Young woman using a virtual reality headset with conceptual network lines
ATD Blog

Finding the New Reality

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Exploring whether virtual reality can be a viable solution to your L&D challenge.

Are you ready for a new reality? That is, are you ready to add virtual reality (VR) to your learning portfolio? Or maybe you’re not quite there, but you are interested in learning more about it and how it might be used in your organization down the road.

If you fall into either camp, Destery Hildenbrand has some guidance. He reveals the process in his recent article “Bring Training to Life With Virtual Reality.” Let’s start with a reality check on the types of extended reality, then talk about how L&D professionals may actually create VR learning experiences.

Types of Extended Reality

Before you can consider whether to use VR within your learning programs, you should understand it, be able to explain it to stakeholders, and share why you think it’s a great tool for the knowledge or behavior gap in your organization. Explore these options:

  • Augmented reality (AR) may be the most familiar type to readers. It features a digital overlay of information onto a real space. As Hildenbrand explains, “AR can include any type of media you would put into an e-learning module.”
  • Mixed reality (MR) takes AR a step further. It has similar capabilities to AR but enhances the experience by allowing users to interact with the world around them.
  • 360-degree videos are sometimes called immersive videos. They are created with a specialty camera and put the user in the middle of the video with content around them.
  • Virtual reality, or CGI VR, carries the user to another place or time and allows them to interact with their surroundings.

Think of use cases for the various types of extended reality, ranging from soft skills training to surgery practice to virtual tours and much more.


Creating VR Experiences

While permitting learners to practice skills via hands-on experiences, Hildenbrand recommends that L&D professionals use VR as part of a blended learning program. After all, learners need to have context for the skill they are learning.

Developing VR experiences for your learners will often require skilled professionals outside of the L&D team, such as IT specialists, user interface or user experience designers, and 3D modelers. You may find it advantageous to use an outside vendor. You’ll also need to research whether you have the necessary software and hardware in-house or if you have the budget and stakeholder support to finance this technology.


The development workflow of the VR experience can vary, and the exact skills you’ll need will differ accordingly. For example, during one type of development process, the L&D team will plan the VR experience before handing the project to IT to build it; the developers will create the scenario before sending it back to L&D for review. The process will be iterative until an acceptable experience is reached.

Are You Ready?

Hildenbrand also provides a worksheet that L&D professionals can use to help determine whether they have an appropriate development challenge for a VR solution, along with the budget and technology.

Among the questions include:

  • What are the problems the organization faces?
  • How could you use VR for training purposes?
  • How large or small will the VR experience be?
  • What are the expected costs for creating the learning experience? This includes costs associated with hiring for any necessary skills outside of your organization as well as those related to software and hardware.
  • Have you considered how learners will access content? Will you purchase devices for each learner, or have learners check out devices for their program?
  • How will you track progress?

VR is not appropriate for every training challenge, nor is VR right for every organization at any given time. However, as Hildenbrand writes, “VR presents many possibilities. With a good use case, the right team, and a vision to improve learning opportunities for learners, you can enhance your existing training programs and endeavor to create unforgettable, engaging, and effective future training as well.”

About the Author

Patty Gaul is a senior writer/editor for the Association for Talent Development (ATD).

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