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AR Training: The future starts now

Aaron DeYonker
POSTED February 25th, 2022

As we highlighted in a previous post, AR has already demonstrated huge benefits to workforce training.  Inherently on demand, AR training can reduce costs significantly without the need to travel to seminars and classes, especially if implemented on existing hardware platforms like mobile phones and tablets. It can also help job training where safety might be a concern.  But most importantly, AR training provides more effective learning and retention by removing cognitive barriers, creating stronger emotional connection to content, and narrowing focus to core subject materials in ways that were not previously possible at scale.

Many organizations have begun to embrace and prove out the effectiveness of augmented reality as a critical method to train their workforce.  Boeing has reported a 90% increase in ‘first-time’ quality and 30% reduction in delivery time with the use of AR in the training of its manufacturing engineers.  Major investments in AR are accelerating in important industries and sectors.  For example, the US Department of Defense, more specifically the US Airforce, is turning to AR to train over 16,000 Civil Engineers on equipment too expensive to be made readily available at all the necessary outposts throughout the world.  This massive investment in augmented reality underscores the essential role it will play in all areas of the economy in the not-so-distant future.  

You may ask: “But how do I implement a training program leveraging the power of AR technology?”  This prospect can be very intimidating.  But, in many respects, you have the infrastructure in place already.  

Hardware

While we expect to witness big leaps in technology in the next couple of years, particularly as it relates to head-mounted devices (such as the Hololens), an AR device is probably in your pocket as we speak.  Unlike Virtual Reality which requires specialized wearable equipment, iPhone and Android devices have had AR componentry in them for quite some time, including advanced cameras, sensors and chipsets.  The good news is that your workforce is already equipped to take advantage of AR at scale.  Sure, the future holds some very promising immersive “Metaverse” experiences with fancy glasses, but there is no need to wait to start integrating AR into your existing digital learning and development strategies.

Now that you do not have to worry about expensive hardware roll-outs to your workforce, you can begin to evaluate how to extend your existing learning and development investments to integrate augmented reality content.  

Content Creation

At the heart of any learning and development strategy is the curriculum.  Organizations rely on a set of industry-standard tools to create content… Everything from PowerPoint, video-editing tools like Premier and Camtasia, as well as high-end tools like Articulate’s Storyline for interactive course material.  Tools like these give authors endless possibilities for delivering information and assessing comprehension.  An AR authoring tool like WorkLink Create from ScopeAR provides a similar content creation experience, but with giant leaps forward in interaction and engagement possibilities.  

Like most creator platforms, WorkLink Create allows authors to create step-by-step training experiences.  However, with WorkLink Create, training content can overlay on top of real world subject matter.  Animations and highlights can help guide and direct the learner as they step through a learning module.  Additional contextual information can appear with a simple voice command.  You can even repurpose your existing 2D training material alongside real-world subject matter or provide video inset windows for on-demand supplemental information as a learner steps through a particular AR training experience.

Content Delivery

AR instructional content needs to integrate into existing curriculum.  A learner should expect to see all content necessary to achieve competency in one spot.  Imagine a training curriculum, say for maintenance of a genetic analyzer for a medical device manufacturer, and the curriculum includes a series of courses.  Each course contains a collection of learning modules.  A routine maintenance course could include a series of interactive web training modules, a couple of videos, and potentially a quick assessment in the form of a quiz.  The course is accessed through your Learning Management System.  Instruction designers can now integrate AR content into traditional course material as an interactive learning module.  As an example, after selecting an AR learning module from the course’s table of contents, the learner is presented with a QR code.  The learner can easily scan the QR code with their phone and launch into the specific AR learning module.

Assessment

Beyond content management and delivery, an AR content platform needs to support the common ways of assessing a learner.  The key promise of AR is to accelerate comprehension and retention by promoting critical thinking.  AR content needs to enable the key components of assessment through standard data tracking and reporting.  At the very least, the platform should make it very easy to report on the following items:

  • Did the learner complete the training module?
  • How long did it take to complete?
  • Did the learner pass/fail?
  • What was the overall assessment score?

While these may seem like basic items, the majority of online assessments captured within a Learning Management System are based on these 4 items.  AR content platforms need to make it easy for creators to build content that will provide assessment output.  Once a learner has completed an AR training module, the AR platform needs to make this data available to the LMS for a training administrator to track overall competency.

No device or travel needed to train. Only a flat surface required.

Taking our example of the DNA analyzer, a learner has launched an AR experience on their mobile device focused on troubleshooting technical issues with equipment.  They are guided through an interactive instruction projected onto the real-world subject matter.  Throughout the AR instruction, knowledge checks are presented to the learner.  Some of these knowledge checks can be interactive, perhaps asking the learner to select the correct inspection approach needed to troubleshoot a maintenance problem.  Answering correctly unlocks the next set of steps in the training module.  

Creators should have the option to create scored quizzes in their AR experiences as well.  At the end of the training module for troubleshooting technical issues with the DNA analyzer, the content creator can insert a quiz, picking from a variety of standard question types.  Beyond typical multiple choice and true/false type questions (which have value in AR with their spatial proximity to real-world subject matter), AR enables highly interactive training assessments, such as selectable hotspots in 3D space, taking the learning experience to a new level.  This type of interaction has been proven to increase overall learning and retention.

Once the learner has completed the work instruction, the AR platform should package and send the assessment data to the LMS.  A number of different methods should be available to make this integration, but at the very least, data should be made available through a secure API.  And native integrations with market leading Learning Management Systems should make a closed loop learning experience relatively seamless.

In summary

Organizations have invested millions of dollars in their content delivery infrastructure in the form of Learning Management System, Content Management Systems and Competency/Skills Management Systems.  An AR solution needs to integrate with these existing ‘systems of record’, thereby extending the value of these investments.  They have also invested in the talent needed to deliver compelling learning experiences.  Launching an AR Learning and Development program can sound daunting, but in reality, it is extending existing investments to augment (pun intended) a comprehensive and future proof strategy to train your workforce.

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