart and explore the components of a machine. Or what it would mean for an emergency first-responder in training, who is doing distance education, to be able to perform procedures in virtual reality.

VR

‘Demos’ or demonstrations can help bring a lesson or a crucial learning objective to life, actually imbuing the student with real and memorable practice. Alternatively, VR environments can also be used as a form of assessment.

On-Boarding new learners

To help reduce the time it takes to get individuals comfortable with online training tools, VR/AR technologies and the environments that come with them can help learners become comfortable faster.

This is especially useful for employees who are taking online training since these individuals are working on projects simultaneously and don’t have extra time to spare.

Interactive walkthroughs

Students learn a great deal from activities that enhance learning such as pair-programming (usually done with some kind of screen share software, if being done remotely) or through watching an ‘over-the-shoulder’ walkthrough.

But VR/AR technology integrated into eLearning allows learners to engage with these walkthroughs, within interactive and hands-on environments. These ‘simulations’ do more than simply invite a learner’s attention. Instead, they nurture and necessitate interaction, making the walkthroughs far more effective, memorable and personal.

VR

VR and AR technologies have a bright future in eLearning. But it does come with a caveat: We’ll need to see hardware reach the hands and behaviours of consumers. In this, it’s not only cost that can be prohibitive — it’s also a question of size and convenience.

For example, the purchase of an Oculus headset is something users found tedious or even extraneous if they weren’t already gamers. Consumers who don’t show a proclivity for gaming may prefer if their mobile devices — the hardware they already use — could be adapted for VR/AR.

It’s these modifications and adaptations that will make consumers more likely to adopt VR into their everyday digital experience. Once this happens, we’ll see a real maturity of VR/AR technologies in eLearning. In the meantime, the fact that global investments in VR technology increased to $3 billion in 2017 will have to be a good enough indicator for the future promise of its evolution and eventual integration.

Brendan Moloney
CEO Darlo Group

Multinationals and eLearning: Why each eLearning solution is unique

Recently, we were invited by a large multinational to ‘pitch’ eLearning for them.  It was a strange experience and quite different from other large customers we have dealt with in the past.

Let me set a little context. We were contacted to provide a pitch on the possibilities of eLearning for the company. A conference call meeting was set up with four people on the team.  I am usually not a fan of these scenarios. Typically, three are uninterested and have been dragged into the meeting and not keen to buy and the one person leading the discussion with every reason not to go ahead. (All the projects we have start typically with having an earnest conversation with one person (the decision maker) and then a group is brought in to form the buyer’s box).

Needless to say, the relationship (or transaction) did not develop. This is because in my view their team were very busy and were not genuinely looking to engage with the process in the same way as our team felt necessary. (To be fair, their team felt we misunderstood their brief). While the issue was over the presentation, and the perceived need for us to produce a showcase and scenario of possibilities for them, it was quite vague and unclear what the project was about. From my perspective, and feedback related to our team, is that their team did not see a pitch and wanted something about ‘look and feel’ (more black, less black, a touch more, a touch less).

While I realise that many companies are seeking a way to differentiate their training with a different ‘look and feel’ or ‘bells and whistle’ piece of training, it is faulty logic. It is easy to understand that finding an existing solution to your issues (whatsoever they may) would be more attractive and easier to work with than building from the ground up and adding to the workload.  There are no shortcuts. You got to do the work. System first, then process.

In dealing with really fantastic and less than great multinational companies, there are few observations I would like to share from our team’s perspective. Hopefully, it helps individuals and team in procurement, understanding their pain points, and what it is exactly they are looking for before heading to market.

First of all, without understanding the problem that is trying to be solved, it really is not possible to present an effective solution (we are not talking about products, here). While teams think that a basic sketch of an idea might suffice, it does not really help. What you really might not want to hear but is crucially necessary, are questions to get you to think about the gaps and issues as to what you are trying to do.

The most fundamental issue for those seeking to create a project is to articulate the project goals and aims clearly. What is especially important is to articulate the business drivers underpinning the project.

