LAS is an award-winning provider of elearning consultancy, design, development and training services in the UK and internationally.
Established in 2005 as LearningAge Solutions, we work with some of the best known organisations in the world to boost their performance through the innovative use of learning technologies. Working in partnership with our customers, we draw on proven principles from human behaviour, how people learn and how the brain works to create impactful digital learning solutions with real return on investment.
Rob is a designer through and through who is fascinated by how we learn, what we remember and why we pay attention to certain things. He is a huge enthusiast of all that technology can offer to enhance learning and has completed a huge variety of projects in his 14 year career.
He is the editor and co-author of The Really Useful eLearning Instruction Manual published by Wiley and featuring contributions from the brightest and best elearning minds on both sides of the Atlantic.
by Rob Hubbard
Posted 20 November 2020
With the mass transition to working from home; ‘Zoom fatigue’ is now a ‘thing' and the longer we are physically apart the more we yearn for human contact. Even when the Covid-19 vaccines are available; travel will remain greatly reduced and in-person contact less frequent for both health and climate reasons. More people will work from home and loneliness will become an increasing issue for many. We are a social species and being apart from our tribe is hard. Video calls can only get you so far and we believe that demand for experiences that better simulate being together will increase.
LAS are learning design-led and the delivery technology for us comes later in the design process. It’s an enabler of the right learning experience, not the solution we start with. As such, we work with most of the 34 different forms of digital learning and have kept an interested eye on virtual reality over the years while the technology matured, performance improved and the cost of use decreased. VR is now for us, officially INTERESTING, so we’re starting to play and explore to see what can be done with VR as it stands today. Here are a few of our findings so far:
VR headsets are still expensive
The price of decent VR headsets is coming down, however we still can’t imagine an organisation splashing out £300 per headset for employees. If there is one thing technology does; it’s reduce in price whilst getting more powerful - so this will of course change. We’ve experimented with the basic headsets that you put your smartphone into. These cost £30-40 but the performance is limited by your phone. For us this experience simply wasn’t good enough (see below on motion sickness).
Motion sickness is real
With a cheap, smartphone-based VR headset motion sickness is still a real problem, for me at least. I don’t particularly suffer from motion sickness (reading in a car makes me feel sick, reading on a train doesn’t, reading on a plane is somewhere in between) however after 20 minutes in VR I felt very sick and headachy for about 3 hours afterwards. Allegedly this is less of an issue with better quality headsets and there are ways to acclimatise yourself to VR slowly so it becomes less of a problem.
Accessing through the browser is pretty cool
Having experienced the severe motion sickness, next we started exploring browser-based VR. Essentially, you access the VR environments through a web browser on your computer and move around as you would in a multi-player computer game. This worked well, did not result in motion sickness and also means you can view things or make notes in other browser windows, something hard to do in a VR headset. It is certainly less immersive, but seemed more practical for training purposes. You are also still aware of the real environment around you, so you feel less vulnerable than when wearing a VR headset.
The cost is coming down
VR used to be nose-bleed-inducingly expensive, the reserve of the occasional £100k+ vanity training project, but cost is reducing rapidly. There are open source and low-cost multi-user platforms beginning to appear which are very interesting. They can be limited in terms of the number of concurrent users they’ll support and can also be tricky to access (often peoples’ IT systems block them), however, with some clever learning experience design we believe there is a lot that can be done with them.
At LAS we have a set of learning design principles that we apply to all of our projects - our ‘secret sauce’. The next step for us will be to apply and possibly adapt these design principles for multi-user, collaborative VR learning experiences. As always; we’ll put the human at the centre of the experience and will lead with learning design, rather than technology.
We’re also looking to undertake a ‘pathfinder’ project with a customer. Here we’ll apply our design principles and low-cost VR to a real training project within a customer’s firewalls. We’ll do this at a reduced rate as we’ll be learning as we go. If you’d like to be involved in this project, just let us know.