A woman wears a VR headset.
Talent Development Leader

The Rise of Immersive Learning

Monday, May 20, 2024

Embrace a transformative tool that fosters a continuous learning culture.

Produce an environment conducive to safe, hands-on practice and experimentation and enable employees to develop critical skills and competencies without real-world consequences by using immersive learning. It leverages technologies such as virtual and augmented reality and offers flexible and remote access to training materials, catering to diverse learning preferences and providing real-world context that directly translates to improved on-the-job performance. Additionally, it enables organizations to harness data and analytics to track learner progress and continuously refine training initiatives.


Within that transformative process, talent development leaders have a vital role. They are strategic facilitators who are instrumental in helping organizations adapt and thrive in this new learning landscape.

By leveraging their expertise, TD leaders should guide their companies through the implementation of immersive learning solutions, providing employees with the necessary skills and knowledge to navigate the challenges and opportunities of a fast-paced, digital-driven world. In doing so, they help to shape the future of work and learning, positioning their organizations for success in an ever-evolving business environment.


Immersive learning comes with specific challenges and barriers. One challenge is the cost of development and implementation, which requires careful budget planning and selecting cost-effective solutions.

  • Technology. VR requires headsets that range from $300 to more than $2,500. AR can include smart devices (phone or tablets) or dedicated AR glasses (up to $3,500 per unit).
  • Content development. Off-the-shelf training starts at $50. Custom applications can range from thousands to millions of dollars based on complexity.
  • Deployment and support. This can include hardware maintenance, support, and device management software.

Another challenge is the need for adequate hardware and infrastructure, which may be lacking in certain companies. Address that issue by investing in the necessary technology and ensuring reliable network connectivity.

Next, content creation and maintenance can be time-consuming and resource-intensive, requiring skilled professionals. Immersive learning is not just about fancy technology; collaborate with subject matter experts and content developers to overcome issues with content.

Training programs require a story and a script, and that’s where SMEs step in. They are business-specific gurus with in-depth knowledge and insights to design experiences that are both technologically sound and effective. They will ensure learning modules are engaging, relevant, and truly effective.

Resistance to change and reluctance among learners to embrace innovative technologies can impede the adoption of immersive learning. Supply adequate training and access to internal evangelists who can emphasize the benefits of immersive learning and foster a culture of innovation and continuous learning to encourage acceptance and participation.

But the journey does not end with solving those problems. Ongoing assessment, feedback, and performance measurement are essential to ensuring immersive learning remains relevant and effective. Companies should foster a culture of innovation, competence, and adaptability, which will empower the workforce to thrive in an ever-changing landscape.

Assessing readiness

To assess your company’s readiness for implementing immersive learning technologies, begin by ensuring leadership support for exploring and potentially implementing immersive technologies.

  • Is the company culture open to trying new technologies or innovations?
  • Is there a dedicated budget for immersive learning initiatives, or can TD reallocate funds from other programs?
  • Can the TD team get financial support from other business units such as operations, safety, or quality?
  • Can the TD function build into budgets future projects that expand the business and will demand new training?
  • Are employees comfortable with technology and willing to try new learning experiences? Assess their digital literacy and openness to innovation.

Aligning immersive learning outcomes with business goals includes identifying critical skills gaps. By analyzing needs and crafting experiences that mirror real-world situations, training transforms into a strategic advantage. Employees become deeply engaged, honing their abilities in ways that directly propel the company toward its goals.

Next, consider the company’s technology infrastructure.

  • Does the organization have the necessary hardware and software to support immersive technologies (including compatible devices, network bandwidth, and content management systems)?
  • Have the departments (including TD, IT, and any other department budgeting for the expense) considered the ongoing maintenance and technical support needed for those technologies?

Make sure to cover all the bases.

  • Does the TD team have internal resources (including instructional designers, 3D artists, and developers) to create immersive learning content?
  • Can the team partner with external vendors that specialize in immersive content creation?
  • How will TD measure the impact and effectiveness of the program? Define and set clear metrics beforehand to track progress. Continuously evaluate and adapt the immersive learning approach based on feedback and results.


Immersive learning is a powerful tool that enriches the learning experience and prepares individuals with the skills and knowledge they need to excel in their roles. It fosters a safe environment for experimentation and making mistakes, enabling individuals to learn from errors without real-world consequences. It also offers real-world context, which enables learners to directly apply what they’ve learned to their job roles, improving on-the-job performance.