  • Aside from specific design, what are you trying to achieve? What criteria for a successful result are important for you? Is it speed? Is it time? It is quality?
  • In working with suppliers, do you want a full agency solution or individual instructional designers to support your team? Do you want IDs to work according to your style guide or create a new look and feel? Are they working within your company’s system? Or are they taking a project and running with it?
  • For projects, do you want to follow the ADDIE model (which is quite out of fashion) or use agile, design thinking or lean? If so, would you project manage that internally or outsource it? For the existing content and courses, what has already been developed online? What remains? What volume of work needs to be produced – the whole catalogue – or parts of it? Would you not be better starting off with small projects than tackling a whole faculty (and the risk that comes with that)? Are you planning to keep the 70:20:10 (again, old hat) or complete a full digital transfer?

Aside from these questions, we also see red flags when we are approached about the ‘look and feel’ of a particular project. While it is something akin to telling someone else’s child they look ugly, here are a few reasons why:

  • Firstly, putting aesthetics before substance is like putting the horse before the cart. Business decisions and planning documents will shape the look and feel, not the other way around. It is ass backwards.
  • Secondly, presenting generic designs related to other projects is never going to hit the mark. Rather than being transactional ‘off the shelf’ solutions, every (successful and effective) project is unique, customized and niche. Understanding your needs is the starting point, not something we assume or that we would throw some guesses up against.
  • Thirdly and most importantly, slapping something together, based on previous client’s needs, leaves a potential client (and us) exposed to disappointment and failed pitches. It is evident that your specific drivers (or those of other clients) are not captured in the solutions provided to others and that these defy an information brochure.

If you are looking for inspiration on ‘cutting edge’ eLearning design, then simply shop around. There are lots of individuals and companies that are testing the limits. The reason they are cutting edge, however, is that they are risky and have often not been fully rolled out in projects or companies are not interested in investing in tech that may result in failure. This is the case with the current craze for AR/VR. This is an agile, early adopter’s market. Sometimes it is better to wait and to observe (unless you are a tech hardware or software company) and see how the market plays out. Devices and technology yet have a winner, and you certainly don’t want to be investing in BlueRay when DVDs take the market.

An additional point is to ensure to do some market research or ask a prospective supplier (like ourselves) about the state of the market.  As experts in the field of international eLearning, we are very well aware of products and services in this area (and our position within it).  We also have lots of market research to help you. I guess the point is that if you are looking for expertise, you might benefit from receiving advice rather than challenging experts to prove themselves. It is a formula for disaster and starts off with a low-trust, low collaborative position.

To sum up the key ideas from this post: (1) understand the problem; (2) understand what you want to achieve; (3) be ready to answer questions and issues around your project; (4) be ready to participate in discussing your vision for the new products and services (or training) that suit your business and willing to share ideas; (5) go with agile and consultative approaches – projects are quicker, better, and more likely to be under budget.

Companies Killing it with VR and AR

Today, companies that provide e-learning receive excellent marks when they use virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) for student and employee engagement. Both of these technologies immerse students in a course, and therefore enhance and add value to learning.

Learning the Difference between AR and VR

To better understand how this is done, you need to define and distinguish augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies. Typically, augmented reality or AR uses a smartphone or camera for engaging digital elements. Pokemon Go is an example of AR.

Virtual reality (VR) allows for a total immersion experience – shutting out the physical world. VR users experience both imaginary and real-world scenarios, all which makes learning fun and exciting. For instance, the technology can transport you to a colony of penguins or take you on a magical ride on a dragon’s back.

Mixed Reality (MR)

When you combine AR and VR, you create a mixed reality or MR experience – one where digital objects and real-world elements combine to enforce learning and entertainment. An example of this technology is HoloLens by Microsoft.

Now that you know something about reality technologies, you can better see how these vehicles can aid in training and learning. Indeed, the e-learning industry has reached a new level, thanks to the implementation of VR and AR.

