91% of learning & development (L&D) leaders would like to implement virtual reality or VR training at their organizations, but only 2% are actually using VR in their corporate training. What are the barriers preventing more L&D teams from adopting VR training?

According to a recent survey of L&D leaders, 61% felt they lacked enough knowledge about VR, 73% said the cost is too prohibitive, and 38% struggled with how to measure the effectiveness of VR.

How do you show ROI and business outcomes of a new innovative VR training technology? For many L&D leaders, this challenge keeps us from trying out a powerful new training tool. In addition, we all struggle with tight budgets. But what I discovered is that cost is more of a perception than a true barrier when it comes to VR. Like many of you, I am not an expert in virtual reality, but I was excited and determined to give it a try. Given my limited budget, I wanted to see if I could find an easier entry point into VR training.

Here’s how I implemented VR for the first time at Udemy and discovered that the perceived barriers are just that—perceptions.

Step 1: Start with the pedagogy over the novelty

The first step before you embark on implementing VR at your organization is to actually take a step back. First, determine if VR is the right learning tool for the business outcomes you would like to achieve with your particular training. We can’t just take VR and jam it into every situation. We must begin with the pedagogy and start by defining our learning challenge and goals.

What’s the learning challenge? At Udemy for Business, my particular learning challenge was that the group experienced a 316% growth in employee count in the past year. The team was also geographically dispersed across Ireland, Boston, Dallas, and San Francisco. The leadership team knew they really needed to double down on team building to foster collaboration and communication. I had to figure out a learning experience that would help the team optimize how they worked together.

What are the learning goals? What did I want to achieve with the training? I wanted to make sure our diverse and dispersed team had open communication channels as well as a feeling of psychological safety to enhance collaboration. I also wanted to help build community and camaraderie so people felt more connected to one another. And lastly, I wanted the training to be interactive and fun.

Step 2: Take advantage of third-party VR content

Once I figured out the pedagogy and my learning outcomes, I asked a key question. Is VR going to help me achieve these goals? In this particular case, I felt VR would be the right medium to help build community and communication skills for our fast-growing team. But I needed the right content. I had a very short window and budget, so I knew I didn’t want to try and create my own VR content. I wasn’t about to become a VR filmmaker in a few short weeks and I didn’t have the budget to hire a vendor to create customized content. Plus the team-building training couldn’t wait, Udemy for Business was adding new team members every week and I needed to implement something sooner rather than later. So instead, I searched for good third party content that I could use immediately.

Like many good ideas, I found what I was looking for on Reddit—a social discussion forum. I came across a post of a group of friends playing a game called “Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes.” The VR game involves small groups attempting to defuse a bomb before it explodes, with the additional challenge of different team members seeing different pieces of information on how to do it. The game requires people to work together and communicate efficiently to successfully defuse the bomb. I knew immediately that I wanted to leverage this experience to help people learn how to communicate effectively under stress. And best of all, with this third party content, I was able to get my VR team-building program off the ground in just a few weeks.

Step 3: Rent the VR tech for the training

While I had found the VR experience to use, I needed to get the physical VR devices to administer the training. It’s commonly assumed that VR is going to be expensive. This was true in the beginning when the technology first emerged, but costs are coming down quickly. There are also many entry points into VR with a wide spectrum of VR equipment available from low-cost ($10 with Google Cardboard) to mid-range ($40-70 with Gear VR) and high-end ($1000 with Oculus).

The most cost-effective way to experiment with VR is to rent the gear for the day. This means you don’t have to commit to one kind of VR equipment nor do you have to spend huge sums of money. There are plenty of VR equipment vendors that offer rentals. For our training, we went with the mid-range priced devices and rented Gear VR headsets.

Step 4: Measure what matters

So now you’ve got your VR content and equipment, we go back to the age-old question of how do you measure the effectiveness of your VR training? To answer this, we need to stay rooted in our learning outcomes and goals. We need to be laser-focused on what the training is trying to achieve. Did the training accomplish the business outcomes it was designed to do?

Here are a couple of metrics I used to track the effectiveness of our VR learning experience.

Depending on your type of learning experience and goals, there are other outcomes you can track post-VR training. For example, you can look at how long it takes for employees to complete a task—if the training goal was to increase efficiency and productivity of a specific task.

You don’t have to be a VR expert to create a VR training experience

You don’t have to be a VR expert nor do you have to spend huge sums of money to bring VR training into your organization. In fact, you can pull it off today. Start with thinking through your actual learning goals and tie the VR training with the business outcomes you want to achieve. Determine how you’re going to acquire the VR technology and content. Then measure what matters. With 91% of L&D leaders saying they want to implement VR, but only 2% actually using it—it’s time to experiment with VR and boost this number. We can all change this statistic by implementing VR without breaking the bank.

Page Last Updated: February 2020

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