learning and development

What Are My First Steps for Introducing VR into my Training Programs?

I've been getting so many questions lately along the lines of "What's the best hardware?" and "Where should I focus my attention when it comes to VR training?" and "Is it worth the hype?"  I totally get all of the concerns and confusion. There are tons of hardware options out there and so many software development solutions popping up. 

It's a daunting, high-stakes task.  You're facing higher-ups who simply say "We need to implement the latest and greatest technology" without much more direction. It's up to you to decide between a mobile platform or desktop solution. It's up to you to decide what area of your training should be the home for your VR testing. It's up to you to figure out how to gain the metrics you need to prove the validity of the new training program. 

To help, I put together a guide with lots of great information about virtual reality in enterprise, useful terminology, and a basic outline for getting your started.  At the end of it, you'll feel much more knowledgable about the technology and will be ready to start making a plan!

If this sounds like a resource you need, just head over here to get started!


How Much Does DOING Really Enhance Retention Rates?

Think back to when you were a very young child. Now imagine if instead of allowing you to crawl or walk, your parents told you about the principles and expected you to be able to do it just from hearing their instructions. This would have been impossible. Now picture yourself watching a video about riding a bicycle. Do you think that watching that video would have taught you how to get onto your bike and ride without ever falling?

The human brain learns by doing things. Practical application of learned knowledge is the basis of how we memorize new information. While it is altogether possible to learn a new topic through rote memorization, or by book learning, it is not nearly as effective as trying out this new idea ourselves.

How does a hands-on activity enhance retention rates?

  • Studies have shown that a student (whether child or adult) will learn a new material three times faster through practical application versus a traditional lecture environment.
  • Having access to the materials that will be used in a real world circumstance creates a concrete link in the brain between the idea and the action. It also prepares the student more thoroughly for the tasks that lie ahead.
  • Lessons taught from a book or lecture are only conceptual and abstract. Imagining what a porcupine looks and feels like is nothing like actually touching a porcupine. Our imaginations can only take us so far.
  • Hands-on training builds muscle memory. A lecture on how to type on a keyboard quickly will have little effect on the mind and the body. Giving a student a keyboard to use will not only help them remember the key locations, but also build their muscle memory for typing accurately and quickly.
  • Practice makes perfect. This old saying will always be applicable in the real world. To become well versed in any idea, topic, or labor; one must practice as often as possible.
  • Studies through the National Training Laboratory Institute show that “practice by doing” has a 75% retention rate outcome. The study also shows that being able to immediately apply the learned knowledge in a real world situation increases retention rates by 90%. Measure this against the traditional method of hearing a lecture that only has a 5% retention rate.
  • When we learn by doing, we have the opportunity to learn from our failures. While most people strive to avoid failures, they are one of the best teaching tools available. A chef in training will always remember the mess that was made when they burnt their first gourmet French dish. Having the experience of dealing with that headache will stick with the individual, they are more like to remember what not to do in the future.

If you want your employees or trainees to have the highest retention rates possible, you must create a practical environment for them to learn. Simply supplying lectures or written information will not be effective on the whole. Increase their level of “doing” and you will automatically increase their levels of retention.

A look at Disney Immersive Experiences and What Training Departments Can Learn


I just got back from Disney World with my family a few weeks ago. It was my children’s (5 and 8 years old) first time there, and watching them experience it all was pure magic! That kind of magic is something we strive for in everything we do at The Danse and encourage our clients to reach for as well.

For decades, Disney has made themselves the forerunner in Immersive experience technology. From the inception of their DisneyQuest programs to the Virtuality developments, Disney has led the way in total Immersive experiences for their customers. The question we are faced with now, is how can a training department utilize the practices Disney has already put in place to develop a more effective training module using immersive experiences?

The Disney Touch

One of the primary ways that Disney allows its guests to have an Immersive experience is through the ability to naturally interact with what you see. When you visit a Disney park, you enter a relatively virtual world. In this virtual world, you are able to manipulate the things around you. This can be scenery or characters. For a child, this is magic. Training departments should take note that the ability to interact is a key to a total immersive experience.