Total Immersion Technology

These reality simulations permit students to fully immerse themselves in a learning or training experience. The use of headsets blocks out distractions and allows a student to deal with each learning module or task. Tactile sensors are sometimes introduced to include the sense of touch. For instance, a student can pick up an item or touch and sense it in his or her hands.

While face-to-face and online sessions offer the benefits of blended learning, they still lack the immersion that VR or AR technologies provide. Employing these simulations enables corporate or academic learners to get in touch with real-world activities. For instance, VR permits students to learn in a training area and interact with facilitators in real time.

VR Technology and Training – an Example

It comes as no surprise that VR training is one of the most important applications used by today’s businesses. For instance, in 2017, major retailer Wal-Mart partnered with Strivr, a VR creator, to prepare its employees for Black Friday. By experiencing Black Friday through VR, workers managed better when faced with larger crowds and longer queues on the day of the event.

Personalised Learning

With the addition of VR and AR learning, students can better connect with the training content. In turn, learners can explore various paths, based on their learning objectives or current gaps in their development. For instance, an e-learning evaluation may show that a student needs to improve his problem-solving skills. In this instance, the learner selects the VR or AR training module that centres on this type of instruction.

As technologies advance, Big Data will keep up with the pace as well. By using AR/VR simulations, e-educators can feature more detailed analyses to monitor the progress of e-learners. Future plans include adding sensors to determine a student’s level of awareness and emotional state. By using these techniques, training organisations can improve their bottom lines and return on investment (ROI).

Overcoming Learning Barriers

Currently, without the use of AR or VR, certain technological barriers exist. These barriers often emerge when users rely on video conferencing or online platforms for learning or training. AR and VR make it possible for learners to relate face-to-face with peers and instructors.

For instance, the creation of a virtual meeting area, using VR technology, can be facilitated to present online training. VR headsets enable learners to work collaboratively in real time and engage with 3D models and similar educational tools and devices. Learners, in turn, can role play, and improve on the interpersonal skills and experiences.

A Better Learning Experience

Indeed, e-learning is evolving in interesting ways. Implementing AR and VR benefits learners as much as it does the industry. Not only do students receive a better learning experience, but instructional designers can also manage digital learning in new and creative ways.

How companies use eLearning to go global

4 Ways to Solve the Problem of Global eLearning

Globalisation is far from a recent phenomenon. Going back to even before the days of the British East India Company in the 1500s, businesses have been on the lookout for ways to expand into the global market to grow trade, commerce, and profits.

Unlike companies from even a few decades ago, today the smallest companies can use online tools to expand their global commercial footprint. eLearning can help companies to educate people from around the world in ways that will ensure growth and satisfy a broader customer base.

In the 21st century, companies no longer have to wait on local educational institutions to generate courses or modules. Organisations around the country, or even around the world, can foster skills by working with others to create in-house training or by relying on third party vendors.

As in any field, however, challenges can arise. Here’s how we can rise to those challenges;

Use E-Learning to Educate Local Vendors on Your Product or Service

Consider this scenario. A company in Perth wants to provide a product or service through a vendor in Texas, USA. Instructing the vendor on how to properly use or sell the product or service could pose serious challenges. People on both ends may be speaking English, but in some ways, they may not be speaking the same language.

An experienced eLearning provider knows how to facilitate communications and provide instruction in the most effective ways. Those with global experience will also better understand how to bridge the divides of culture, language, and other potentially thorny issues.

Finally, eLearning providers can help educate and instruct on how staff at the central office can navigate through the rules, regulations, and cultural issues of other countries.

Prioritising Content When Creating Courses

The good news for those looking for quality materials to develop training is that the world is “swimming in content.”  Endless examples of digital, video and other media exist at the fingertips of anyone with a computer and internet access. This is a good thing, to an extent, but the wealth of options out there can create challenges when trying to access and educate individuals or groups across the globe.

