PwC study proves effectiveness of VR for soft skills training 1

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The results of a new study from PwC, using the technology of Talespin, were a glowing endorsement of the use of VR to teach soft skills such as unconscious bias and hiring and firing

Quick read

➨ All participants took the same unconscious bias training course in one of the three learning modalities
➨ VR training was the most cost-effective method when done on a large scale
➨ VR learners were four times more focused during training than their e-learning peers

The story

A study of the effectiveness of VR for soft skills training pitted Talespin’s CoPilot and Runway platforms against traditional classroom learning and e-learning, with 100 US-based managers between February 2019 and January 2020 taking part.

All participants took the same unconscious bias training course in one of the three learning modalities. The VR soft skills training course was created in collaboration with US-based Talespin.

The results were a glowing endorsement of the use of VR to teach soft skills such as unconscious bias and hiring and firing, which Talespin won headlines for last year, as well as safeguarding, as demonstrated by the recent release of Safeguarding VR from BODYSWAPS and the Humanitarian Leadership Academy.

According to PwC’s study, VR training was the most cost-effective method when done on a large scale.

At 375 learners, VR training achieved cost parity with classroom learning. At 1,950 learners, VR training achieved cost parity with e-learn. At 3,000 learners, VR costs become 52% less than classroom.

Learners also saw benefits, with 40% seeing an improvement in confidence compared to classroom learners and 35% improvement over e-learners to act on what they learned after training in VR.

They also completed their VR training four times faster than classroom training, felt 3.75 times more emotionally connected to the content than classroom learners and 2.3 times more connected than e-learners.

Three-quarters of learners surveyed said that during the VR course they had a wake-up-call moment and realised that they were not as inclusive as they thought they were.

And VR learners were four times more focused during training than their e-learning peers and 1.5 times more focused than their classroom colleagues.

Commenting on the study, Jeremy Dalton, head of VR/AR at PwC, said: “Virtual reality will help to drive a new age of learning, development and education by delivering a cost-effective, immersive and efficient experience to train people on both hard and soft skills.”

The PwC study also highlighted how to get the most out of VR soft skills training.

It works best when training many people on a similar topic because “the level detail which goes into creating and building a detailed and digital replica of the physical world requires greater investment to develop than similar classroom or e-learn content”.

VR is also “ready to deploy at scale into the private and public sector”. For the study, PwC was able to provision, deploy and manage a large fleet of VR headsets with just a small team.

“We determined that while VR training would not replace classroom or e-learn formats anytime soon, it should be considered as part of a blended learning curriculum when training specific types of skills. When you combine classroom, e-learn and v-learn together, you provide your employees with an industry leading approach.”

Scott Likens, emerging tech lead at PwC who worked on the study, said: “While it may not be difficult to teach employees how to operate equipment or learn to use software, how can you teach them to become stronger, more inclusive leaders and manage change during a difficult time like Covid-19? It’s definitely not easy—especially when shelter-at-home policies can make classroom training potentially a non-starter.”

“Our study helps answer this question and illustrates why now may be the right time to consider deploying VR for soft-skills training. The results of the study begin to help clarify the potential value of using virtual reality for soft-skills training, but also provide surprising findings on the untapped potential of VR in the workplace.”

“From delivering immersive experiences in real time for large groups of people and upskilling entire departments cost-effectively, to helping improve employees’ skills and scaling companies for future growth, it’s becoming clear that VR may be well-suited for the enterprise, especially during these challenging times.”

‘VR is one of the most impactful learning modalities for soft skills’

The technology behind the VR portion of PwC’s study came from Talespin.

Its CoPilot platform uses AI and virtual humans to simulate realistic conversations in VR, helping learners develop and practice critical soft skills in a safe and controlled environment.

Talespin’s Runway Platform serves as a backend for performance scoring, skills analysis and content delivery.

The VR training module that Talespin co-developed with PwC for the study used the CoPilot platform to simulate diversity and inclusion training. While using the module, learners practiced realistic workplace conversations with virtual humans, during which they were measured on their ability to demonstrate inclusive communication and behavior during the simulated conversations.

Talespin chief executive officer and co-founder Kyle Jackson said: “Virtual reality has proven its effectiveness for training hard skills for years, and this study is now proving VR to be one of the most impactful learning modalities for soft skills that we have ever seen.”

“We were proud to work with PwC on this study and to contribute to research that proves VR can deliver exponential learning improvements, and help individuals and organisations reskill at the speed and scale needed to drive real transformation.”

Any business in doubt about the effectiveness of VR for soft skills training needs to see the results of this study and reevaluate the questions they are asking. Now is not the time for whether it works, but how it can best work for you.

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Main image: A learner undergoes unconscious bias training on Talespin platform