Seeing like Disney

True immersion must include seeing everything as if you’re really standing there.  Disney completely understands this and visually surrounds their guests in their experiences.  At Disney, every ride, show, and game are built all around you, making you feel as if you’re really in another place.  Every video or animation is perfectly captured or created to lend itself to these experiences.

Mickey Ears

At the Disney Parks, and on their rides, sound plays a key part to their Immersive experience. If you were to ride Splash Mountain, your experience would not be the same if you could not hear the interactions of Brer Bear and Brer Fox in the background. These sounds tell us the story while we are queuing and enjoying the ride. As a training manager, you must always remember to keep the sense of sound in the forefront of your training modules.

The Smells of Success and What Magic Tastes like

The Imagineers at Disney have never forgotten two of your major senses, smell and taste. When you enter the Gran Fiesta Tour experience at Epcot's Mexico, you are inundated with the smells and tastes of old world Mexico through the centrally located restaurant. When a guest can not only ride and watch the experience, but also smell and taste it, they are that much more fulfilled. For training departments, the concept is the same. Imagine a waiter trying to explain a meal that they have never tasted. Or imagine a fire chief trying to explain what a diesel fire smells like to a group of new recruits.

New Technology = Big ROI In Training

Training and Development on the Gears.  


The advent of accessible virtual reality application is right around the corner. This technology promises a new world of opportunity, for those seeking heightened entertainment capabilities, but more importantly for businesses looking for cost-effective solutions, return on investment for updating human resource skills, better training options, and more. Let’s take a closer look at where businesses can save money and optimize operations.

New Hardware Technology - A Better Approach

In the past, to create realism in simulated job site training, companies had to invest millions of dollars into bulky, software-limited simulator hardware.  In many cases, this hardware is completely stationary, which causes large expenses and/or inadequate training time when trainees are spread out nationally or globally.

Emerging affordable virtual reality hardware provides a 360 degree perspective of a digital world. It can be used in conjunction with various off-the-shelf motion tracking devices.  This new hardware approach allows learners to interact with what they are seeing using their arms, hands, legs, and feet.

The best part about this hardware (aside from the super low costs)

How can these devices make training more effective? 

  • Many companies hold training from a specific site (headquarters). Having to fly trainees around the country or from other countries is cost-intensive and time consuming. Sending hardware or instructors+hardware is much more efficient—bringing greater profits and lower costs.
  • Companies that deal with manufacturing of products can train their employees effectively the virtual way from various sites simultaneously without using resources. Digital models can be interacted within a realistic mode. This allows for a larger margin of error without waste.
  • Customer service training can be carried out interactively with less stress. Employees can learn how to better interact with customers on an individual basis. This can optimize time spent on training by reducing stress—a relaxed atmosphere is conducive to learning.
  • Marketing and sales training can be held virtually in a realistic way.
  • Seminars and training for specific topics for all levels of employees can take place on site simultaneously with participants from all over the world. Engineers can learn complicated new job operations without leaving town—saving lots of money, bringing increased expertise to the workforce, and thus a large return on investment.
  • Reduce the amount of time your money-making production equipment is "parked" for training.

Return on Investment and Cost Effectiveness

Being able to train employees for new operations, skills and job positions often costs a lot of resources and brings a questionable amount of return of investment. Investing in new technology costs less than 1000 USD per unit and can be used repeatedly by any number of employees. The amount of seminars that can be participated in virtually is limitless. The interactions that can take place between people all over the world are infinite. ROI becomes easier to measure based on the new skills and training programs undertaken, via this exciting new technology.

While many of these technologies are not yet on the market, they will be soon, and to stay competitive on the worldwide market will mean investing in new methods of doing business on an international scale. Flying and other forms of travel are expensive. The new way of communicating and learning interactively carries little risk and a lot of benefits.

Edutainment in Corporations: Liven Things Up

Students stacking fists for cooperation and teamwork in a univer  

Edutainment is something that we are all quite familiar with, just think back to your youngest memories of childhood programing: Mr. Rogers, Reading Rainbow, Sesame Street, Bill Nye the Science Guy. The list can go on, and you most likely remember them so well because at the time you liked them. Public Broadcasting Casting is known for its educational entertainment for all ages. The concept is now becoming a trend in corporate America. A simple application of edutainment is using animation or interactive graphics in Powerpoint presentations.

