Immersive Technology

The Anatomy of a VR Training Module – Explaining the Key Characteristics of VR Training Experiences

March 2, 2023
Written by:
Talespin Team

Virtual reality training has emerged as a learning modality with proven benefits and use cases ranging from leadership training to healthcare and sales training

Despite its popularity, understanding exactly what VR training is like or how to use it can be difficult when you’ve never experienced it before. For example, what do learners see in a VR training module? How do they navigate the training experience? Where does learning design come into play? —these are common questions you might have as you assess VR as a training methodology.

In order to answer those questions, we’ll discuss the anatomy of a VR training module in this blog post. We’ll break down the key components of a VR training experience from the underlying learning design to visual components like virtual training environments and the user experience. 

Let’s jump in.

Basic components of a VR Training module discussed in this blog post:

  • Learning Experience Design
  • Virtual Training Environment
  • Virtual Human Characters
  • User Interactions - What the Learner Can “Do” in a VR Training Module
  • Scoring and Performance Feedback

Learning Experience Design

Learning experience design is the foundation of a VR training module. Elements of a training module that get determined during the learning design process inform what the module looks like, what the training scenarios are, and how an employee’s performance is measured and scored.

While these elements might not be obvious on the surface, they serve as the underlying structure of a VR training experience, and ensure that experience is able to deliver the intended training use case and learning objectives.

For example, this “Psychological Safety” learning module’s core learning experience design components include:

  • Learning objectives like fostering inclusivity, and creating a safe space to give and receive feedback
  • Predetermined skills that the module is intended to teach like empathy, problem solving and psychological safety
  • Narrative design that determines the scenarios a learner will be tasked with navigating
  • Key learning points - moments within that narrative design where learner decisions will be evaluated and scored based on their application of the skills mentioned above
This image from a no-code VR training content creation tool depicts a narrative design for a VR training module. This includes written dialogue options for employees and virtual characters, as well as “scoring nodes” that evaluate skill application.

Think of learning experience design as the framework that will inform and guide the other key components of a VR training module.

Virtual Training Environment

The next key component of a VR learning module is more readily apparent, as we will be discussing the virtual environment in which the training takes place. 3D virtual environments are VR training’s equivalent of the setting an e-learning video takes place in or a physical training facility in the real world. The environment is where the VR simulation takes place, and can be thought of as where employees “go” when they put on a VR headset. 

These environments can range from office spaces to classrooms to industry specific facilities depending on the simulation that is being delivered for the VR training module’s use case.

3D virtual environments are where VR training modules take place, and represent the virtual location learners can explore while consuming a learning module. This virtual environment depicts an insurance company's office.

Picking the virtual environment for a training module is critical, as it should match the theme of the training use case and support learning objectives.

For example, it would make sense thematically for a training module on sales skills to take place in a target customer’s office. Or a VR training module designed to teach Virtual Leadership skills would make sense to be set in a virtual environment of a home office to symbolize remote work. 

Virtual Characters

Digital avatars are a type of digital content that is becoming popular as platforms like social media become more personalized and the Metaverse grows in popularity. 

This same trend is occurring in education as use cases like virtual role play and group learning simulations enable new digital learning experiences in a remote and hybrid work and education environment. Virtual human characters play a big part in this trend, as they either represent the learner’s avatar, or they represent virtual characters that the learner engages in simulated role play with. 

This VR training module example showcases virtual characters serving as role play partners and mentors. Also note the virtual office environment the simulation takes place in.

When designing an immersive learning module, learning designers can create their own characters if they are creating a module through custom development efforts, or take advantage of no-code VR training content creation tools that offer pre-made virtual character libraries that can be used in custom VR training module creation.

User Interactions - What the Learner Can “Do” in a VR Training Module

Another key characteristic of a VR training module is the set of interactions a user can take within the module. 

On a desktop computer we are familiar with using mouse clicks and keyboards to navigate different software programs. On mobile phones we have grown accustomed to tapping and swiping on touch screens. VR training modules have their own interaction types, including head movement, hand gestures, voice, and even the ability to walk around to navigate the experiences depending upon the VR app or software being used. 

This demo video shows what interacting with your hands in a VR training module would be like.

