Augmented reality has received plenty of buzz over the past few years, and as the technology advances and becomes more commercially available, its applications are becoming more diverse and innovative. Perhaps the most interesting is its potential in learning and development. Organizations that are ahead of the game are looking to AR to bolster their L&D programs — here’s why you should too.
Active Learning Through Doing
AR is all about immersion. Rather than be chained to a desk (the bane of existence for many workers), AR can get employees up and moving with highly interactive content. L&D professionals know how important knowledge retention is, and there is viable data showing the effectiveness of learning through an engaging experience. Findings from Mindshare Futures’ “Layered” report demonstrate that AR drives extremely high levels of visual attention in the brain (almost double, in fact) and is very successful at eliciting a “surprise” response, which aids retention. The report also determined that brains retain an approximately 70 percent higher rate of encoding into long-term memory from AR experiences compared with non-AR experiences.
In other words, AR’s interactive nature has the ability to empower the employee to “pull” content through their own discovery in an immersive learning environment, making for much more powerful knowledge retention. This has a big impact on an L&D program’s bottom line and is so much more than just being entertaining and engaging for employees — it can actually point directly to an ROI.
What Does AR-Infused L&D Look Like?
AR can take many forms in learning and development. Here are a few.
Optimizing training for floor-based employees. Some businesses face unique challenges when it comes to delivering effective L&D, with workforces that can often feel disconnected from traditional e-learning programs. This includes employees from widely varying industries (such as retail, food service, banking, and other hospitality or front-of-house-based businesses) that are not easily able to block out long chunks of training time away from their roles, which often demand they be on their feet for extended periods of time with frequent busy periods. AR overcomes this difficulty by delivering highly effective bite-sized training in short amounts of time, easily accessible from employees’ mobile devices at times best suited to them. Rather than sitting in a back room enduring a training video, they can access their training on their breaks, on the floor, or even in the comfort of their home in an enjoyable and engaging way.
Enhancing face-to-face training sessions. AR can take training sessions to the next level and provide tangible real-world experiences to test performance under pressure. For example, U.K. company Bupa leveraged AR for its fire safety training program to better engage seniors in its care homes. Trainers could download AR targets from the company intranet, stick them to the wall in appropriate locations in the care home, and then scan the fire alarm to start the training experience. The AR experience guided participants into different residents’ rooms, tasking them with assessing risk and prioritizing evacuation in an active, immersive way.
Process visualization. We can likely all agree that nothing beats a real, hands-on experience. Unfortunately, they aren’t always easily accessible. What AR can provide is a visually stimulating way to train employees in hands-on roles that have high stakes, such as factory work. For example, employees can scan various points along a production line that enters them into an AR simulation of real-world scenarios, encouraging them to work under real-world conditions without real-world consequences. This can provide them with the space to make mistakes and learn without casualties. A sterile classroom simply does not have the ability to offer the multisensory experience that AR provides.
Simulated employee/customer interaction. Roles in which employees are interacting with people and managing emotions and expectations can be hard to translate into training without the ability to effectively simulate real scenarios. AR can give employees the opportunity to practice their social skills with customers in a low-stakes environment that encourages learning through experience rather than simply trial and error.
Onboarding. Likely the most practical of all, AR can transform employee onboarding. The process carries a reputation for being time-consuming and repetitive, particularly as staff have likely engaged with similar processes at other workplaces. AR is a fantastic and fresh way to engage and teach the human brain, leading to powerful lasting impressions when teaching a new recruit about a company’s best practices, different departments and staff remits.
An exciting real-world example of good implementation can be seen in the strategy used by take-and-bake pizza company Papa Murphy’s, which rolled out a small AR-enabled onboarding pilot throughout 15 of its stores. By adding Zapcodes to their operational procedure posters, colleagues were able to scan and unlock concise videos on how each procedure should be done in the context of their work environment rather than being tethered to a computer.
Putting AR Into Practice
While the possibilities can seem complex and almost overwhelming, the good news is that AR has never been more accessible than it is today. AR companies are constantly optimizing their products for newcomers with bigger players getting into the space, opening the door to the widespread embrace of AR by companies of all sizes. Still, there are a few helpful tips to keep you focused on how AR can service the specific needs of your business’ L&D program.
- Start small, test often and grow from there. Even those with large budgets should start small. This allows your teams to get an idea of the process and how employees respond, as well as mix up different forms of messaging. This will ensure you are well-equipped on what works before scaling up.
- Carefully choose your use case. Not every L&D program is built the same. While AR can add a lot of value to the process, it is still vital to make sure it is necessary and does, in fact, add value. This requires a high level of critical review of what tech is chosen and making sure there is a lot of thought put into user context and what kind of content is right for the given scenario.
- Get mileage out of your AR program by making sure your content is evergreen. If you are investing in incorporating AR into your L&D program, you’ll want to get the most mileage out of your investment, and that happens by making sure your content is built to last. The content should apply to employees for years to come, with little need for change in format, across multiple locations.
AR can take your employee training to the next level through cutting-edge technology that empowers your workforce in a meaningful way. Given how accessible AR technology is today, the future only bodes well for its deeper integration into more and more business practices and procedures. If you haven’t already considered what AR can do for your L&D program, now is the time.