Fortunately, experienced eLearning providers know how to research and tabulate effective and appropriate sources when they create classes or educational modules and can take regional differences into account

When creating training or courses, think very specifically about what the course will require before even starting to research. Next, evaluate the sources of content. The digital world has a wide range of options, but many, if not most, will turn out to be either garbage or less useful than anticipated. Consider which sources will be both useful and trustworthy.

Tailoring Courses to Specific Areas of Business

“When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” So the old adage goes. Today, global entrepreneurs often need to do not only as the Romans do, but also as the Buenos Arieans, the Washingtonians, the Pretorians, or as people from any other location across the globe do. This includes working with local and national officials as well as other institutions, such as chambers of commerce.

Your staff will likely need eLearning to quickly learn from trusted providers on how to navigate the laws, regulations, and other issues that will arise when conducting or expanding business abroad.

Increasing Adaptability and Customisation

Too many businesses spend time and effort on creating eLearning programs initially but fail to monitor their delivery in the field.

The world of online education will continue to be increasingly competitive. This means that companies and others providing eLearning must strive to work harder to deliver educational products as quickly and effectively as possible for competitive prices. Those shopping for such services should remain aware of this and continuously appraise their providers.

Instructional providers should continually tweak their products to make sure that the information remains current, relevant, and appropriate to the needs of students and course users. Outdated information or even a “dated” look or approach can make a course much less appealing – a significant misstep in such a competitive arena. Business owners need to make sure that the education matches their needs

Competition is good, however. It makes sure that serious providers work hard to keep their products useful while also efficient and easy to navigate.

Problems and Opportunities

The main issue for those seeking instructional content or courses lies in doing due diligence to make sure that they acquire the most beneficial product for training and education. Providers face the challenge of keeping content up to date and useful for their customers. Together, the process of competition and development ensures that while global eLearning remains a challenge, it also presents a bountiful opportunity.

Licensing and Credentials You Need to Start An Online Teaching Platform

What You’ll Need to Start An Online Teaching Platform

From Skillshare to Udemy, geared towards learners directly, to Google’s ‘Open Online Education’ platform for course builders, and software like Teachable aimed at course creators who want an ‘all-in-one’ audience-building tool, online teaching and online learning are only just gearing up to go global.

These are just a few of the names within the digital learning space. Udemy itself has enrolled and taught over 24 million students worldwide; MOOCs have managed four times as many. So the popularity of digital learning is not in question.

But what if you wanted to start an online teaching platform yourself?

Brands, businesses and even individual entrepreneurs looking to not just enter the space through a course but actually carve out their own space for their online teaching platform will be pleased to know that there are very few barriers to entry and certainly no ‘official’ or ‘traditional’ certifications required for actually establishing an online teaching platform.

While individual instructors may be asked for their specific credentials within a teaching niche (English as a Second Language teaching, for example), or certain courses may have to present sufficient evidence of compliance to an external board if they’re hoping to offer students certification at the end of the course, there are no credentials or licenses required to actually set up an online teaching platform.

However, that’s not to say that there isn’t a tried-and-true structure and a significant process that platforms must create to launch successfully and attract a user base that is enthusiastic about using the platform.

Let’s take a look at these ‘must-haves’.

Start with a niche

When you’re thinking about a platform, it can be all too easy to overreach and plan to offer features that are general enough to attract a large number of uses, with the broadest possible use.

But any software developer will tell you that trying to please too many is the fastest way to experience software failure. When getting off the ground, focus on one industry or even one use. Udemy, for example, bills itself as an online marketplace for courses and focuses on anyone who wants to start learning a skill. It also targets creators who want to create a course but don’t want to self-host or market their course.

Meanwhile, Teachable and Thinkific focus on course creation for audience building. This means they have internal tools geared towards course creators that allows them to track what ‘content’ within the course is being interacted with and what isn’t.

Your niche can be as simple as a subject matter within one geographical location. Consider Yelp: the food review platform started with reviews of restaurants in San Francisco and then slowly expanded from there.

