Virtual Reality, Gamification And The Evolution Of Education


With amazing new gamification and XR products and software hitting the market seemingly every week, the divide between the fiction of popular sci-fi book Ready Player One, set in 2044, and the reality of today seems to narrow by the minute.

In the movie, almost all education, business, and social interaction take place in a virtual world, accessible from anywhere by anyone with a VR headset and a haptic suit. And just a few, short years ago, it seemed as far-fetched as the flying cars predicted in Blade Runner and Back to the Future.

But truth is stranger than fiction – and the truth is that vivid literary and cinematic imagination has now become reality.

Innovations and trends don’t just create opportunities for themselves; they evolve from a recognized, established demand that the specific innovation or trend can answer.

It’s what AllenComm’s CEO, Ron Zamir, calls an intersection – where a need meets a potential solution. The need is not just a task, like sales training, onboarding, or leadership development, but rather a set of circumstances that include business objectives, market environment, and company culture.

And gamification and VR/AR are just such an intersection.

So, what are XR, VR, AR, and MR?

This is where the waters can get a little muddy, so buckle up. Often, the terms VR, AR, MR, and even XR are used to refer to all of these related technologies together as a group. But regardless of what comes before the R, each technology offers different benefits to instructional designers, trainers, and educators, and boasts powerful instructional and educational learning tools of which we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface.

Here are slightly less convoluted definitions for each:

Extended Reality: XR refers to all real-and-virtual environments generated by computer graphics and wearables. The ‘X’ in XR is simply a variable that can stand for any letter; it is the umbrella that covers all the various forms of computer-altered reality and brings the digital and real world together. Further, it ensures an interactive and immersive experience for the learners where they can enjoy a multi-sensory experience.

Virtual Reality: VR is a fully immersive world experienced through headsets and earphones that block out the real external environment using purely real-world content like 360° video, strictly computer-generated synthetic content, or a hybrid of both. And thanks to its ability to fully immerse learners into a new perspective, VR has often been described as a vehicle for empathy.

Augmented Reality: AR refers to an experience which combines the learner’s surroundings with a simulated, computer-generated environment, making it possible for students to view layered graphics, follow on-screen instructions, view and understand complex processes, and more. The training experience is then more realistic, combining mobile-based learning, interactivity, and multimedia in regard to physical space and locality.

Mixed Reality: MR is considered a productivity machine due to how information, communications, graphics, animations, and more seemingly exist within, interact with, and provide context for the physical world, removing the boundaries between real and virtual interaction via occlusion. Occlusion refers to computer-generated objects being visibly obscured by objects in the physical environment.

Real-World Applications

And despite their relative newness, many industries already use VR/AR and gamification for training and education.

  • Training: flight, combat, police, skilled trades, athletics, emergencies like fires or oil spills.
  • Psychology: eliminating phobias such as fear of public speaking.
  • Classrooms: exploration of geography and history, safe experimentation with combustible materials.
  • Space: NASA astronaut training, support for completing technical tasks on the International Space Station (ISS).
  • Medicine: surgery training and rehearsal, diagnosis, studying human anatomy.
  • Design: architecture, automotive, aerospace, aviation,
  • Space: NASA astronaut training, support for completing technical tasks on board the ISS

Industry: factory supervision, inventory management

XR, VR, AR, and MR: According to a report released by CCS Insight, extended reality hardware is poised to become a $4 billion market by this year. Here are a few ways they can be leveraged in online learning:

Simulated Working Environments

Online learning provides an environment in which learners have the freedom to experiment and as most people learn from mistakes, simulated work environments offer a consequence-free learning experience. For example, imagine working in chemistry lab without the high risk of a chemical accident.

Supported Gamification

Learning management systems often use gamification and as such, an augmented reality training module can reward learners for effectively performing their tasks correctly, improving overall performance over time.

Immersive Learning Environments

Interactive multimedia elements engage students and with augmented reality, eLearning courses can be supported with 360° video, further engaging the learner and eliminating distractions for them. A perfect example is Vector Solutions’ VR training for firefighters, optimizing preparedness for high-risk environments on the job.

Motion tracking

Motion and gesture tracking are commonly leveraged for choosing menu items or engaging with video game-based environments.

Gamification: Gamification aligns the desired skill you want from learners with a clear, immediate purpose, making it easier for learners to apply acquired skills to their job. Here are a few ways it can be leveraged in online learning:

Improved learning experience

Learners can actually have fun while learning with engaging gamification, resulting in an increase in recall and retention. Badging and Rewards systems have quickly become popularized tools for awarding learners for their achievements and milestones.

Instant feedback

Much how a video game player immediately knows when they’ve hit the wrong note in Rock Band or made a wrong turn in Zelda, gamification facilitates instant feedback so both learners and administrators can quickly assess what they know or don’t know yet – and adjust accordingly. Instant feedback proves critical when learning something new in order to know what’s right and wrong while you’re still in the mindset of learning, in real time.

Universally Applicable

Gamification can drive strong behavioral changes with repeated retrieval and spaced repetition while being used to fulfill most learning needs including induction and onboarding, product sales, customer support, soft skills, awareness creation, and compliance.

With gamification and VR/AR, the eLearning industry has only just begun to explore their profound implications for learning professionals. At their simplest, they’re changing how we learn. Learners are no longer relegated to simply being static recipients of information; these advancements put education in the hands – literally – of learners, empowering them to learn in ways once thought impossible.


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