It is no exaggeration to say that one of the most unintentionally neglected functions in many organizations is learning management. Though companies do invest a lot in developing resources meant for their employees’ consumption, there is little effort to measure the ‘real’ effect that those resources have on employees’ actual performance and behaviour. Just because your employees know something should not be construed as a predictor of their attitudinal change. You may know by reading what cloud computing stands for, but it is not necessary that you develop an inclination towards it. For real behavioural change to take place, it is vital that you understand the context in which it works and how it works to save time, cost, administrative burdens etc. This is an elementary example to illustrate that bombarding your employees with rich and updated content every now and then can serve its purpose only if you have a robust learning environment in place that will make all that information meaningful to them.
In one of its recent publications, the American Society for Training and Development (now the ATD) underscores the need of such ‘Immersive’ learning environments which can overcome these limitations. Simply put, immersive learning environments are those that use virtual/ augmented reality to mimic real-life situations. Consider the game designers for instance. They do the most arduous task of wrapping mentally challenging situations into such creative and engaging user interfaces that users pay for them as a means of recreation for their idle time. Games like Cut The Rope which is a Physics based game, is essentially a tool for testing and improving physical concepts like magnetism, resonance and even Newton’s laws of motions! Or World of Warcraft, which helps players to build and strengthen their strategizing and leadership skills with continuous practice.
Organizations that are investing so much in developing the talent of their employees need to formulate learning strategies of real value. Contemporarily speaking, an immersive learning environment has particular edge over many other forms of learning, because:
- It caters to a geographically displaced workforce- Depending on the structure of your design, learning experiences can be asynchronous and location independent, allowing for learners, mentors, and experts to participate when it’s convenient to them.
- It provides immediate corrective feedback- Contrary to an on-the-job call, where the trainee must hang on till the entire training episode gets over (on-site training can often not be interrupted because of the presence of clients) an immersive learning environment facilitates prompt feedback corresponding to negative or positive actions as and when they are performed by the trainee. This hugely impacts the overall learning and retention process.
- It enables control of the learning environment- By exposing trainees to different levels of difficulty immersive learning environments ensure optimum employee performance. (Imagine an inbound voice process employee being virtually trained to handle a raging and highly dissatisfied customer)
It is not that organizations do not realize the need for quality learning; the problem lies in a skills deficit when it comes to designing such immersive environments. At best, learning managers and instructional designers must make conscious efforts to dig beneath the superficially appealing layers of games and try to establish relationships between concepts and presentation.