Focus on one user base

Your main goal here is to build credibility with your customers because there are multiple platforms in any given space. The previous step asked you to narrow in on one major benefit, niche or feature your platform offers (and then expand from there).

This step asks you to focus in on who you’ll be serving and, from here, what this user group’s specific needs are. It’s based on these needs that you can plan for features of your online platform.

Large enterprises

Large-scale enterprises will benefit from a way to track the progress of hundreds or even thousands of users, who are also employees. This user base will also need ways to hook into global online training initiatives. And, finally, they will also need extended enterprise features that are either custom built or that allow them to integrate other channels like sales and marketing, into the mix of learning.

Small and medium-sized enterprises

This user base can benefit from LMSs that require fewer human resources and an easier onboarding time. Any features and tools offered within the platform should be adaptable enough to change to the trainees’ needs.

Freelancers/solopreneurs

And, finally, those who operate ‘alone’ are also those who work with multiple clients. They often need to deliver on a diverse but cross-connected range of deliverables so the online learning platform should include features like suggestions on what to learn next, built-in remote collaboration and/or support tools, along with time-tracking.

Offer stand-alone value

The most important aspect of differentiation is to offer stand-alone value. This is what will help distinguish your platform from others out there as well as give your niche users a value-added benefit from using your platform.

Offering stand-alone value is often mistaken for, again, cramming a whole set of features into one platform. But this shouldn’t be the case. In fact, offering stand-alone value asks you first to examine which features are integral to all learners and then, from there, ask about which features are necessary for that specific niche of users.

For example, an online platform dedicated to teaching users how to become better coders or developers might include an integration or a feature for syncing up GitHub or Heroku to the course modules. This ‘stand-alone’ value is clearly geared towards that particular niche and doing so will help the right users choose it as a solution.

Decide on pricing plans that eliminate users’ up-front risk

There are usually ‘beta’ or ‘test’ releases of a platform that are rolled out to particular users, on an ongoing basis, in order to make sure all features are not just being used correctly but are serving users.

Again, it’s all about building credibility with future users, and a great way to build that for a new platform is to attract initial users.

To build credibility, let’s take a look at the precedent set by gaming console makers. Platforms work with ‘marquee’ contributors or developers to develop a game exclusively for that platform. Microsoft, for example, works with particular ‘influencers’ or developers for games that already have a fan base and who agree to provide a game specifically for Xbox, as long as Microsoft’s platform gives them the development capabilities they’re looking for.

This means that any consumer devoted to the developer must also buy the platform in order to get their game.

Marquee ‘customers’ are one of the most valuable forms of both marketing and platform advocacy. Not only do they raise awareness for the platform itself, but they also communicate with others, extolling the virtues of the platform without being ‘sponsored’.

Marquee customers can also provide very valuable feedback and insight as to what the platform can improve upon, faster, and at an earlier stage than when it is opened to the general user.

Essentially, exclusivity on a platform with a marquee comes with benefits that include:

  • Providing the platform and its makers with credibility
  • Referrals and relationship-building through word-of-mouth
  • Marketing boost
  • Invaluable testing insight and feedback
  • Higher closing fees when closing new clients/users/marquees, based on the precedent of this particular marquee

Once the platform is more or less ‘tweaked’, online learning platform developers can charge users according to many payment models:

  • Pay-as-you-go — Offering pay-as-you-go pricing is a useful way to get your platform’s payment model started. It reduces the risk for new users to try a ‘new’ platform and helps platform developers to smooth out payment kinks in the early stages
  • SubscriptionThis is a ‘pay-per-use’ model that is perfect for SMEs; Users pay based on the number of active users that are using the platform to create courses
  • Freemium — While basic features are free, the platform charges for access to the full set of features; They can also be tacked on as advanced functionalities or as an ‘add-on’ or ‘upgrade.’
  • Licensing — Usually intended for large companies or large-scale operations, users within one organisation or group are charged an annual fee that must be renewed every year or an upfront fee with future versions and upgrades extra

Features of a Successful Online Teaching Platform

Once you’ve handled the nuts and bolts, what other features do a successful online teaching platform include?