Use data to track and measure learner progress as well as make data-driven decisions to continuously enhance TD initiatives. Immersive learning uses a blend of visuals, sound, and technology to deliver unforgettable and engaging experiences. Those methods include:

  • Experiential. Immersive learning places the learner inside a simulated environment that feels real.
  • Presence-based. In this modality, the learner is represented by an avatar, enabling them to feel re-created in the environment.
  • Science-based. Immersive learning is based on the principles of learning by doing and reflection.
  • Engaging. Learners must navigate scenarios, make selections, and complete tasks.
  • Collaborative. This involves powerful opportunities for learners to work together, complete joint tasks, build teamwork, and foster communication.

Immersive learning environments capture more data points compared to traditional training methods. Data points include:

  • Precise information on learners’ behavior and interactions within the virtual environment, such as gaze tracking to understand where learners focus their attention, hand and body movements, and even biometric data such as heart rate and stress levels
  • Environmental data, such as the time spent in different sections of the virtual space
  • Performance data related to specific tasks or simulations, which the company can collect for detailed assessments and feedback

Combined, the data points empower organizations to gain a comprehensive understanding of the learning process, adapt the content in real time, and tailor training programs to individual needs, ultimately improving the overall efficacy of immersive learning experiences.

Recommendations for implementation

Building a comprehensive, immersive learning strategy isn’t about reaching a finish line; it’s about charting a course of continuous growth.

Immersive learning thrives in a growth mindset environment. Ensure alignment with evolving organizational goals and keep the learning journey ever evolving. Make learning accessible and relevant to employees.


Develop engaging, interactive, and relevant materials that address specific skills gaps and training needs. Immersive learning should be part of a hybrid approach to learning, along with e-learning, coaching, and assessments. Collaborate with SMEs who understand the specific skills and challenges TD teams face.

Integrate continuous evaluation and feedback mechanisms, such as key performance indicators, surveys, and real-time performance data, to measure the effect of immersive learning initiatives.

Select the most suitable immersive technology to address objectives effectively. Remember, technology is just a tool; the strategy is the key.

Creating immersive learning initiatives that are both innovative and educationally sound is a winning formula, which translates to enhanced employee development, increased engagement, and organizational success.

Technology partners can supply the latest VR and AR tools, platforms, and knowledge to seamlessly integrate technologies into the company’s learning ecosystem. They will help to choose the perfect hardware and software, customize solutions to the TD team’s needs, and offer ongoing technical support. Think of them as the behind-the-scenes crew that ensures everything runs smoothly.

Conducting a pilot during the rollout will enable the TD team to assess the feasibility of adopting immersive technology, uncover potential issues, and gather valuable user feedback.

By measuring the effectiveness of immersive learning and refining the program based on insights, organizations can perfect its alignment with their goals and ensure a smoother and more cost-effective scaling process. Furthermore, a successful pilot often generates crucial stakeholder buy-in and reinforcement, paving the way for broader adoption and realizing the full potential of immersive learning within the company.

Future-proof the organization

Immersive learning offers unparalleled engagement, retention, and real-world context, making it highly effective in developing crucial skills and competencies.

It fosters a culture of continuous learning and innovation, aligns with diverse learning preferences, and accommodates remote access. Additionally, the rich data insights immersive learning provides empowers organizations to refine training initiatives and adapt to evolving learner needs.

By adopting immersive learning, TD leaders can elevate training programs, prepare employees for future challenges, and position their organizations for tremendous success in a rapidly evolving landscape.

Read more from Talent Development Leader.

About the Author

Debbie Richards is a learning strategist with Immerse. For over 30 years, she has helped enterprise teams design, develop, and deliver immersive learning programs with measurable impact. Richards is also a director at L&D Cares. Richards is a past president of the Association of Talent Development Houston chapter and a past national advisor for chapters. She was also awarded the title of "Guild Master" by the Learning Guild in 2022.

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Airline technical training has used immersive simulation for three decades. I encourage companies interested in exploring X/R and simulation to connect with people with experience building training and evaluation scenarios, managing scenario complexity, and SME/facilitator support of immersive events. There are a lot of lessons learned that transfer regardless of the simulation technology.
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Thank you, Debbie, for this breakdown on immersive learning. Super helpful!
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What a great way to bottle up a huge celebration and make it so memorable. I will be looking forward to adding some of your ideas to my Virtual birthday cards to make them much more desirable in the current times.
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