Can You Implement Immersive Learning Tech With No Coding Know-How?
This article is part of a series that provides options for learning teams to quickly create immersive learning, including one that allows you to simultaneously practice using the software. What you are about to read is a fable. The company, AshCom, is fictional, but the learning challenges faced by Kathryn, AshCom’s CLO, and her team are real and commonly shared by learning teams in large organizations. It is our hope that you will be able to connect with the characters, their challenges, and the solutions they discover. We also invite you to read the first eBook in the series.
The Immersive Learning Challenge
Kathryn and Amy resumed their meeting after a short break. They had both understood the challenge of creating an immersive learning experience that would help the VicePresident of Sales win a large medical device manufacturing opportunity.
But earlier that day, Kathryn had voiced her concerns to Amy. Kathryn’s team was eager but inexperienced in building learning experiences using immersive technology. Not only would outsourcing the software design be expensive, it wouldn’t allow her team to become proficient in immersive technology for future projects. After listening to Kathryn speak, Amy paused the meeting to get a bite to eat. She was now refreshed and ready to continue with the conversation. This was a unique opportunity for AshCom, and she wanted to help Kathryn in any way she could.
Kathryn, the Chief Learning Officer, had never been involved in trying to win a bid. Mostly, she and her team worked on learning experiences for people who worked at AshCom. The VP of Sales was confident their bid included a learning component that could be used to sell the device and teach surgeons, their odds of getting the business would greatly increase.
Kathryn had decided this was the opportunity she had been waiting for to dive into Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. Amy, Kathryn’s most trusted advisor, had agreed on the key terms.
They also created a list of features that Kathryn was hoping would be part of a solution that would help her team begin the process of building immersive learning. Amy took notes on the whiteboard as Kathryn spoke. Amy added a few of her own.
Before their break, Kathryn asked if Amy had a solution in mind. Amy said she did.
“Just so I am clear,” said Kathryn as they both sat down, “what you are going to recommend can do all the things we have listed here?”
“Yes,” said Amy. “I have worked with multiple companies who have used it, and I can tell you with confidence it will meet your needs.”
“Your confidence means a lot given our long history,” said Kathryn.
The Development Approach
“Before we talk about specific solutions, let’s talk about our development approach,” said Amy. “There are three ways to engage. I’m going to need to move to a new whiteboard,” she said as she walked toward the far wall of Kathryn’s office. “Can I erase what’s up here?”
“Certainly,” said Kathryn. “That was last week’s problem. Take all the space you need. Let me take a quick picture before you erase.”
“Just in case you didn’t solve it yet?” said Amy laughing. Kathryn rolled her eyes.
“Let’s talk about these three development options,” said Amy as she wrote “How to Engage” in large letters at the top of the whiteboard.
Amy continued, “The first way to engage is what I call ‘You Build.’ This is the right solution for companies that have experience building immersive experiences like Augmented, Virtual, or Mixed Reality. You would purchase licenses to use the software just like you do for any other authoring tool used to build eLearning modules.”
“Are there a lot of companies who can do this?” asked Kathryn.
“Not in my experience,” replied Amy. “Only very large corporations have this kind of setup, and usually they are companies that already have a strong technological emphasis. Many of them are software companies.”
“So, they are the innovators,” said Kathryn. “My learning team is not there. I would love to see us develop this kind of internal expertise, but that seems a long way off. And this option won’t solve my current challenge.
“I suspect,” said Amy, “that most corporate learning teams are not ready to build immersive learning experiences on their own. I’m not advocating that this is the right solution for AshCom at this moment, but I wanted you to know that it is something you should be thinking about if you intend immersive technology to become a large part of your learning toolset.”
“Agreed,” said Kathryn. “We will count that as a future objective but not the solution we need right now. What is the second option?”
“We are going to call that ‘We Build,’” said Amy. “In that type of engagement, you would hire a company that specializes in immersive technology. It would be an outsourcing arrangement. They won’t likely have learning expertise. They are usually smaller companies made up mostly of coders and software developers whose experience will likely be in gaming. They won’t be in their comfort zone in learning and our industry norms because what you are doing is not likely in their core competencies.”
“I understand,” said Kathryn. “I’m not opposed to outsourcing for highly specialized projects. When we built a true game for our managers, we used MindSpring to build the actual game. We would use them again if we were to build another digital game, but I didn’t see that as something we needed to develop internally regularly. Immersive technology is different. I think this will become a significant part of most learning experiences going forward. But we are early in the process of learning how to do this.”
Kathryn continued, “I think this is a better option for us at this point than us trying to build it ourselves, but I have some concerns. I’m worried that the people building the learning experience don’t have expertise in learning science. I also worry that our team does not learn how to build in immersive technology which means we will not be on a pathway to being able to build these ourselves.”
