More Than Just A New Toy

"Immersive learning techniques help build skills at a faster pace through immersive technology. He explained through case-studies that these learning options inherently stimulated the brain to develop a reflex for repetitive tasks through practice."


In the third panel on a day that expounded the best-kept industry secrets surrounding the Learning and Development function, Srinivas Ladwa the CHRO of Reliance Nippon, Shabeen A Narang the L&D Head of TVS Credit and Ashissh Kapoor the Talent Lead of E&Y engaged in a conversation that demystified Immersive Education options in the L&D domain with Ruhail Amin, Senior Editor at BW Businessworld steering their insights as moderator.    

In opening remarks, Shabeen Narang explained, “technology is often like a new toy that we get carried away with, the most important thing is to focus on what is right for your audience, right for your company and in accordance with the learning outcomes.”  

Before delving into the benefits of immersive learning opportunities afforded by the latest technologies, the panel was mindful to note that such technologies attain their full potential only when leveraged in the organizational context. Ashissh Kapoor began, that the journey to achieve this would be to measure the ‘knowing and doing’ gap. Teachers have to shift perspectives from trainers to facilitators and ensure that employees use what they know in their daily context.  

Questioned on their biggest learning in the last twelve months, Srinivas Ladwa explained how his company learned to adopt and adapt to technology as a lifeline to survive. In an industry that relies on human contact, he remarked how the sudden shift enforced by the pandemic was a radical change that has altered operations in the long-term. The key was to focus on what was needed to accomplish and the route that would lead them there. He added that it was a rude shock for leadership who were now faced with the reality that many of their existing processes don’t enable in a COVID-like situation.  

He continued, “The focus was on thinking how to increase reliance on tech to eliminate the risk that situations like COVID present because COVID is just one situation. This is where space opened up for digital entrepreneurs, advanced technology has been around for a while but now it is being leveraged for learning. In insurance we hire in scale, how do we train people who are not from the insurance world to understand and then pitch insurance, all from a distance?” 

Narang explained that they dealt with this unique situation by eliminating the structural training modules. Instead, she explained that a process of collaborative learning was adopted at TVS Credit where everyone became a trainer and offered their new learnings on a particular topic. She also added that for sales and collection, they used audio recordings from customer interaction as dynamic learning material.     

Moving on to the benefits of immersive learning, Ladwa offered that immersive learning techniques help build skills at a faster pace through immersive technology. He explained through case-studies that these learning options inherently stimulated the brain to develop a reflex for repetitive tasks through practice. He offered that this has practical applications beyond his field in medicine and aviation where repetitive actions are involved. He added that within his industry, AR/VR tech can be used to develop soft-skills like selling, collection and help create a simulation of those actions. 

The road to immersive technology adoption isn’t rosy. Kapoor highlighted the cost impact that an organization has to consider while upgrading to AR/VR options. He agrees that Mixed reality is a better option as it is the best of both worlds. He explains with an example of how E&Y tried to onboard new-joiners through AR in a pilot project. The benefits he surmised included giving new employees an experience as to how their office would look through virtual tours. He remarked that the technology’s physical assets are not the most expensive but rather the post-purchase continuous development of the right tools to be used in that experience were the pricy elements. He believes that the aforementioned requires a dedicated in-house development team to effectively use VR as it doesn’t end with the initial investment. 

Commenting on gamification, Ladwa remarked that it is more of an enabler and that the focus should be on core material that needs learning. Kapoor explained why gaming inherently works. He maintains that games inherently tap into the visual experience and the decision-making opportunities that an individual experiences as a gamer. Whereas, Narang added that gamification should be a balance of excitement and learning. Through her experience, she explained how in the excitement of gaining points, employees can lose sight of learning objective. She hopes for an 80-20 model where 80% of the experience is about the learning outcome and 20% about the gratification supplied by gaming.  

The final question was on the existence of online repositories that rivalled information conveyed in formalized organizational training. To this Narang offered that the internet was a place of both information and misinformation. And that leaders needed to educate themselves across domains constantly to contextually apply their learnings in training modules. She adds how her company instituted a program where leaders went to the grassroots of their company and learnt how to become more relevant across the chain of command. 

In his closing remarks, Kapoor remarked that immersive learning was the way future and provided a safe space for learning, for trying again and again until proficiency is achieved. And that organizations should be adoptive, yet mindful of costs and actively encourage reverse mentoring.  

Ladwa concluded, “My suggestion to colleagues is to continue experimenting (with pilots and experimental initiatives). The costs will fall in place. Use the N=1 approach and focus on personalized training and leverage technology for that as it will play a significant role in enabling it.” 

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