Virtual training is any training done in a virtual or simulated environment, or when the learner and the instructor are in separate locations. The training can be done synchronously or asynchronously and training modules are often designed to simulate traditional learning experiences. Virtual training can be done remotely or it can be done on work premises as part of other types of training sessions.
Virtual training sessions can take the place of normal on-site training, allowing employees flexibility for self-paced and mobile learning, especially in the case of the asynchronous learning situations, or in the use of an artificially intelligent guided instruction or training simulation. Or, in the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual training can take the place of normal training scenarios to keep employees learning and developing their skills.
A version of virtual training, virtual instructor-led training refers to any type of virtual training that takes the fundamentals of face-to-face training and replicates the experience through a virtual platform, such as video conferencing platforms. These virtual training scenarios often include workshops where users can interact with the instructor and can interact with each other to share experiences, practice skills and conversations, and ask questions.
Virtual simulation training, or virtual reality training, refers to any type of training program which uses simulations or virtual reality to simulate real situations a learner may encounter and learn how to deal with it. Virtual simulations can offer learners an immersive experience which can also simulate some of the stress and hazards of a given situation. These types of virtual training have been adopted by manufacturing, healthcare, retail, flight, military and sensitivity training industries to offer less risk-based training.
The use of virtual simulation training in manufacturing has helped employees develop skills needed to support and continue working with the technical advancements in the manufacturing industry. Through simulation training, manufacturing workers can learn basic tasks, newly-implemented technical processes or technologies, and troubleshooting for mechanical and technical systems. The use of simulation training has shown better information retention than traditional training and opens a way for workers to advance their learning and learn difficult and dangerous troubleshooting procedures in a safe manner.
Simulation training also offers employers flexibility in training time. Especially in the case of new hires for technical manufacturing jobs, the use of virtual simulation training can allow trainees to learn at their own rate, with practice, and without the allocation of resources away from production-oriented tasks. This has allowed companies like Boeing to reduce a 3-month training time down to two months training for their mechanics.
Manufacturing companies have started using virtual simulation training for the systems cost-effectiveness, which outside of some equipment and training programs, there are fewer materials and resources needed during virtual simulation training when compared to traditional training. Traditional training can include losing workers or engineers to help teach trainees and employees on systems or new technologies, and machines can be turned down for training which increases machine down time.
In 2002, a study concluded that video games could be a good teach tool for surgical training. The study found that surgeons who were past or present video game players had 33 percent fewer errors and were 25 percent faster in surgeries than non-playing colleagues. Since that time, simulation-based learning has become more widespread in healthcare. Through simulation training, learners can go through realist scenarios and equipment with consistent retraining and practice until a specific skill or procedure is mastered without risking the health of a patient in the process. This is especially true for teamwork-based training, which help develop the skills necessary to work in interdisciplinary medical teams.
Studies into the use of virtual reality and simulation training in healthcare have shown that nurses learning through virtual simulation have improved knowledge retention and clinical reasoning out of school and over time compared to nurses who have not received the training. There has also been an increase in satisfaction with the learning experience among those students learning through virtual simulation scenarios.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual learning and simulation training has been used to offer scenario-based learning and practice for healthcare workers. This has allowed health units to develop training simulations and disseminate them through the healthcare workforce faster than traditional training methods would have allowed.
In retail training scenarios, virtual simulation training is used to help train employees with immersive learning. In this way, they can train to deal with health and safety scenarios and have near-real experience, cutting down their reaction time. They can also use the virtual simulation training to learn how to deal with disruptive or difficult customers and work through de-escalation training. Further, virtual simulation training is being used in retail outlets to help train workers on how to unload and stock merchandise in safe ways.
One of the earliest examples of virtual simulation training, flight simulator's have been used to train combat and commercial pilots since the First World War, where simulators were used to help air gunnery by simulating shooting at a moving target. A later development was the Link Trainer, developed by Edwin Link, which was the first full flight simulator offered in 1929.
Since the development of the Link Trainer, flight simulators have continued to be used to train pilots, with simulators being developed to offer greater range of motion, more immersive screens, and a more representative array of controls, offering pilots training for:
- Cockpit procedures
- Processing emergency checklists
- Cockpit familiarization
- Skill assessment
- Aircraft handling
NASA developed their flight simulators, including the largest flight simulator - the Vertical Motion Simulator - at NASA Ames Research Center. The flight simulator has a large throw motion system with 60 feet of vertical movement. The vertical movement also supports lateral movement of 20 feet. The simulator offers interchangeable cabins to help simulate switching between cabins during operations. NASA has used the simulator to simulate blimps, commercial and military aircraft, and space shuttles. They also used the simulator to investigate longitudinal pilot-induced oscillation that occurred in a shuttle flight before landing.
There are also simulators designed for disorientation training to help pilots learn how to deal with disorientation, situational awareness, and give them practical experience to help prevent or recover from a loss of situational awareness or spatial disorientation.
In 2002, a study done concluded that video games could be a good teaching tool. World militaries since that time began to include virtual reality training simulators as part of their overall training programs. These simulators have been used for flight since the First World War, but United States Army started using virtual reality simulators to place soldiers in virtual war scenarios. Called Engagement Skills Trainer (EST), the virtual reality trainer gives learners the feel and sound of different firearms, give learners real-life scenarios to help determine when and when-not to shoot. In the Army's Virtual Convoy Operations Trainer (VCOT) the soldiers are placed in different combat roles for different combat scenarios and work to train them to communicate and work together. The military are also able to change simulations to fit their needs and increase the challenges to soldiers and teams. This can include creating medical scenarios and cultural interactions.
Virtual simulation training has been used for sensitivity or diversity training. While traditional methods for conducting these trainings have proved to do more harm than good, using virtual reality has helped learners experience biases and behaviors and their impact. In these virtual environments, learners are able to engage with complex topics and behavioral learning to help develop the skills to recognize these behaviors and to have conversations around these behaviors. These platforms can also help individuals understand, at an emotional level, the harm these behaviors have.
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Virtual Training - A Complete Guide to Everything You Need to Know