What Are the benefits of Online Learning for Companies?

There are a number of advantages of offering online training within your organisation. Whether you are seeking solutions to help your employees continuously update knowledge and skills or are looking for a convenient way to ensure they are always ready for the exciting opportunities that lay ahead, the benefits simply can’t be ignored.

There are some ways to conduct online training, all of which are fully customisable to meet the specific needs of your company. Various file types can be used to accommodate learners of all types, including PDFs, videos, audio and hands-on activities. This allows you to cover a wide range of information in ways that reach all your employees and promote more effective teamwork.

Offering online learning opportunities may not only benefit your employees by further increasing their earning potential but can also help your company remain on the cutting edge of new technologies and trends. Here are some benefits of online learning to consider.

Online Learning Provides flexibility

Online courses offer a great deal of flexibility because they can be taken from anywhere at any time. This gives employees the ability to manage their time better because they will have the freedom of choosing when, and sometimes where and how their courses are completed. This is much easier than requiring everyone to show up at a specific place at an appointed time which can interrupt workflow. It also ensures there will always be someone in the office to cover emergencies should they occur.

Online Learning Utilises a Variety of Mediums

Online courses allow for the use of many different mediums such as text, images, videos and most importantly, eBooks. The lack of physical materials makes it easier for employees to keep track of notes, and the online platform is convenient for managing course schedules, assignments and individual progress information.

Consequently, all of the various files and links associated with online training modules can be easily stored in one place for quick access when needed. As noted on eLearning Industry, “course materials can be “permanently saved in your hard drive when it comes to online training.”

Online Learning Courses Are Easily Accessible Across Multiple Platforms and Devices

There are many methods for accessing online learning materials, so your employees will be able to choose what is most convenient to them. Whether by computer, tablet or smartphone, they can easily download, listen to and watch the modules using their platform of choice. Companies can benefit significantly from this level of access by offering a multitude of training in a diverse topic range that will cover various disciplines and simultaneously address a number of needs.

Online Learning Increases Retention Rates

Online learning modules are often broken down into task-oriented segments. These pieces of information can be presented in a number of ways that reinforce the concepts being taught. Text, images, the use of interesting fonts and animated descriptions are often used to introduce multiple aspects of each part, bringing them all together to form a big picture that is easier to retain. As each concept is presented differently, it becomes easier to remember.

Online Learning Is More Cost-Effective than Traditional Methods

Offering traditional training can be quite costly, especially when you consider possible travel expenses like transportation, meals and lodging. This becomes particularly problematic when you require a large group of employees to attend at one time.

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You can offset this cost by offering online training. According to an article on Chron.com, “If you choose online education instead, you can eliminate those extra expenses and focus on the value of the training itself.”

The price difference will enable you to train an entire department as opposed to just a few employees at a time. You will also be able to offer a higher number of training throughout the year because of the cost-effectiveness of eLearning over more conventional training methods.

Online Learning Allows for Greater Course Selection

When you offer online learning opportunities to your employees, you’ll have the flexibility of providing a better selection of courses. This is because you won’t be limited to instructor or employee availability and can choose the specific courses you want to include. Employees can then complete the courses at their own pace, or within a particular timeframe, you specify.

You will also be able to quickly build on previous learning modules and courses by keeping a record of which courses were most effective and why. By regularly monitoring the progress of your employees and requesting their feedback, you can determine which specific courses to add and the types of materials they should include to reach your employees in the most efficient manner possible.

Online courses will benefit both your company and employees by helping everyone obtain the knowledge and skills to remain relevant in the fast-paced business world of today. As technology continues to evolve, the challenges of keeping current will diminish due to its capabilities and the many opportunities afforded through offering high-quality training that is making a difference everywhere.

Brendan Moloney
CEO Darlo Group

What’s all the buzz about Microlearning?

eLearning has changed the way information is accessed, opening doors for greater expansion and a wider range of opportunities. The ways in which learning materials are presented are an integral part of the overall learning process and are directly tied to the type of learning taking place.