Different Interaction Types Based on Hardware and VR Platform Selection

The types of interactions you can make in a VR training module will be partially determined by the distribution method you choose. For example, if you are deploying VR training to VR head mounted displays (HMDs) like the Meta Quest, learners will be able to use their voice and head movements to navigate the training simulations. Desktop computers are also a distribution option, enabling learners to engage in immersive learning simulations where they use their voice, keyboard, and mouse to navigate training simulations in a similar manner to the way we navigate a video conference call.

On the Talespin VR training platform, for example, users can use their voices or head movement to navigate simulated role play in VR soft skills training modules. When immersive learning is consumed on a desktop device instead of a VR HMD, the available user interactions change, and users can click their mouse or keyboard to navigate the training module, or use their voice as they would on a video conference call.

This demo explains how an immersive learning module is consumed by learners on a desktop computer or laptop.

Regardless of whether or not you choose to adopt VR training modules using VR HMDs, or 2D devices, user interactions will be a key part of the experience for learners. 

Learn more about the different distribution methods available for VR training modules: Distributing Immersive Learning Content: An Overview Of XR Devices, 2D Devices And LMS Integration 

Scoring and Performance Feedback

Now that we’ve covered the key components that go into creating an immersive learning module and showcased the learner experience within a module, let’s talk about scoring and performance feedback. 

One of the benefits of VR training modules is that they offer the opportunity to collect performance data from employees that can be used for measuring skills development.

For example, VR training modules created with the Talespin platform feature a built in scoring system designed to track key learning points related to the skills and learning objectives the module is intended to teach. 

Talespin Head of Learning Engineering Kristen Torrence discusses how learner performance is measured within VR training modules

With the ability to design VR training modules to teach specific skills, and a built-in scoring system for measuring the application of those skills, scoring is a critical facet of a VR training module for learning and development teams to be aware of.

Examples of VR Training Modules

Now that you know the basic components of a VR training module, let’s take a look at some VR training examples to showcase these key components:

This “Empathetic Persuasion” VR training module showcases the user experience within a module.

  • Virtual Leadership - Learners will develop skills to build interconnected teams while navigating a hybrid work environment
  • Effective Behavioral Feedback - Learners practice giving performance feedback to a direct report who made offensive comments in a company wide-meeting
  • Recognizing Biases - Learners must interview three candidates and find the right one for the role, while learning how to identify and mitigate common biases found in the workplace

These examples showcase how different training use cases and associated skills can be taught using VR training modules, and also exemplify the visual components we discussed, like virtual human characters and virtual environments.

Frequently Asked Questions About VR Training Modules

What is needed for VR training?

For VR training, two key components are needed: the VR head mounted display, or headset, that the training will be consumed on, and the VR training software application that will provide the VR training content that the user will consume. 

With the maturation of the VR training industry in recent years, these two key components of what is needed for VR training are straight forward to procure, as there are several VR HMD options available on the market, and most VR training platforms are compatible with them. 

Can VR be used for training?

Yes, VR can be used for training in various fields such as healthcare, insurance, education, leadership training, human resources, and many more. 

VR training enables learners to practice different scenarios and situations and to see the cause and effect relationships of their actions, and can be used to teach and measure the development of a range of skills.

Related: Scenario-Based Learning: Preparing Learners for Real-World Situations Through Immersive Experiences

What is a VR module?

A VR module is a software component or application that is specifically designed to run on virtual reality headsets. These modules can be standalone applications or a piece of content that is distributed and consumed within a VR training application, like a VR training content library application. 

A VR module typically contains different training scenarios or simulations that learners can interact with in a virtual training environment. VR modules can be created for use cases ranging from soft skills training to hard skills training. The purpose of a VR module is to provide a safe and controlled environment for learners to practice and hone their skills without the risks and costs associated with real-world training.

Related: Tower Hill Insurance Drives Workforce Innovation With The Talespin Platform

Final Thoughts About the Anatomy of a VR Training Module

VR training has become a popular method of learning with a wide range of applications. However, understanding what VR training is like or how to use it can be challenging at first. We hope this blog post analyzing the key components of a VR training module helps you create or adopt VR training modules that deliver on your intended use case and learning objectives.

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