How To Combat The Learner Engagement Challenge By Creating Immersive Learning Experiences

Creating Immersive Learning Experiences
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Summary: The current work from home (WFH) dynamics are replete with distractions that erode learner focus during virtual training. In this article, I outline how L&D teams can use immersive learning to address the challenge of learner engagement.

The Learner Engagement Challenge

Changes in workplace dynamics, where more employees work from places other than their traditional workplaces, have produced wide-ranging anxiety and distractions in the workforce. Delivering virtual training in such an environment is extremely challenging because it’s difficult to keep remote learners focused and engaged.

The result? Increasing rates of disengagement from virtual training, declining rates of program completion, and a general lack of optimizing the use of corporate training resources. Providing remote learners with a set of immersive learning experiences can help address these challenges.

What Is Immersive Learning?

Traditional learning approaches relied on media such as audio, print, and video to deliver impactful learning experiences. While these approaches can drive limited learner engagement, newer approaches use other senses such as sound, vision, and touch to deliver deeper immersive learning experiences that foster greater engagement with the learning process.

Immersive learning is an approach to deliver virtual learning experiences that go beyond traditional passive learning, where trainers deliver and learners listen, view, and take notes.

Immersive training seeks to have virtual learners engage more deeply in the learning process. They do so by collaborating, practicing, doing, and experimenting in their immersive environments.

How Does Immersive Learning Support The Learning Process?

The virtual learning process is one where knowledge is delivered in a virtual setting, on the one hand, and is received remotely on the other hand.

Learner engagement is key to successful assimilation (and subsequent application) of new knowledge. The immersive learning approaches support this process in two ways:

  • Firstly, a virtual immersive learning experience delivers knowledge in ways that captivate and engage remote learners, unlike other Instructor-Led Training (ILT) or Virtual Instructor-Led Training (VILT) approaches.
  • Secondly, and more importantly, immersive training allows remote learners to practice what they’ve learned—problem-solving, decision-making, critical thinking—in a safe virtual environment.

The effect on remote learners, of collaborating with trainers, fellow learners, and workplace peers, albeit virtually, immerses participants in training programs and further drives learner engagement [1].

How Can You Create An Immersive Learning Experience?

L&D teams can use a wide array of strategies, approaches, and tools to provide a virtual learner with a highly immersive learning experience. These may include the use of real-life scenarios, branching simulations, interactive storytelling, and gamification. Other immersive training strategies, such as Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), mobile apps, and video-based performance support tools, can equally help learners immerse themselves in their training world.

How Does Creating An Immersive Learning Experience Help You Combat the Learner Engagement Challenge?

Monotony breeds disengagement. In today’s remote working/learning world, it’s very easy for “bored” learners to disengage. The challenge for L&D teams is: How do you foster learner engagement, while at the same time also delivering a fun, successful training program?

The answer lies in using training approaches, such as immersive training, to appeal to learners on multiple fronts: logical (logos), ethical (ethos), and emotional (pathos).

Trainers may use a variety of supporting tools and practices, such as Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), moderated discussions, simulated use cases, and branching-based practice assignments to deliver an immersive learning experience.

A training program based on immersive appeals drives participant eagerness to learn, thereby fostering learner engagement. Learners who get involved in the learning process by being active participants instead of passive listeners (and dormant content consumers!) are far more engaged learners. They absorb more, and they transfer what they’ve learned to the workplace far more effectively than passive learners.

What Are The Key Considerations for Creating Immersive Learning Experiences?

To foster learner engagement, L&D teams must consider the following:

  • Create meaningful immersive use cases
    Virtual learners engage more eagerly when they can relate to the use cases. Make your story, use cases, and scenarios as close to real life as possible.
  • Incorporate frequent learner engagement points
    Creating an immersive learning experience requires more than just substituting text-based notes for videos or VR content. To deliver a truly immersive training experience, where possible, inject interactivity, feedback, experimentation, and opportunities for collaboration into the learning program.
  • Build compelling learner experiences through technology
    Simply porting existing training to a virtual environment won’t compel learners to immerse themselves into the training program and engage with the content. L&D teams must learn to use technology, such as VR, AI, AR, combined with supporting strategies (more on this topic later), such as gamification, branching simulations, and scenario-based learning, to deliver an immersive learning experience that breeds engagement.

What Immersive Training Strategies Can Help You Create an Immersive Learning Experience?

With other distractions and preoccupations to contend with, virtual learners more easily disengage from their learning programs. Here are some immersive training strategies to help you deal with the learner engagement challenge:

  • Gamification
    By introducing fun and competition—combined with rewards and recognition—along the learning journey, gamification offers a compelling immersive training experience that captivates learners to engage.
  • Story-based learning
    Stories appeal to remote learners at a higher emotional level than traditional learning approaches do. They, therefore, produce better learner engagement and result in higher retention and recall of training content.
  • Branching simulations
    One compelling aim, of virtual immersive training, is to help learners engage with the program by teaching them the consequences of their actions and decisions. Branching simulations are a great strategy to accomplish that objective.
  • AR/VR/ER/MR
    Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Extended Reality (ER) and Mixed Reality (MR) deliver near-real-world experiences to virtual learners [2]. From the comforts of their homes, cars, or other safe settings, they immerse themselves remotely into digital experiences to learn new skills, hone old ones, and reinforce new behavior. This encourages remote learners to engage more readily with the training program.
  • NextGen strategies
    L&D teams may also use a variety of NextGen strategies to foster greater learner engagement, including app-based learning, microlearning, mLearning, and predictive learning (based on AI).
  • Video-based learning
    In addition to creating an environment where remote learners immerse themselves in learning, video-based learning delivers sticky learning opportunities, offers performance support on the job, and provides immersive training options to engage learners through learning on the go.
  • Scenario-based learning
    By encouraging learners to engage with the scenarios presented, this strategy not only fosters learner behavior change but also contributes to long-term performance improvements as well.

Parting Thoughts

A well-designed immersive learning experience goes a long way to fuel learner interest in virtual training. It also helps learners stay engaged for longer, thereby assuring better program completion rates. Additionally, improved learner engagement also leads to better knowledge absorption, longer retention, more efficient behavior modification, and all-around workplace performance improvements.

I hope this article provides the requisite insights on how L&D teams can use immersive learning to address the challenge of learner engagement. Meanwhile, if you have any specific queries, do contact me or leave a comment below.

References: 

[1] 15 Tips and Strategies to Engage Remote Learners Through High-impact Virtual Training

[2] Virtual Reality In eLearning – Using VR As A Microlearning Nugget For Induction And Onboarding

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