As technology advanced, bringing with it instant access to more information than ever before, the need for both altering and shortening the presentation grew. Hence, eLearning.

Microlearning came about as a result of shorter attention spans brought on by the vast amount of information available from multiple sources: websites, blogs, articles etc. This culminated in a lack of focus for many people when attempting to devote long hours to learning. Over time, the retention time for learners was gradually lowered from 30 minutes to an hour to now mere minutes. As a result, the need arose to condense eLearning lessons into bite-sized nuggets that are easier for learners to digest.

Challenges of Microlearning

In addition to shortening eLearning modules, educators and instructors were faced with the challenges of engaging the attention of their online learners and finding mediums that would make the information memorable. The result is short videos, brief audio lectures, slides with images and material presented in small blocks of text, all of which take very little time to take in while engaging several of the senses at once.

All eLearning modules and materials must also support delivery and access across multiple devices. This includes: computers, tablets, smartphones and any other mobile devices learners may use.

Advantages of Microlearning

There are several advantages to implementing microlearning techniques. Because the information can be accessed across a wide range of devices, learners will be able to access it anywhere at any time. Whether you’re putting together scholastic or business training, offering this type of diverse learning means a more efficient training process because learners can access it during the times that most conveniently fit into their schedules. Also, offering shorter modules makes it easier to fit training into the busy work day without interrupting workflow.

Microlearning is also a great solution for employees who are initially coming onboard in a new job and are required to complete a lot of paperwork and training within a relatively short period of time. Sometimes the stress of finishing all these tasks quickly can cause information overload, which will overwhelm employees and make retention difficult.

Breaking learning modules down into smaller pieces, then incorporating audio, video, images, exercises and text will help engage different parts of the brain by showing and telling, which will help make it easier to remember over time. This also addresses the different types of learners by providing various means to obtain information.

Creating Material for Microlearning

When putting together material for your microlearning courses, include only one topic per module. This allows the learner to concentrate on one specific aspect of the course and makes it easy to reference a particular point at any time in the future.

Establish how long each module should be, and strictly stick to that time. This will help you keep the length of your modules to a minimum while enabling you to maximise productivity across the board.

Keep your courses innovative. Present modules in a way that is creative and stands out. This will not only help learners retain the information but will also make your courses recognisable.

Finally, mix it up. As you create material for e-Learning courses, don’t be afraid to integrate new ideas as you go. You should evolve with your learners, and there’s no better way to do this than through constant change. Be mindful of new ways of delivering content and be willing to change up the formula every now and then to address new trends.

Our top tips for building a great content plan

Are you ready to create an e-learning package? At Darlo Digital, we’re aware that some of our clients may struggle to get their content plan off the ground. Fortunately, we’re here with reliable solutions with our effective e-learning content plan that most businesses and universities can use.

First, identify your learner

No e-learning content plan will reach maximum efficiency if you don’t understand who your learner is and what they want. Ask yourself why they’re going to choose your course, what they might expect from it, and how you’re going to deliver it to them.

During this time, you’ll also want to examine whether your candidate is internal or external. If they’re internal, you may have an easier time finding out how to shape your course. An internal candidate usually needs an e-learning package because you need to fill gaps in their knowledge with the aim of making their current skillset match what your company needs.

In contrast, an external learner isn’t as easy to shape in your mind. That doesn’t mean you can’t try, though. Examine why they may want to come to you and what their background is. They’re choosing your course because they have particular interests and requirements, so make sure you’re filling them.

Whether your candidate is internal or external, always ask yourself what their current knowledge base is. There’s going to be some gaps between what they know and what you want them to know, which is where your content comes in. And, ask yourself whether they’ve used a Learning Management System (LMS) before? If not, you should dedicate some of your course’s content to guiding them around one.

Next, fill in those knowledge gaps

Now you know who your learner is, what they know, and what you need them to know, it’s time to fill in the knowledge gaps. When doing this, look at how you’re going to build on their existing knowledge base. See their current knowledge as the foundations for your learning aims.

