New technology is par for the course in the learning environment. Virtual world learning environments, once new and exciting, are rapidly becoming standard in high-performing organizations. Cloud technology, one of the latest innovations in learning, facilitates virtual-world environments, enabling role-playing and 3-D simulation to teach employees leadership, teamwork and real-world problem solving.
For example, IBM’s INNOV8 BPM simulation brings IT and business together for process model innovation, allowing employees to make decisions as they seek more efficient ways to manage a call center and respond to customers. The core game puts the player in charge of a call center, learning how the business works by having scripted conversations with virtual managers and then answering questions on how the player would run the center. According to Apply Group, by the end of 2012, more than 100 of the world’s 500 largest corporations will be using scenario games for training.
Major drivers to implement virtual learning include providing organizations with the ability to adapt to change and become more efficient and innovative. Younger workers are attuned to exploratory-type training, accepting failure in exchange for a chance to learn what might work better. The learning hierarchy is also changing, putting new product or service creation and efficiency at the top of learning objectives.
Learning leaders can take some aspects from the video game world to understand that learning how to do it better the next time around makes for a better individual and team player. The platform to offer this training will need to be a virtual environment, accessible 24/7 through the Internet, even on a mobile platform. The environment will be developed using avatars, real-life scenarios or imaginary settings that will prompt individuals or teams to be innovative in attaining their quest.
Further, the environment needs to allow for repeat training so participants can try a new angle to attain the objective and obtain feedback on why something did or did not work. Video — when coupled with feedback — can help as it offers learners a chance to review an exercise.
One of the challenges in a virtual learning environment is a challenge in any cloud computing application — accessibility and reliability. Since 3-D environments contain rich graphics and audio, learning leaders need bandwidth to ensure employee access. Prior to investing in this approach, there are also technical considerations with IT support and the vendor.
Also, what security exists, particularly if leaders allow employees to participate remotely? Are training results kept secure and viewable only to those with a need to know? How reliable is the product? How much downtime is tolerable for operations?
To be successful, the virtual learning environment must be visually appealing and interactive. Re-creating classroom-style instruction alone will not improve the learning experience.
Leaders must create a unique environment with virtual environment tools that stimulate the imagination, make it interesting, allow the participant to interact with others and with the environment, learn through experimentation and retry ways to solve a problem. In IBM’s INNOV8 BPM game, good performance is rewarded with exploding fireworks, while failure puts the player’s avatar on the street holding a sign that says: “Will BPM for food.”
Organizations are beginning to see the benefits of creating a virtual learning environment in the cloud. “Business simulations allow companies to optimize costs, mitigate risks and remain agile in a rapidly changing environment,” said Sandy Carter, IBM vice president of social business evangelism, BPM and WebSphere.
Lynne Mealy is president and CEO of IHRIM, and Nov Omana is CEO and founder of Collective HR Solutions. They can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.Filed under: Technology