Learning new skills is difficult. I’m reminded of this every day with my 6 year old son Nolan; he’s my home R&D learning center. Even though kids, in comparison to adults, are learning machines, they still need a ton of guidance and encouragement (and of course the occasional bribe or threat).
I’ve been trying to teach Nolan how to ski for the past 2 years. He seemed excited, but getting over the learning curve was just proving difficult. A few group lessons seemed to have marginal impact and private lessons at $600/day were just out of the question. I was afraid this was one joy he might miss out on (sledding and building snow igloos are good cheap alternatives though).
Bummed at this prospect, I re-assessed the situation and observed that for Nolan the fun and inspiration had faded too far away, replaced with only hard work and frustration. So I decided to take him up the chair lift myself and ski with him between my legs to give him a taste of success. We were going moderately fast, making turns, having fun and he was beaming. Engagement was rekindled. We did this for a couple of hours and then I sent him back for a group lesson hoping for the best. “Wait til you see what I can do,” he exclaimed afterwards. He rushed to the toe rope and “bombed” down the bunny hill by himself. No turns and no slowing down, but he was extraordinarily proud and excited to learn more. I was proud too and was reminded how important engagement and fun are in learning.
At Interplay, engagement is our #1 goal which is why we are so excited about our latest push into the immersive world of VR. We are using it to engage learners like never before. Learners get a real sense of what installing a solar panel or fixing an air conditioner really feels like. The smiles and words from users tell it all. Interestingly, an unexpected, engagement related benefit of VR is how entertaining it is for the fellow learners watching the trainee. Training in VR, for the near future, will often be done with two to three people. As we like to say, when was the last time you saw two people looking over the shoulder of an online powerpoint training. VR has a naturally compelling group element which leads to increased engagement and learning potential. We know VR cannot solve all learning problems, but once this engagement fire is lit, learning becomes a lot easier and allows other other passive media such as videos and slide decks to be more effective. Bomb down that mountain!