Deakin University white paper sees industry participants give the thumbs up for virtual reality training, with the addition of some suggestions for a better learning experience.
Deakin University undertook comprehensive research on the user experience of virtual reality (VR) and traditional training for collation into a white paper.
This was based on surveys from 22 student participants as well as the recruitment of 23 industry participants (seven women and 16 men) from Deakin University and its research connections.
The industry participants self-rated their technical experience with a total of eight novices, seven somewhat experienced to highly experienced, and one expert. The majority were 18 to 24 years of age, with seven aged 25 to 45, and two over 50.
The industry participants were divided into a traditional group and a VR group, with each receiving the corresponding types of training on a large industrial hydraulic power unit.
For the purposes of this article, the general user experience of these participants on VR training is briefly touched upon, with interested readers free to contact HYDAC for the full paper, with accompanying participant comments.
General user experience
The industry participants for the most part found it easy to use the VR technology, which they felt provided an authentic experience of working on a machine.
The training was seen as providing valuable orientation in terms of a mental model of the context. This contextualised mental model was in fact viewed as more valuable than the checklist’s information as it was pointed out that machine part colours degrade over time, making them less recognisable.
The VR training was viewed as particularly valuable for people with less experience.
As for kinaesthetic learning, it was seen as helpful.
The participants noted that they saw particular value in VR training as an occupational health and safety training tool as it allowed the user to experience mistakes in a safe environment.
One participant commented on the low environmental impact of VR training.
VR operation user experience
The participants enjoyed the checklist’s user interface and embedded videos, and they regarded step-by-step procedures as very useful.
Both the student and industry groups pointed out differences between VR training simulation and the actual machine, with the industry group accepting these differences more philosophically than the student group.
Imperfections were appreciated by the industry group and said to add to their sense of realism, while objects that moved slowly provided a sense of the effort required.
Fault finding was appreciated as an "interesting" VR training activity.
The industry participants asked for a tour before training to help with immersion and to get familiar with controls.
They suggested the addition of occupational health and safety labels and verification tools to the VR experience and the provision of VR training as a complementary aspect to classroom training and paper-based instructions. Increased realism around component interactions in terms of grime, dirt, and noise was also thought to be advantageous.
Most participants recommended different training levels and that trainees experience the consequences of their mistakes. They also recommended facilitating the isolation of a sub-assembly with labels and exploded view diagrams.
HYDAC Managing Director Mark Keen comments he’s pleased with the white paper’s findings.
“We wanted to have official, published findings from Deakin University: we didn’t want the benefits of VR training to come from HYDAC alone but to be independently verified by professional educators,” Mr Keen says.
Hybrid learning solution
Mr Keen highlights that noteworthy from the research is the discovery that hybrid learning is of the most benefit to learners.
“I was pleasantly surprised to read about the appreciation of hybrid learning from participant feedback. It’s going to be interesting taking this further in terms of learning and learning outcomes,” he says.
“Part of it of course is the age of students and their experience of education. So I think we'll probably find different expectations from baby boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, and millennials just because of the way they perceive training, learning, and so on.
“Regardless, hybrid learning will be verified by further testing and analysis, with the focus on learning and teaching opportunities that transcend specific groups, ie opportunities that are broad-based and valid for people across all ages and educational experiences – and that makes for an interesting challenge ahead.”
Mr Keen underscores that HYDAC is already well placed to deliver on hybrid learning solutions because it has all the traditional teaching, tools, and experiences required as well as being able to offer VR training,” he says.
“Next we’ll look at the specific application of this learning or teaching technology and how it transitions into knowledge: not only basic training but the possibility for ongoing field support.
“This refers to ‘extended reality’ solutions; the transition from VR to augmented reality (AR) and the possibility it provides to take training to a new level where all things learned from VR training are transported into active support in the field. And because training in VR and AR is familiar and linked, we believe that the training will be very effective.”
Mr Keen believes this new type of training will be most appreciated in fields where logistics’ challenges exist.
“From application we’ll continue to look at basic principles and dedicated customised solutions for individual applications; specifically how we can bring them together where they will be most appreciated and valuable,” he says.
“Examples exist in mining with equipment in remote locations, in defence with assets scattered across innumerable locations, and other complex applications where, for safety or security reasons, access may be difficult.”
Research forms valuable pool of knowledge
Mr Keen says the white paper is “not just about university endorsement of what HYDAC knows to be true” but also for the purpose of assisting future research.
“This research is valuable because it forms a part of the pool of knowledge that can be referenced not only by a university but all people working in the training area. This extends to HYDAC, which intends to work on what it’s learned from the research for continuous development and improvement.
“There’s so much scope for this because extended reality technology is still a young technology.”
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