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Max Dawes


Managing Director

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How L&D can get the best value from augmented reality

Augmented reality can enhance learner retention, but it’s crucial to understand where it can deliver the most value.

It’s no secret that the world around us is being disrupted by technology, for better or worse. HR and corporate learning are not immune to this with huge changes in the way we interact and want to consume our learning. The key to riding this wave is to understand which technologies deliver value in a given context and how practically this can be incorporated into your team's everyday workflows.

The majority of the UK workforce operates away from their desks, and AR is a fantastic way of encouraging learners to get moving around and interacting with content.

Augmented reality (AR) offers the chance to deliver engaging and interactive experiences that can drive positive behaviour change and improved memory retention. Over the years we have seen AR become more widely adopted and naturally integrated into everyday life. This is certainly true when it comes to problem-solving, business applications of it, thanks to the innovation of businesses and the development of powerful and affordable AR tools and SDKs.

L&D is one of the key industries driving the utilisation of AR. We are continually seeing L&D teams investing money, time and other resources into creating targeted training and development plans for both new and existing employees. AR is proving itself to be the best fit for L&D professionals using the technology to create a lasting and positive impact on workplace learning and retention.

Capturing learner attention

Studies show that training and development programmes within immersive and virtual environments have a greater impact on effecting behaviour change in their participants. Using AR and immersive environments help users see, hear and feel negative and positive future consequences of their actions as if they’re occurring in the moment. This is powerful enough to change behaviour immediately afterward and on an ongoing basis. Print and video can have an immediate impact on a user, but the effect rapidly diminishes. Feeling the experience and the emotion it carries is the key element here in regards to behaviour change.

A few years ago we published Layered in collaboration with Mindshare UK and Neuro-Insight; a first-of-its-kind report that explores user behaviour within AR experiences, alongside the future implications for brands. One of the stand-out insights was that AR has the power to drive almost double the levels of visual attention in our brains compared to more traditional methods – website browsing or television viewing.

Much of this can be pinpointed to the element of ‘surprise’ that comes with AR, which proves extremely effective at triggering our brains to retain knowledge. Another key takeaway from the report was that our brains experience a 70% higher rate of encoding information to long-term memory from an AR experience as opposed to a non-AR experience. We learn better by building a natural connection with the subjects we work with, engraining our experiences into our long-term memory. This shows the higher memory retention available and opens up a wealth of possibilities for learning and development applications.

Applying AR in the real world

AR can be very effective in creating learning and development solutions that truly immerse someone in whatever they are learning. The majority of the UK workforce operates away from their desks, and AR is a fantastic way of encouraging learners to get moving around and interacting with content. When learning is engaging and experiential like this, the knowledge retention of learners increases tremendously.

In a corporate environment, AR can be used to create entirely new learning experiences, or simply supplement current training initiatives. Printed learning materials can be bought to life by taking something stationary and infusing it with animation and interactivity that engages the learner and demonstrates perspectives that simply can’t be shown with something static. For instance, activities in groups can be transformed into engaging treasure hunts that get learners collaborating together as they scan various items to solve clues and obtain new knowledge along the way.

AR for onboarding

It’s clear how widely the applications of AR can vary among businesses, starting at the very beginning with the onboarding process.

As a critical part of a new employee's brand journey, it’s important to make sure that new starters are given the best introduction to their new working environment, with this process having lasting implications on retention and ultimately the business itself. We’ve seen businesses start to use AR to innovate this process, turning to immersive experiences to make them more memorable. The experiences are memorable because it surprises and delights the users, as a new way to break up the training session and impact their memory further. As bite-sized micro-experiences, they weave into the learning flow and lead to a longer-term impact as they initiate work afterwards.

It’s likely that AR is going to become a prominent component of all learning and development programmes.

Working with a number of partners we’ve seen AR be incredibly useful in empowering employees to practice and improve customer interactions by being able to prepare for real-life scenarios that can be tricky to deal with. This method removes the more long-winded process of employee in-person role plays and means that employees can replay and relive scenarios in their own time, when it is most convenient to them and develop their confidence (micro-learning in action).

In other workforces, AR can be crucial in supporting specialised positions. For instance, factory workers and production line employees often have very specialist jobs that are often unique and require significant levels of experience. We’ve seen AR maximise training schemes for these more niche roles by providing a high level of process visualisation that can increase employee confidence whilst reducing risk. Ultimately, incorporating AR means businesses can add a digital layer of guidance to their everyday equipment and heighten competency in context, without associated risks.

Looking to the future of AR in L&D

Some industries have been using AR for L&D for a number of years, but it has recently started to garner mainstream attention. While there is a lot of buzz about the use of AR for learning, many professionals still believe it is very expensive and difficult to adopt.

Our goal in this sector has always been to offer authoring tools that make it very simple and affordable to work with AR. As those tools become easier to use and with big brands jumping on the AR-bandwagon, it’s likely that AR is going to become a prominent component of all learning and development programmes.

Ultimately, it comes down to understanding the perspective of your target. AR does not have to be as complex as it can often sound and we’ve found that often the most successful experiences are simple, effective and rooted deeply in practical application.

As we continue to see AR becoming more widely adopted, it will be very interesting to see the innovations that develop various industries and offer L&D departments of all varieties to take advantage. With that in mind, here are three simple steps to start your AR journey:

  • Start small, test and grow.
  • Choose your use case carefully so it’s easy to deploy by trainers who have lots of other things to think about.
  • Pick evergreen content that will be used frequently and for a long time.

Interested in this topic? Read Learning technology: how AR can improve learning transfer for remote workers.

Author Profile Picture
Max Dawes

Managing Director

Read more from Max Dawes

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