Why Extended Reality (xR) is Poised to Disrupt Corporate Learning and Development – Part I: The Problem

(Note: This is the first of a four-party series on the Learning Science of xR in Corporate Learning.)

Executive Summary

Key Stakeholders: Chief Learning Officers, Chief Human Resource Officers, Chief People Officer, Chief Talent Officer, Learning & Development Directors and Managers, Corporate Trainers, Content and Learning Product Managers, Hiring Directors, Hiring Managers, Human Resource Directors, Human Resource Managers.

Why It Matters: A major goal of corporate Learning and Development (L&D) is to build scalable tools that facilitate hard and behavioral (soft and technical) skills mastery. Mastery is most effectively achieved through experiential learning and repetition that engages multiple learning systems in the brain in synchrony and facilitates the development of situational awareness.

Top Takeaway: Compared to traditional learning tools, extended reality (xR) technologies, such as virtual and augmented reality, speed the development of mastery and expertise through repeated experiential learning that broadly engages multiple learning systems in the brain in synchrony and is scalable.


“Learning is an experience. Everything else is just information” – Albert Einstein

This is a powerful quote from Albert Einstein and is supported by learning science—the marriage of psychology and brain science. As I elaborate below, experiential learning is effective because it engages multiple learning systems in the brain in synchrony.

Taken a step further, if one can obtain multiple related, but distinct experiences, then one can begin to develop mastery, expertise, and broad-based situational awareness. It is one thing to have knowledge and behavioral skills, but it is another to be able to apply that knowledge and behavior under time or social pressure, when you are well or poorly rested, or with a team that is new or familiar to you.

When attempting to master hard skills, such as the ability to identify the signs of harassment in the workplace, it is important to experience multiples signs of harassment and from different points of view such as from that of the harasser, the target of the harassment, or a bystander.

When attempting to master people skills, such as the verbal and non-verbal communication skills needed to be an effective leader, it is important to gain experience with multiple verbal and non-verbal skills and from different points of view such as from that of the manager or employee, an interview or performance review setting, or a large contentious team meeting. When attempting to master a technical skill, such as the ability to maintain and run a large piece of equipment, it is important to gain experience with multiple aspects of the equipment and under different scenarios such as routine maintenance, emergency maintenance under time pressure, or a situation in which you are training or supervising a new technician. In each of these examples, multiple related, but distinct experiences provide not only the opportunity for learning, but also for developing situational awareness; a hallmark of mastery and expertise.

The need for experience-based learning and repetition to build mastery and expertise provides the foundational principles for the effectiveness of extended reality (xR) technologies in Learning and Development (L&D) in general, and corporate L&D in particular. xR technologies include virtual reality (VR) in which the learner is immersed in a completely new virtual environment and augmented reality (AR) in which the learner is in a combined real and virtual environment where digital information is overlaid onto the learner’s field of view. These technologies are grounded in experience-based learning and offer repeatable, broad-based practice that builds situational awareness and is scalable.

This report focuses on a learning science evaluation of the potential for xR technologies to disrupt corporate L&D. xR technologies have the potential to improve the quality and quantity of training, to speed learning and enhance retention in all aspects of corporate learning. This follows because xR technologies broadly engage multiple learning systems in the brain in synchrony, especially experiential learning systems, and allow the training to repeated many times to enhance situational awareness and facilitate the development of mastery and expertise.

The Importance of Training in the Corporate Sector

The pace of change in the corporate sector is such that high-quality training is a necessity. Employees must constantly obtain new hard skills, whether learning rules and regulations in the workplace, definitions of appropriate and inappropriate behavior, or how to interpret data science applications. Employees must continually acquire and refine their people (aka soft) skills to be more effective communicators, collaborators and leaders. Whether it is growing concerns with automation, the extensive data suggesting that diversity increased revenue and workplace harmony, the #metoo movement, or more likely the combination of all three, employees and management must acknowledge the need for effective people skills training in organizations large and small.

