18 Dec 2019

Immersive Learning – Status Quo – Status Futurus

Torsten Fell, founder and director of the Institute for Immersive Learning, will discuss the status quo and the status futurus of AR/VR on LEARNTEC.

Mr. Fell, how would you evaluate the status quo?

Torsten Fell: We have a lot of technology available, informed by decades of didactics and experience, but all this is used far too little. That’s a pity because the method has many advantages. But this market is still quite small compared to other e-learning formats. Initial experiences are currently being gained through pilot and lighthouse projects, but genuine integration into the learning processes unfortunately takes place all too seldom. And questioning the existing strategy with LMS, video portal, WBTs or virtual classrooms does not really occur either.

What do you regard as the most important advantages of “Immersive Learning”?

Torsten Fell: Immersive Learning enables users to dive into learning situations. Of course, a video can also be emotional, but the interaction, the practical orientation and the physical activity contribute to long-lasting learning success. Both the recall rate and the competence to act increase drastically. No video can achieve this to a comparably great extent. Another tremendous advantage is the ability to augment physical reality with digital learning objects in a context-sensitive way and directly on the object.

Unfortunately there remains a certain reluctance to actually utilize these potentials. In my opinion, this shows that the challenge of the technology overburdens human resources development. Many decision-makers have not yet understood the potential of this form of learning or have not yet been able to develop a personal connection to it.

Furthermore, rumours circulating in the industry claim that it is difficult and costly to implement Immersive Learning processes. But the fact is that the provider market has grown considerably in recent years. Providers are eagerly trying to familiarize decision-makers with the methods. Nonetheless, upskilling offers are used only hesitantly and they remain the exception rather than the rule.

Rumours usually have a cause. Where do they come from in this case and how can they be dispelled?

Torsten Fell: Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality primarily became well known in the context of gaming. But that did not work well because it lacked content. Consequently there was no widespread effect. Learning topics in particular were scarcely affected by it at all.

Moreover, access to the topic of 3D is usually not available. What is lacking is the understanding that is necessary to explain objects in a virtual spatial world. Personal experience with VR/AR: the learning experience is usually nonexistent.

As far as the costs are concerned, producing learning content for immersive learning scenarios is not more expensive than with conventional e-learning productions, unless no 3D data are available and these have to be generated first. If 3D data are available, then the cost framework and the implementation periods are comparable – with a simultaneous increase in the success and the sustainability of the learning.

How do you view the future of Immersive Learning? What developments do you anticipate?

Torsten Fell: In general, it must be said that this technology will surely penetrate into the new world of work. That is an indisputable fact. Google, Microsoft, Facebook (Oculus), Amazon and Apple are all getting massively involved. And this involvement will not remain without effects on the world of learning. Just eight weeks ago, Gartner introduced the term “immersive workspaces” into its “Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies”. Microsoft is investing in holography, for example, with the Hololens 2. Virtual or digital twins are a big topic too: they are real objects that are represented in the digital world. In a nutshell, a new workplace will soon emerge that, from a technological point of view, will not be a smartphone or a tablet or even a notebook. In the next phase, it will probably be just a pair of eyeglasses. This also changes learning and its potentials. AI, 5G and IoT will be another dimension that grows along with VR/AR and represents the workplace.

How long do you expect it to take for this status futurus to be achieved?

Torsten Fell: We need plenty of sensitization, education and upskilling offers along the way from status quo to status futurus…. I estimate that several different technologies will merge in the next three to five years: 5G, AI (avatar area, object recognition in AR), AR, VR, AR Cloud. But to prepare for this, we need to develop the culture and the mindset that we still lack in the field of digitization. I regard this as a big challenge, especially in Germany. These opportunities are already being used more consistently and more purposefully in Asia.

Suitable authoring tools are already in place; platforms are just beginning. Unfortunately the necessary integration for LMS providers has scarcely been a topic thus far. Requirements for the new standards have not yet been addressed.

Mark Zuckerberg is now building a corresponding business solution (including My Trainings Portal) with his VR start-up Oculus, which he acquired in 2014, but here in Germany we continue to doze in blissful obliviousness.

We must become aware of the fact that we will soon be competing internationally with countries that pursue a very different approach to this subject. China intends to lead the world’s market in this field by 2025. Globally, education in the field of VR/AR moved into first place among subject areas in 2019, but unfortunately not in Germany. I want to encourage everyone to regard these new potentials as opportunities to create spaces and situations where VR and AR can be experienced. The VR/AR Area in Hall 2 at LEARNTEC is one such venue that makes this crystal clear. Companies have been meeting and sharing ideas in the VR/AR Corporate Learning Roundtable since 2017, which will take place again this year on the Monday before LEARNTEC in Karlsruhe. Companies will present their solutions live to other companies at Experience Night on Wednesday evening.