  • Reporting and analytics: This is one of the most essential components of any online learning platform. For course creators, the robustness of the data as well as how well it integrates with other software (think, automated reporting to your email inbox or a triggered automation for dripped course content) is prime when deciding what kinds of platforms to use. Course developers must be able to track student progress, monitor whether online training initiatives are effective, and how long learners take to complete a lesson, on average, amongst other key metrics.
  • User- (and learner-) friendly design: User friendly design is all about whether or not an online training platform is accessible or not, how well it displays across multiple types of screens and how easy it is to actually learn and understand the platform (being onboarded); Does the platform itself call for a training (in which case, it might be too complicated?) or does it handle the conventions of user-friendly and intuitive design well in the delivery and access of digital courses?
  • Built-in support services: This will depend greatly on your target audience; For example, the kinds of tools of support available for a novice user who is trying to learn about how to knit something using an online course is different than a course for developers of a mobile app,  hosted on a learning platform
  • Built-in gamification options: Are there features that allow course creators to provide incentives or systems of reward for individual learners to actually engage with each other and their learning, in the platform?
  • Assessment tools: Assessing the effectiveness of the platform is also about assessing the learning progress of students. Every successful online learning platform gives course creators a way to periodically evaluate if a student is on track with learning objectives and to identify where there may be a gap
  • Socialised learning support and environments: Learning management systems and course platforms that don’t provide the tools for collaboration are severely missing out; Not only do course creators now include group activities and peer sharing as a form of learning and evaluation, digital learning is its own kind of experience that only flourishes in an environment of collaboration. This includes video and chat support, integrated social media tools or a ‘News Feed’ for updates
  • Compliance and certification support: Again, providing compliance and certification support has been, until now, a way to provide added value, an extra benefit or a perk. However, with an increasing number of corporate entities adding on learning incentives and supporting the ongoing development of their employees through corporate learning, this is quickly becoming a staple. Compliance is all about adhering to company policy, and certification is all about being able to track individual skills and performance gaps.

Remember that, when developing an entirely new platform, it’s not a one-size-fits-all situation. Nor do you have to reinvent the wheel from scratch. MOOCs and online learning have now been around for long enough — since 2010 — to have some very stable and core features that every student familiar with digital learning platforms and interfaces have come to expect.

Think of these like UI standards or best practices that you must incorporate and then design out from there. If you have to start somewhere, we recommending taking everything in this guide as your foundation.

Brendan Moloney
CEO Darlo Group

Using Your Online Course Audience’s Interests to Build Content They Can Relate To

In your quest to become the ultimate expert in your niche, operating online courses and building quality content is all about being there for your audience and their needs.

But, to do that, you’ll need to nail down the intricacies of who your audience needs, what their interests are and where they already live.

As it turns out, creating strategic and high-converting content can end up impacting your entire brand and business. Used wisely, online courses can actually be a way, in other words, to grow your brand’s revenue. But the key is to create content that connects.

An effective growth strategy is composed of:

  • High-quality, genuine content
  • Consistently engaging your audience members
  • Strategies for “getting found” or being discovered by your audiences

So how do you use your online course audiences to build content they can relate to?

Who is your audience?

Online courses are a chance to understand how you can help your audience and who it is that your course truly serves. When done correctly, progress and feedback from courses can be an important way to gain feedback on whether or not your brand is actually successful in serving it’s audiences and using the content types and questions from eLearners to understand where they’re having problems.

From here, all content you create can and should refer back to these ‘problems’ or ‘pain points’.

Developing courses as a way to further embellish your brand and build an audience is one of the smartest ways of marketing with content and serving your audience with more.

But first, let’s take a look at who your audience is and how to harness course insights strategically, in order to serve them.

Creating an audience avatar

Naturally, your course has a theme or an idea that it plans to fulfil by teaching about it.

