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Learning in the age of physical distancing

I hope you’re doing OK in whatever living room, kitchen or bedroom this email finds you. This is a note of reflection on our learning industry as we work our way through this unprecedented time.

The COVID-19 outbreak is fast-tracking digital transformation everywhere, and especially in learning organizations. Classrooms have been uprooted and transported into the cloud practically overnight and we’re proud of our visionary clients, who have prepared for this moment.

Walmart now asks new department managers to download and play Spark City – a Sims-style mobile management game that already has a half million downloads – on their phones, at safe social distance from other associates. Players make inventory, staffing and customer service decisions, packing months of business processes into hours of mobile gameplay. Meanwhile, Pfizer will be using virtual reality (VR) to conduct training for clinical trials instead of flying instructors and students to classroom sessions. Pharmacists can strap on the VR headset and step into a virtual lab where they can interact remotely with peers and instructors while practicing compounding medication. Read our Clinical Research News interview to learn more about it.

You and I have known digital and mobile training was the future. Now the rest of the world is learning that the future has arrived. The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 might well be the tipping point for the learning revolution that was first sketched out in the 1990s during the early days of the World Wide Web. Gronstedt Group was born out of this vision and we’ve been innovating the future with think-forward clients for over two decades. Case in point: we pioneered a 3D immersive emergency response simulation for New York City in Second Life a decade ago. We’re now delivering these deeply immersive learning experiences straight to the smart phone and VR headset.

Not all companies are as well prepared. COVID caught them flatfooted, and now many learning organizations are scrambling to livestream a broken classroom model into a Brady Bunch Zoom mosaic. We can do better than that. This is our moment: together we can usher in a new generation of simulation-driven training programs where students learn by doing, progressing at their own pace, multiplying reps and sets of practice and building muscle memory.

An interesting lesson from the lockdown: people are turning to video games more than any other digital activity. After a few weeks of sheltering in place, video game playing time is now up 75 percent (compared to a 20% increase in web traffic and a 12% increase in video consumption). And if you think toilet paper is hard to come by, try getting your hands on an Oculus Quest VR headset. They’ve been out of stock for months due to high demand.

Online video games are at record levels because they keep us engaged and connected. They’re also modeled on the way we really learn: experientially. Corporate trainers (the ones who don’t already realize it, that is) need to take a cue by developing learning games that motivate players to level up by mastering increasingly complex real-world tasks (and getting helpful feedback and recognition along the way). The hardware and software used to develop consumer-grade learning games are affordable and available for the training industry to use.

Stay safe,

P.S. Click here to join our webinar with our Novartis client organized by Life Sciences Trainers & Educators Network (LTEN), “Transforming Learning with Virtual Reality” April 30.

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