Employees are constantly gaining new behavioral and technical skills such as learning new digital technologies, upskilling on some existing piece of software, or learning to use and maintain a piece of equipment. With each of these classes of skills–hard, people, and technical–employees must not only become proficient, but the goal is to obtain mastery and expertise. Mastery and expertise lead to situational awareness and the ability to perform effectively under any condition, whether routine or non-routine involving stress, pressure or anxiety, and the ability to anticipate the future. Whereas one can have a catalog of facts, and a repertoire of behaviors, in the end, one has to extract the appropriate information and engage the appropriate behavior in each distinct situation. Experience and repetition drive hard skills, people skills, and technical skills for situational awareness.

In Part 2, we’ll explore the brain science in greater detail and go over four distinct learning systems that affect learning.

If you enjoyed this blog, please share it on your social networks! And if you would like to learn more about how to use this information to support your corporate learning efforts, please email us at research@amalgaminsights.com to speak with me.

Todd Maddox Publishes Brain Science Analysis of Augmented Reality for Product Lifecycle Management

Today, Todd Maddox published the report “Why Augmented Reality is Effective in Product Lifecycle Management: A Brain Science Analysis.” This report provides best practices for implementing augmented reality across product development, supply chain management, equipment operation, troubleshooting, and field service.

Recommendations are based on Maddox’ research, which has been cited over 10,000 by his academic peers.

This report is available at no cost through the end of February based on the generosity of our clients. To download this report at no cost for the rest of February, please go to https://amalgaminsights.com/product/analyst-insight-why-augmented-reality-is-effective-in-product-lifecycle-management.

CES 2019 Ramifications for Enterprise IT

Vendors and Organizations Mentioned: IBM, Ose, WindRiver, Velodyne, UV Partners, TDK Corporation, Chirp Microsystems, Qualcomm, Intel, Zigbee Alliance, Thread Group, Impossible Foods The CES (Consumer Electronics Show) is traditionally known as the center of consumer technology. Run by the CTA (Consumer Technology Association) in Las Vegas, this show brings out enormous volumes of new technology…

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5 Predictions That Will Transform Corporate Training in 2018

Person participating in virtual reality simulation

At Amalgam Insights, we have been focused on the key 2018 trends that will change our ability to manage technology at scale. Tom Petrocelli provided his key Developer Operations and enterprise collaboration predictions for 2018 in mid-December. To continue that trend, Todd Maddox provides 5 key predictions that will shape enterprise learning in 2018 as markets reach new heights, corporate training embraces new scientific principles, and retention replaces compliance as a key training driver.

  1. VR/AR Enterprise Application Budget to Surpass $1 Billion in 2018
  2. eLearning (Computer-Based Training) Market to Approach $180 billion in 2018
  3. Commercial Training Sector to Embrace Neuroscience of Optimized Learning
  4. Continued Exponential Growth of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a Driving Force Behind the User Interface (UI)
  5. Training for Retention: The Rule, Not the Exception in 2018
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How Does myTrailhead Excel and How Can Science Make myTrailhead Even Better

Astro, Einstein, and other Salesforce Trailhead characters
Salesforce’s Trailhead branding is both on-point and adorable.

Key Takeaways:

  • myTrailhead allows customized training content and incorporates useful motivational and performance testing tools.
  • myTrialhead could be enhanced by incorporating scientifically-validated best practices in training, which suggest that hard skills are best trained by a cognitive skill learning system in the brain and soft skills are best trained by a behavioral skill learning system in the brain
  • In its current implementation, myTrailhead is more nearly optimized for hard skill training, but is sub-optimal for soft skills training

Technology is progressing at an accelerating rate. Jobs are constantly being updated or redefined by, and with the help of technology. Employees are constantly being asked to learn new skills whether in the same job or in a new position. Constant training is the rule, not the exception, and training platforms must be built with this in mind.

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