As elearning professionals we always aspire to create great learning - it needs to be engaging, easy to understand, and easy to apply in the workplace. To do this we have trained ourselves on all the current learning theories: Blooms taxonomy, Cathy Moore's action mapping, Malcolm Knowles Pedagogy, Social Learning theory etc and we try to use these in our work, to make it work.
One theory is that of cognitive overload: John Sweller theorised that instructional design can help to reduce cognitive load when problem solving (Cognitive load being the mental effort required within the brain's memory to solve the problem). Heavy cognitive load can have an effect on task completion i.e. if it's too complicated and you need to remember too much at one time, you are unlikely to get the job done right!
Embodied Cognition is a new theory where cognition is the connection between the body and the mind. It states that not just our mind shapes our world view, but also our body, and the experiences it has, lead to learning activities in the mind. This is of course yet another reason where virtual reality is going to become the gold standard of training - where not just your mind but your body can experience ducking a hazard, setting up a machine, driving a crane etc. Or you have learned about the theory of fertilisation and low motility and then experience a VR of a sperm swimming up the canal racing the others to get to the egg but running out of energy just before the goal, every time. Then a VR of getting to the egg in the IVF setting - bingo easy! How much more memorable would that be? (Sigh, really worried about the comments I could get for this example, please keep it clean people!) So we have this new tool that enables people to cement their learning in the part of the brain where they USE knowledge, rather than STORE knowledge, and it can make our learning so powerful.
However, with great power comes great responsibility. And as VR designers, we need to take into account the issues of cognitive overload for our learners in VR. For they are quite likely in a very new setting, not just a new virtual environment but also not having used controllers before, or even VR at all. They won't know what to do, and may be overwhelmed by being in a 360 setting. Additionally, we do find some people don't turn around and look at all, and stand with feet frozen, while others look around wildly.
These reactions need to be taken into account as does our design planning for the learning. Let's make it easy for our learners - make the challenge about the learning, not figuring out HOW to learn. Here are our tips:
Overall our best advice is keep it simple, and make it easy. If you have other ideas on how to reduce cognitive load in VR we welcome your comments below or on twitter.
We hope this has been helpful for you in considering your Virtual Reality training project. If you have some ideas on some VR training and would like to discuss with us how they could be done, please get in touch. We are able to work globally.
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