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How Augmented Reality Can Revolutionise Your Employee Training

How Augmented Reality Can Revolutionise Your Employee Training
4 kilobytes of RAM and a 32KB hard drive. That’s how much computing power NASA’s Apollo 11 Moon Lander had to navigate half a billion miles of space on its lunar voyage. The laptop, phone, or tablet you’re reading this on is thousands of times faster, and probably has millions times more storage.

Now, just half a century later, this rapid technological development means that you can project digital 3D models of spacecraft like the Mars Rover and Voyager probes into your room, garden, classroom – wherever! All because of augmented reality.
Augmented Reality uses these consumer devices – smartphones, tablets, or headsets like the Microsoft HoloLens or Oculus Go – to merge the real world with the digital. Using cameras and software that measures the physical space, AR apps overlay 3D models which can be interacted with and manipulated.

Google’s Arts & Culture app, for example, has an AR function that lets users hang up virtual simulacra of famous artworks on their own walls, so you can see just how surprisingly small the Mona Lisa really is without being jostled by 500 other eager museumgoers.

As well as being used in architecture, commerce, manufacturing, design, and a number of other practical applications, augmented reality is being applied to great effect in the focus of this article – learning and training.
How can AR be used for learning and training?
Augmented reality is gaining a foothold in schools as a promising way to boost students interest and engagement with subjects. Chances are that you experienced the ennui of a long, dull history or physics lesson that seemed to slow time to a standstill. Imagine if instead of just rote memorisation of a textbook, you were able to interact with models of the Coliseum, pick apart the structure of an atom, or project Jupiter onto your desk. This is what AR offers.

But the benefits of AR as a learning tool don’t just apply to school pupils and their burgeoning minds – the educational advantages for people of any age are huge. These are just a few of the key reasons why.

The power of visuals
it might sound like a trite cliché to say that pictures convey a thousand words, but they do have very real power when it comes to communicating messages and really making them stick in our minds. Research into how people learn has shown that whilst words are often linked with short term memory, images and visuals are more associated with the long-term memory and recall.

Pairing these together as well as sound and movement and feedback means that augmented reality training content can harness the advantages of all of these mediums. Additionally, features such as audio description or different visual settings can help for learners with visual impairments such as reduced visibility, colour blindness, or astigmatism.

Experiential learning
Experiential learning is the idea of ‘learn by doing’ but this might not always be possible with time constraints, limited resources, or safety concerns. When movements and gestures are part of an AR simulation, these techniques become ingrained in muscle-memory, tapping into another element of memorisation that can be overlooked in traditional methods.

AR training means that experiential learning is now possible in the office, at home, or wherever your employee is.

New dimensions of feedback
Compared to Biro ticks and crosses on a completed paper worksheet or animations on an interactive quiz, augmented reality learning applications and simulations can offer user feedback on new levels. Vibrations, visual feedback, sounds, and haptic feedback can be used – more like a video game – can guide learners on their progress in a direct and immediate way that they can feel and respond to. A wrongly selected tool might glow ominously red, a right answer eliciting an encouraging noise, or moving a part into the correct place resulting in an affirming vibration. The options are endless.

Caters to different learning types – even down to the individual
Because not everyone learns in the same way simply reading off a sheet or of a PowerPoint won't fully convey all of the important information to all of your employees equally. In fact, it's likely to only work effectively for a small minority. With AR, the dynamic combination of visuals, text, sound, and haptic feedback can cater to visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinaesthetic styles of learning.
AR software can also be used to personalise curricula for the individual learner, to get the best result for them based on their strengths and weaknesses.

Versatility and compatibility with other exciting developments
Augmented reality is fertile ground for smoothly and powerfully integrating other new learning techniques and technologies. Gamification, the use of game mechanics to tap into underutilised parts of human behaviour and psyches that education can often overlook, can easily be woven into AR simulations. As can digital twinning, the practice of having a digital model that is connected (‘twinned’) to a physical object to mix simulations with tactile reality.
The practical advantages that AR learning can offer your business
The potential educational boons of AR in training are manifold, but of course, the necessities of running a business mean that there need to be some benefits concerning costs and practicality to really make AR training a viable option. With any technological development, it’s only natural that some might be concerns that it’s going to be exceedingly expensive and finnicky to use, and that the possible plusses are outweighed by all the headaches of trying to get things actually working.

