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Why Virtual Reality (VR) is the Future of Training


It’s no surprise that more learning and development professionals are starting to explore how VR training might fit into their organization’s goals. This rapidly emerging, highly immersive training tool offers numerous benefits to both learners and organizations.

Hilton’s director of learning innovation calls VR “the future of learning.” Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices’ VP of global education also remarked on the vast potential of this technology, saying, “The world doesn’t have enough access to safe healthcare because there aren’t enough trained surgeons. VR tools can help solve this global crisis.”

As many are touting virtual reality as the next great training frontier, forward-thinking L&D leaders should familiarize themselves with the advantages, disadvantages, and various ways this technology can be utilized.

VR Training

Virtual reality training uses lifelike simulations to help employees learn new skills and develop existing ones. The learner wears a VR headset that visually immerses them in computer-generated, 3D graphics designed to mimic real-world environments. They also typically use motion controllers to interact with their virtual surroundings.

In the virtual environment, learners can complete activities and scenarios ranging from technical skills exercises, like learning to operate machinery, to soft skills exercises, like de-escalating intense customer interactions. This type of training offers several tangible benefits over traditional formats.


Engaging employees is one of the biggest challenges for L&D professionals. VR training helps overcome this obstacle by creating a learning environment with minimal distractions, allowing employees to control their experience.

Virtual reality engages the senses and immerses learners in a simulation of the actual work environment, leading to better training outcomes. A study from Stanford University and the Technical University in Denmark found that VR training increased learning effectiveness by 76% over traditional instructional methods. Another PricewaterhouseCoopers study found that VR simulations for soft skills taught learners faster and created a stronger emotional bond to the content.

Immersive experiences like these reflect a basic tenet of adult learning theory: adults learn best and retain information most effectively under conditions that approximate real-world performance. VR training facilitates “learn by doing,” making learners more capable by giving them simulated, hands-on experiences with tasks they might otherwise have to read about or wait to do once they’re on the job. Plus, if learners need extra practice time to master a skill, they can repeat tasks multiple times in a virtual environment with minimal additional costs.

Cost Savings

Immersive learning eliminates distractions and allows learners to progress through training faster, saving organizations time and money. The PwC study mentioned earlier found that employees trained with VR learned up to four times faster than traditional classroom learners. Less downtime also means greater productivity, adding value to an organization’s bottom line.

Despite the upfront costs of investing in VR training technology, research shows that using it to train large numbers of people over time can be more cost-effective than live, in-person simulations. VR training also makes it easier to practice skills that carry a high degree of risk to costly equipment. And for soft skills training, simulated environments create a safe space where failure doesn’t have detrimental impacts on key stakeholder relationships.

Better Data

VR training technology gives L&D teams greater insight into learner analytics in real time. It allows them to better assess content mastery and provides the data necessary to continuously improve training interventions. Many VR solutions offer the following data:

  • Usage statistics (frequency of training, duration, and completion rates)
  • Performance data (tasks performed, questions answered correctly)
  • Engagement levels (measured by eye tracking, head movement, and other learner interactions)

Disadvantages of VR Training

While VR training can become a cost-effective solution, there are upfront implementation expenses to consider. The average cost of designing, creating, and managing a full VR training program ranges between $40,000 and $155,000, depending on the scope of the training and whether or not organizations need to outsource some of the work. Some industries will require uniquely designed features that standard VR controllers don’t offer. Developers may need to create specialized controllers to match the equipment used in real life, and organizations may need to upgrade their VR hardware as technology advances.

Additionally, VR training is susceptible to technology constraints. For example, the screen-door effect occurs when someone wearing a VR headset can see individual pixels due to the close range of viewing. Poor simulation design can result in AI that doesn’t act like a real human would, reminding learners that they’re in a simulated environment and creating virtual fatigue. In some cases, learners can also get motion sick while wearing VR equipment. However, shorter training sessions and regular breaks can help overcome these challenges. Learning developers should create bite-sized VR content that limits headset training time to 20 minutes or less, and offer non-VR content to supplement the simulated training experience.

Leveraging the Power of VR

Designing a VR training program doesn’t happen overnight. There are many components of VR training development, from instructional design to 3D modeling, that go into making the virtual experience as realistic as possible. While it’s easy to get carried away with any new technology, training developers should remember that VR is a supplemental tool. Traditional instructional methods may still be necessary and can be used alongside VR to create a multi-faceted training plan.

Here are several ways that large organizations are utilizing this innovative technology and leveraging its power to develop their workforce:

Verizon: Verizon offers VR training to teach call-center employees how to de-escalate tough customer service conversations. Associates practice conversing and active listening, reducing training time and boosting confidence.

Walmart: All Walmart stores are equipped with VR headsets, and the company has reportedly trained over a million associates using them. Training includes everything from operating a kiosk for picking up online orders to active shooter training. The technology has helped reduce training time, with Walmart estimating VR has returned “over a million full days of work.”

FedEx: FedEx offers VR training for warehouse operations and how to properly load and unload trailers. Their managing director at Ground University says VR allows them to simulate scenarios impossible to recreate in a typical classroom.

Porsche: In transitioning to an electrified future, Porsche created VR training about electric vehicles and the technology behind them. This includes exploring a narrated exhibit, interacting with electrical component displays, and testing mastery via an interactive quiz. This training also has a non-VR, web browser option, making it easy to access across the entire Porsche enterprise.

Henkel: Henkel developed VR workplace health and safety training that presents learners with real-world environments and challenges them to identify risks before moving on. This combination of immersion and gamification is where VR training excels.


There’s plenty of evidence that virtual reality is here to stay: the global VR market is projected to exceed 12 billion U.S. dollars by 2024, and the technology is expected to become mainstream in the next three to four years. As L&D leaders look to help their organizations prepare for the future, the time to begin exploring VR training solutions is now.

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