When creating a course outline, try to ensure each module follows a logical format. The first module should build on the course’s prerequisites, and each module should naturally follow on from them. At each stage, ask yourself whether the information you’re trying to introduce is easy to understand based on what the student knows and what you’ve already taught them. Although it’s acceptable to direct them toward external resources some of the time, you shouldn’t expect them to engage in a heavy volume of background work.

Each piece of knowledge you include should act as a larger part of the student’s jigsaw puzzle. By the end, they should have a complete picture that is as clear as possible.

Identify how you’ll deliver the course’s content

No two students work the same. Research shows us that humans have evolved to learn in a multisensory environment. This means they need a combination of text, images, videos, and interactive modules to succeed.

To provide that multisensory environment, you need to identify which aspects of your course are best delivered via each mode. For example:

  • If you want an internal candidate to learn more about the company’s financial background, consider using a graph. This combines textual and visual information effortlessly.
  • To breakdown large volumes of information on some concepts, include short video clips. They diversify how students learn, which then increases the chances of them remaining engaged.
  • To give students an insight into different cultures and environments, consider the use of pictures, audio clips, or video clips. Encourage them to reflect on what they’ve seen after.

Consider adding progress quizzes throughout your course, especially if there’s a lot of content. It encourages students to remain motivated, and it allows them to measure where they’re at in terms of knowledge.

Measuring knowledge outcomes at the end

Although your e-learning course’s progress quizzes don’t need to count towards a final grade, you should measure knowledge outcomes at the end. In addition to ensuring you know whether students have passed or failed, it’s a reliable way to measure the course’s efficacy.

Once you have some data from your course, you should also issue a quiz for feedback. Send this quiz to students who have passed, failed, and dropped out. It’s important to identify which aspects of the course they found useful, why they chose to proceed, and why they decided to leave. When you have feedback, you can use it to develop an e-learning package that’s simpler to access and beneficial for both you and your trainees.

Identify who’s creating the course’s content

When you know what your e-learning package should contain and how you’re going to measure its efficacy, you need to identify who will develop the course’s content. Allocate different individuals to take responsibility for various aspects, such as information, measuring outcomes, and incorporating branding.

When you know who’s taking responsibility for the different parts of your online course, you can provide students with people to go to when they need support. Additionally, if an element of the course isn’t performing as well as it should, you’ll know which stakeholder is best equipped to tackle the issue.

Introduce a project management tool

Without the right project management tools, tracking your course’s development will become difficult. Create a timeline of which tasks need to be performed, who’s responsible for them, and identify who’s overseeing the whole process. In addition to tracking your course’s development, add in key marketing dates and your proposed launch date. Marketing is crucial if you’re trying to attract external candidates, as they’ll have a litany of courses to choose from. As such, you need to add marketing ideas and outcomes to the months and weeks preceding your course’s launch date.

When creating an e-learning course, performing research in an organised manner should always come first. From there, you can develop a course outline, identify how you’ll deliver it, and highlight the people responsible. Ideally, you’ll also use a project management tool to measure your progress throughout and make changes accordingly.

If you need assistance with your course development, contact the Darlo Digital team.

Brendan Moloney
CEO Darlo Group

How VR is going to take eLearning in 2019 by storm

The use of Virtual Reality (VR) in e-learning isn’t new. However, it’s an area of the online learning market that is yet to be refined. With Adobe releasing its new Captivate software in 2019, it’s worth looking at how VR is going to transform e-learning throughout 2019. At Darlo Digital, we’re here to explore some of the industry’s biggest predictions.

First, introducing Adobe’s Captivate 2019

The main reasons VR is due to transform e-learning this year is that there’s been a sudden shift in how useful the software is. Until recently, VR software has been patchy and unappealing at best. Most of the accessible headsets, such as Google cardboard, don’t fully immerse users in alternative worlds. Those that do have significant capabilities, such as Samsung Gear VR, require very specific hardware, making them less accessible for those who want to try the technology on a budget.