“That’s right,” said Amy. “And every time you want Augmented, Virtual, or Mixed Reality, you would be dependent on a contractor to do that work.”
We Build Together
“I don’t want to dismiss this as an option out of hand because this may be the direction we need to go,” said Kathryn. “You said there was a third option. Is there some kind of hybrid between ‘We Build” and ‘You Build’? You left space in the middle of the whiteboard, so I’m guessing it combines the best of these two options.”
“You guessed right,” said Amy. “This option is called ‘We Build Together.’ It combines the best features of the other two options. You team up with people who have the technological expertise you need. Your team provides the learning expertise, but they are also involved in using the software.”
“How does that work?” asked Kathryn.
“It is a process that I’ve seen work well,” said Amy. “It begins relying heavily on people from your team looking over the shoulders of software people at how things are built. Throughout the process, your team learns to use the software by building small things. As they become more familiar with it, your team begins to build some assets in the software with the technological people looking over their shoulders. The idea is to have a strong combined team of I.T. people and learning people. In the end, your learning team will have built a level of competency with the software.”
“This sounds like the best fit for what we need to accomplish for this project and our longer-term objectives of my team learning to do this,” said Kathryn.
“At the end of your first project, your team will be able to work inside the tool with some confidence,” said Amy. “They will be able to make edits to whatever you build. Depending on their skill level, they may be able to build additional immersive learning experiences in the future. Think of it like a workshop in which your team learns while also building what you need for the medical device learning experience.”
The Two Questions
“If I’m understanding this correctly,” said Kathryn, “we would begin by building something together, but as the process moved along we would begin to create immersive learning experiences ourselves.”
“That’s right,” said Amy. After she paused for a moment, Amy said, “I’m waiting for you to ask two questions.”
Kathryn smiled. She knew what Amy meant and replied, “This medical device proposal is unusual. If we win this bid, we will have the budget we need to build almost anything we want. But I still need to pay attention to cost and timeline.”
“Of course you do,” said Amy. “I can’t give you precise numbers until we have some sense of the scope and size of what you want to build, but I can tell you that there is a range. The least expensive option licensing the software and building it yourself.”
Amy wrote “Least Expensive” on the whiteboard under “You Build.”
“But that option is not viable for you,” Amy continued. “The most expensive option would be for you to outsource the work and have someone else completely build it for you.”
Amy wrote “Most Expensive” on the whiteboard under “We Build.”
“Although we haven’t hired someone to make immersive learning before,” said Kathryn, “I’ve read that these projects can cost hundreds of thousands.”
Developing Immersive Technology Skills
“It all depends on what you are trying to create,” said Amy, “but you probably are not far off. The ‘We Build Together’ option is priced better, it is collaborative, and your team will begin to develop the skills they need to build their own for the next project.”
“If we win the bid to do this work,” said Kathryn, “we will need to begin quickly. Is there anything we could start doing now to prepare?”
“Let me see if I can get your team some sample accounts so they can start playing with the software now. The software can do everything I described,” said Amy.
“What company will we be working with?” asked Kathryn.
“It is a MindSpring product,” said Amy, “and I know you are already familiar with them. They are the only company I know of that has these three options.”
“I am,” said Kathryn. “As I said, we used them to build our financial literacy game. We had a good experience with them.”
Kathryn paused and then said, “We have a lot of work to do, don’t we.” It wasn’t a question.
“We do,” said Amy. “We need to figure out what we are going to build. All we’ve talked about so far is what software to use and how we will engage with it. We still need to make a lot of decisions. Will this be 3D? Will we use videos? Is this entire experience going to be Augmented Reality? Will Virtual Reality be part of the solution?”
“We are going to need a bigger whiteboard,” said Kathryn somewhat seriously. “But at least at this stage, I can respond to Ronda, our VP of Sales, and tell her that we have a pathway forward. We will be able to demonstrate the form and functionality of the medical device using immersive technology. And we know how we are going to do that.”
“Then I will leave you to that,” said Amy as she stood to leave.
Amy felt good about her ability to be a guide to Kathryn. Kathryn felt a new level of confidence that what she was being asked to do was something her team could do well.
After Amy left her office, Kathryn emailed Ronda and told her she had the right solution and was ready to proceed with the bid for the medical device manufacturing. Things were moving forward.
Download the eBook Your Immersive Learning Launchpad: The Ultimate Guide To Launching XR Learning to discover how you can implement XR in your organization to make the most of modern tech and minimize on-the-job mistakes.
Dear Reader, if you’re excited to learn more about how you can integrate immersive experiences into your learning strategy, schedule an XR Needs Assessment with a MindSpring Learning Expert. We’ll answer any questions you have and show you how we’ve successfully implemented immersion into learning.