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The effects of virtual reality training on learning and skills development

If I mention the term "virtual reality", I'm willing to bet that you too, dear readers, will automatically associate it with video games. But even if virtual reality is more and more present in the gaming world, it can be useful in many fields.

Among them, we decided to focus on training.

Virtual reality training is starting to be considered by companies. In addition to being cost-effective in the long run, it can help learners to use new tools (e.g., XR Paint) and to better understand real time situations.

The objective of this article is to bring answers regarding virtual reality training. For this, we will rely on a document provided by the Education Global Practice. This document is based on 31 primary studies and 90 experiments demonstrating the impact of virtual training on learning and skill development.

The increased development of skills

The development of technical skills is important to improve the individual performance of each employee and thus promote the company's performance. In addition to the development of technical skills, socio-emotional and cognitive skills are also real challenges for companies and apprentices. For example, being a firefighter requires know-how but also the ability to manage emotions.

In search of the best methods to meet the challenges of training, trainers and teachers are therefore increasingly considering virtual training. Indeed, training learners via virtual reality offers the great advantage of providing a reproducible environment for repeated and optimized training. The active pedagogy of virtual reality improves the memorization rate and the commitment of employees.

This surely explains the beginning of the Immersive Learning* democratization.

*Immersive Learning combines the principles of e-learning and virtual reality. This consists in immersing the learner in a virtual universe to make him/her live realistic situations. This immersion learning can be done in a 100% virtual universe (virtual reality) or in a real universe but enriched with virtual elements (augmented reality).

A tenfold motivation

Virtual reality training is based on gamification and constructivism.

Gamification is the integration of game mechanisms into processes that are not primarily intended to be playful. For example, Blablacar has set up experience levels on their carpooling platform. Users move up through different levels (beginner, regular, confirmed, expert) according to the quality of their profile, their seniority on the platform or the number of positive reviews received.

As for constructivism, it is a theory of learning based on the idea that knowledge is constructed by the learner based on his mental activity. He seeks to make sense of what he perceives from his experience.

These two notions defining virtual reality training have a big influence on the learner's motivation. Thanks to the fun and practical aspects of virtual training, the trainee will be more involved than in traditional training. The learner is the key actor in the situation: his or her behavior influences the duration and progress of the scenario. To conclude, training with virtual reality requires both mental and physical involvement.

Successful results in which sectors?

The results of the study indicate that, on average, virtual reality training is more effective than traditional training in developing technical, cognitive, and socio-emotional skills. These results would be particularly promising in the following areas: health, safety, engineering, and technical education.

Example: Results show that students who take a VR training course report, on average, 30% higher scores on assessments of social-emotional skills.


The results regarding the use of virtual reality training in healthcare are significant, especially in the field of surgery. It offers the possibility to perform surgeries in a safe environment and at a relatively low cost. Trainees can practice without putting patients at risk and without the supervision of an attending surgeon.

To illustrate this, consider the study conducted by the David Geffen School, a university located in Los Angeles. The study had 20 participants: two groups of ten people randomly assigned. One group followed a traditional training while the other trained with Osso RV, a virtual reality platform created in 2016 by orthopedic surgeon Justin Barad.

After training, participants performed the procedure on an artificial training bone and their performance was recorded. The study showed that the VR group achieved 130% higher than those who trained with traditional methods regarding the surgical procedure.


Disasters and accidents are recurrent in all sectors. It is therefore important to train as much as possible in safety and risk prevention to be reactive and minimize human losses. Training is usually based on rather expensive fictitious patients. Moreover, it is complicated to reproduce a disaster environment like the real one. That is why VR is here!

Many virtual reality training exist today to help fight against fires or mass disasters. For example, “La Croix-Rouge” of Trinidad and Tobago, an island state in the Caribbean, uses virtual reality to prepare for disasters such as earthquakes or hurricanes.

Engineering, Science and Technical Education:

In engineering, science and technical education, an essential part of the training takes place in the laboratory. Within these, students acquire the skills necessary to manage, configure, repair equipment, specialized instruments, and machines.

They can practice before performing tasks in real-life. However, the equipment needed to perform practical laboratory work is not always available or accessible, especially in developing countries and rural areas.

As a result, virtual laboratories are multiplying. VR training provides students with real-world environments and access to cutting-edge technology and equipment without the need for major laboratory investments.

In addition, virtual labs offer other benefits such as:

- Access to distance learning

- Low cost (no need to purchase equipment, convenience for learners)

- Security (virtual training)

- Flexibility (available 24 hours a day)


Given its pedagogical potential, cost savings, and increasing availability in the market, VR training could begin to replace real-world learning environments by allowing students to interact and learn to manipulate a variety of tools.

Nonetheless, the statistics must be viewed with caution. Even if the results analyses show how virtual reality training can be more convincing than traditional training, it must be remembered that these statistics are based on samples. These results cannot be generalized.

It is therefore important that we continue to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of using virtual reality for pedagogical teaching to know if it could fully supplement traditional training in the next few years...

Find the PDF right here: Education Global Practice.


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