There are two parts to creating an audience avatar: One occurs during the course-building phase, and the other is based on feedback received from course participants. Naturally, the feedback helps you refine and reinforce certain initial assumptions you made about your audiences while refuting others.

This means that creating an audience avatar is not a one-time exercise. Furthermore, as students progress through your courses, and you receive their feedback, you may analyse their responses and find that you have more than one ‘type’ of audience avatar and that pockets of students are taking your courses for different reasons.

These are all benefits that your course delivers and multiple audience avatars can help you create various forms of content, align your email marketing messages to multiple ‘segments’ of audiences and tailor your ads to numerous users, right at the beginning of a campaign (rather than having to spend money on ads and then wait for the responses to come in).

Your client avatar or audience avatar (the individual or individuals you hope to serve) should include the following information:

  • Demographic details (name, age, location, occupation)
  • Buying or purchasing habits (what brands they already use and purchase from)
  • The kinds of words and language/messaging they resonate with
  • Where (online and offline) they spend their time
  • What ‘pain points’ they have and what they’re hoping to change
  • What they have the potential to achieve and accomplish if/when they take your course

As you can see, the information that goes into building this audience avatar can generate unlimited leads on the kinds of content to create and the types of content you’ll want to use to build a relationship of trust and value with your audiences.

When you’re first marketing your course, you’ll be creating content that caters to these various audiences or client avatars.

From those who actually purchase and attend the course, you can gain a deeper insight into what worked, what didn’t and which content types truly helped them in the above pain points, pitching your course as a solution.

Who does your course truly serve?

Because content is meant to serve audiences (and, in turn, your business can gain by creating this high-value content), you’ll want to understand what your course actually offers.

Do you:

  • Help people lose weight?
  • Help them become better parents?
  • Help them grow their social media?
  • Give them the accountability they need to form better and more productive habits?
  • Teach them about a complex platform?

Essentially, you want to narrow down what kind of transformation your business and course actually provides and promises. It’s based on this premise that all your resulting content can flow from. You’re both answering a need and listening to what your audiences need more of.

But you’ve got to begin somewhere.

Scheduling discovery calls

There are plenty of ways to gain feedback and to, essentially, get some validation as to whether your client avatar and course outcome ‘hypotheses’ are correct.

But let’s focus on the most effective: Scheduling discovery calls. Many course developers or brands that run courses as an audience-building strategy are not too keen on doing this. It feels too upfront and perhaps too pushy.

But a discovery call can be positioned as a benefit to a course learner, a chance to check in, ask questions and be guided, one-on-one. Then, based on the information and feedback you gain during these calls, you’ve got an invaluable resource for what kinds of content to create that will help you serve even more!

While scouring Amazon reviews or other book review forums are a useful hack to getting a sense of people’s language, nothing gives you as much insight into their problems as getting some one-on-one face time (or, rather, phone time).

Using digital publishing tools to gain insights

Once you have some of these topics, use the tools to further structure your content. Remember, the information you received in your discovery calls are useful ‘leads’.

But now, you want to back them up with even more information and digital publishing tools can help you generate ideas as well as connect to what’s already working out there and put your own spin on it. In other words, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

  • NewsWhipThis is a tool that allows users to find content that is working and then predict and analyse engagement rates. NewsWhip also offers suggestions for further content and analytics that give the user information on other publishers, writers and influencers within a topic, across web and mobile platforms.
  • Digivizer: This tool allows its users to track multiple ‘KPI’s about their pre-existing content performance. The software is designed to analyse and deliver insights and recommendations for which actions to take on particular platforms.

Remember that all content needs to do two things: tell a story and provide the promise for a transformation of some sort. This is especially important when tying audience building with online course creation.

‘Before and after’ storytelling in video form, through blog posts or even via case studies present a powerful pull to the course learner, who understands that they’re being promised very concrete results, should they decide to take the course.

That’s why it’s so important to do the ground and answer the above questions, undertaking the process to discover more about your audience before actually moving forward and creating content that resonates.

Dr Brendan Moloney
CEO Darlo Group