When students have the chance to learn in real-life scenarios, they are able to master critical career skills faster. But in people-oriented industries like healthcare, it’s challenging to find opportunities for students to practice without risking patient care. As a company that helps people train for and pass certification exams in the allied health and health IT spaces, we are using immersive training technology to give students the real-life practice they need to be job ready.
Start with the learner experience
The key to creating an effective training program is to first ask, “What is the learner experience?” Taking this approach can be particularly valuable with certificates and other short-form programs. Unlike full degrees, where students benefit from learning a variety of subjects, students who choose certificates are looking for quick ways to build specific knowledge. Knowing what the end goals of a program are — for example, individual skills and outcomes — creates a more meaningful learner experience. Subject matter experts in a field or employers can be a huge help in determining what should be included and what isn’t relevant.
The learner experience should also be considered in terms of how immersive training technology is used. Technology should only be used so much as it enhances the learning experience. If technology replaces parts of the experience, for example, students passively watching a procedure, it can impact their preparedness to perform the specific task.
One way technology can enhance learning is to make it immersive. If an online program is full of text-heavy PDFs it won’t be valuable to students. Instead, educators and trainers can use video-based instruction and gamification to create experiences for students that help them master skills.
The pinnacle of immersive technology is simulations that give students life-like experiences. A great example of immersive training technology in practice is training simulations for phlebotomists, the professionals who draw blood from patients. Becoming skilled at putting a needle in someone’s arm is hard to learn in a solely virtual setting. It’s not something most patients are willing to be test subjects for either. Nothing can replace real-life experience, but technology can make it easier for students to practice so they have basic skills by the time they are working with real people.
Using technology, students can participate in simulated environments where they work with a virtual patient. That patient can be programmed to exhibit different types of pain and then through technology the students can start to understand the cause of the problem. Instant feedback in the simulation can help guide the student to understand environmental factors that are causing pain or discomfort, better preparing them for the real world.
Treating Training as a Cycle
Immersive simulations provide another advantage, as they support a modern cycle of learning and work that is more adaptive to today’s fast-paced working world. Job seekers and employees need ways to continuously learn new skills to keep up with developments in various industries as well as enhance career mobility.
These types of programs can help employers fill worker shortages too, especially when combined with workforce development strategies that cover all or some of the cost of tuition. We are working with more employers taking this strategy to recruit and develop talent internally.
I have no doubt that one day technology will advance to the level that Star Trek fans like me have seen in a holodeck — or hologram environmental simulator — but until then the immersive training technology we do have can be a great way to enhance learning without replacing it.