Although Adobe’s Captivate might not leave your students feeling as though they’ve truly stepped into the Louvre in Paris, it comes as a decent second best. In addition to giving you the chance to create a 360-degree environment that students can explore, it provides the option of the following features:

  • You can encourage students to interact with certain areas
  • Students can zoom in on key objects and click on boxes that offer more information about them
  • There’s the option of creating quizzes, which could prove useful when measuring performance and encouraging motivational factors

Depending on how you choose to use the features above, this could generate an exciting new frontier for those who use VR as part of their learning experience. Let’s explore some of the possibilities.

Using quizzes to encourage student participation

One of the best ways to make an e-learning course stand out and retain students is through the use of quizzes. When they can perform a knowledge check, they’ll see how well they’re progressing. In addition to encouraging them to learn more, this is also an excellent opportunity for them to see where their knowledge is patchy, so they can then build on it.

Let’s say you’re offering a history learning experience and you give your students the chance to explore Stonehenge. For those who can’t visit such sites, being able to immerse themselves in the environment is a cost-friendly and easy alternative. As they make their way through Stonehenge with their VR headset, you can highlight key areas where they can tap and answer questions. As the course provider, you can choose whether to let them move on despite attaining a good or bad result, or you can tell them that they can only progress further into the site by getting more answers right the next time. Either way, students can broaden their knowledge further.

Measuring knowledge outcomes for safety environments

The use of VR for e-learning in 2019 also presents a health and safety-friendly way to see how course users tackle certain scenarios. If you’re training security personnel, for example, you can use VR to see how they would tackle certain situations, without placing them directly in harm’s way.

Using security personnel as an example again, if you provide your trainees with certain mechanisms for tackling an intruder, you could add an intruder to your VR experience. Your trainees will then face a selection of options for handling the intruder’s presence, some of which will produce better outcomes than others. If they make a bad choice, you can prevent them from progressing further into the scenario, tell them why their choice was bad, and allow them to start the module again.

Such VR experiences are also an excellent way to see how well your course delivers the goods. If a large proportion of students are failing to meet your expected outcomes, you have the option of tweaking your course until the majority are doing better.

Finding the right VR headsets for your course

If you now feel as though VR might be a good option for your 2019 e-learning packages, it’s worth looking at which headsets perform well and which don’t.

Oculus Rift

Although Oculus Rift has a large upfront cost, it lends itself well to large area VR experiences. If you want to use your VR course components to introduce students to areas such as Stonehenge or safety scenarios, large area VR compatibility is a must. Oculus Rift also comes with motion controllers, which removes the need for students to use only their bodies to move around the area. Motion controllers can reduce the amount of space you need to dedicate to training. Finally, the motion controllers will also work well with object interaction, which means it ticks all the right boxes for most VR learning packages.

Google Daydream

Although Google Daydream isn’t quite as basic as its cardboard VR headset, it’s still a low-cost option for those who are on a budget. As such, it might be a worthwhile investment if VR course delivery is something you want to experiment within 2019, but you don’t want to put too much money into it. The VR experience will depend on the user’s phone, which means you’ll need to develop a course that’s smartphone friendly. One of the biggest criticisms of Google Daydream is that it’s quite heavy at the front of the headset, which may make it difficult for users to operate over a prolonged period.

Lenovo Mirage Solo

Lenovo Mirage Solo utilises Google Daydream’s features, but as a standalone headset that doesn’t require a smartphone. Arguably, this makes it more accessible for users. The cost is higher, but reviews claim that it works well with WorldSense, which suggests your trainees may find it easier to interact with your course’s content.

If you see a place for VR in your 2019 e-learning packages, come to Darlo Digital. We’re ready to provide innovative solutions for those who want to take a forward-thinking approach to e-learning packages. To discuss your needs further, contact us for a consultation.

 

Brendan Moloney
Darlo CEO

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.