But rather than being a complicated and costly technique, AR training in fact offers some practical advantages for businesses – here are 5 of those significant benefits:

1. Slashes Risk and Boosts Confidence
For many high-risk jobs, inexperience can be a safety concern. The UK government’s Health and Safety Executive found that the most dangerous period for workers is the first 6 months of a new role, particularly for young people.

AR training means that new hires can be upskilled in areas of the job that might be dangerous for an inexperienced person to attempt in reality. Conversely, the same benefit can also be applied to industries like healthcare or social work, where the worker isn’t necessarily at risk, but the health and safety of a patient very much is.
With a PWC study finding that companies using AR training had a 40% improvement in task completion and a 35% reduction in errors, it becomes clear that augmented reality makes a trainee more capable – and most importantly safer - to tackle the challenge in real-life when the time comes.

2. Minimises Material Costs and Wastage
For industries like manufacturing, engineering, or technology, incorrectly assembled or even damaged components in the training process can be a drain on resources. In aviation for example, where a single jet engine can cost hundreds of thousands, AR models could allow for trainees to learn the ropes on a digital model before graduating to a physical unit. In fact, AR is already being trialled as a way to train aircraft engineers and support them on repairs including at aviation titan Boeing.

3. Accessible and Scalable to your Workforce, Wherever They Are
When it was first developed by the US military in the early 1990s, AR was both hugely expensive and tech intensive. But now, smartphones have become highly sophisticated, easy to use, and affordable to the vast majority, and many AR applications are specifically designed for mobile OS.

It also means that, with a large number of people working either completely remote or on a hybrid basis – 24% of all UK workers as of 2022 (ONS) - high quality training and upskilling AR content can be delivered without the need for specialised equipment. AR training is also easily scalable to whatever size company you have, so you don’t need to print more worksheets or book out larger training seminars. All your employees need is their phone, an app, and working Wi-Fi, and they’re good to go!

4. Improves learning outcomes including retention of key info
Studies of trials of AR training have demonstrated that the method offers measurable improvements in learning outcomes. Training can be overwhelming, particularly for new starters, and ‘information overload’ is definitely an issue. AR learning, however, can help package all of this information in a way that is memorable and adds long-term retention, whilst also being more time-efficient than traditional methods.

The learning pyramid methodology devised by the National Training Laboratory posits that participants generally remember about 5% of what is said by a speaker, 10% of what they read, and 30% of what they see – compared to 75% for a hands-on learning experience. Studies into AR, such as one conducted by Xu et al (2022) found that users recalled 78.21% of information about cultural artifacts learnt about using an AR app.

Making complicated and specialised knowledge stick in the minds of employees can be tough, but AR training could be the right tool for the job.

5. Delivers a Real Return on Investment
It might sound like a costly new direction to steer your learning & development program, and it’s always an understandable concern in a particularly volatile economy.

But AR training is not as costly as you might think – a ball-park figure for developing a basic app that can be expanded and built upon for your specific needs is around £7,000 - 12,000 (source: eLearning Learning)

Concerning the ROI, augmented reality training can provide a positive return as a result of more effective training and higher knowledge retention. This means that your employees can go about their day-to-day duties with a greater degree of skill and ability, leading to less wasted time on repair jobs, more efficient manufacturing, increased sales, and so on.
Turn Virtual Practice into Concrete Results
With PWC UK estimating that AR and VR training will contribute approximately £1.5 trillion to the global economy, it’s fair to say that AR learning is not a short-lived trend – it’s an evolutionary leap.

By integrating AR training modules into your employee training programmes and skill development, you – and your customers – can reap the benefit of better trained, more confident, and highly motivated workers.

Why wait? Add a new dimension to your employee training with augmented reality, and synthesize the best possible learning outcomes for your business’ future.
March 2023

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