The Possibilities of Edutainment for Employee Training

Well-designed Powerpoints that include entertaining design elements are good for short projects or training tasks that don’t over task our attention; but once the amount information begins to rely too heavily on rote memorization, the task becomes burdensome and easily disengaged from. Learning in corporations that require longer periods of time to convey the necessary information can benefit from using different forms of interactive video and animation. Training programs can invest in a creative series of videos that are organized like the chapters of training handbooks. Animated videos don’t need to be the replacement to textual information; they can be supplemental, with the corporation choosing the most important information to include. Pairing videos with text training books decreases the amount of reading so that when the employee does read it is in-between a break by another form of media learning.

Entertaining and Educating Internet Customers About Your Company

Investing in the virtual marketplace is big business now and the website is the storefront. A nice storefront is attractive to customers who have never heard of the product and a good product keeps them inside. A good sales person and manager should know all about the company itself and be able to convey it charismatically and accurately. In the virtual store it depends upon site design and entertaining features like the degree of interactivity and presentation of the information. Anyone with a business wants it to fiscally succeed but also to be known as being a human expression. The entire story should be known to become a part of the community. Successful businesses and organizations become virtual personalities that are relatable and relatively transparent. Edutainment can factor in to developing the virtualized self of a company by engaging successfully with the customer on a personal level instead of solely as a financial exchange.

Flight Simulators- The Wild Blue Yonder for Interactive 3D


I’ll never forget when my cousins got the NES classic Top Gun. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent playing that game, even though I can never remember getting past the refueling part of the first mission—and of course there were all of the equally impossible landing sequences. The four of us would sit around watching each other play, all with the pre-adolescent competitiveness that the film transfers onto its adult characters (“You can be my wingman anytime”).  But as silly as the movie was and as campy and dated the video game might be, the fact remains that for some, this was their first step towards a career in aviation—my older cousin  later became a Navy pilot himself. And while it’s been demonstrated that video games are helping the military with their recruitment process, it’s also true that digitally driven simulations are revolutionizing the way that the Navy and Air Force train their pilots. I recently talked to an old friend, an Air Force pilot, about what good flight simulators do for pilots these days. My friend flies cargo transports and his job is something similar to what most commercial aviators do. I asked him that since so much of a pilot’s job has been taken over by on-board computers, why would pilots still need training in an advanced flight simulator?

His response was a simple concept: situational awareness. Part of every pilot’s duty, no matter how automated some of that may be, depends on his or her awareness of everything going on in their environment—even if they’re flying a transport that doesn’t require many visuals. And for this, the advanced graphics of flight simulators are irreplaceable. He told me that other types of pilots, helicopter and fighter pilots, have require training that takes them into a wide variety of combat and tactical situations that cargo pilots don’t especially have to worry about, and that especially for these guys, realistic simulations are of the utmost importance. What the advanced graphics of flight simulators do is hone this situational awareness into pilots. To such a degree that he said that the time spent in a simulator gives a trainee experience that previous generations of pilots could only have gotten at the risk and cost of being in the cockpit. What’s more, he said that simulators have become so advanced that many pilots can go directly into service, flying a specific plane, without actually having flown that plane before.

Something that adds to the timeliness of this conversation is that in late June, Lockheed-Martin announced the sale of four of their state-of-the-art F-35 joint strike fighters to Japan, a significant moment because of the new era of aircraft technology this ushers in. And with the stealth fighters costing roughly $200-250 million dollars apiece, it places an emphasis on the need for those piloting these aircraft to be experienced flying them even before they get behind the joystick. For this reason, the plane’s designers have created a “Full Mission Simulator” to train future F-35 pilots.

What these simulators do is place a pilot into a “fully immersive” environment: scale cockpits, fully operational instrument panels and flight controls, and many simulators are even constructed with hydraulic supports (like the roller coaster simulators that were popular in mall in the early 90s) that simulate changes in gravitational pull that a pilot can experience in flight. But the crowing feature of the F-35 FMS and other simulators like it are the sprawling digital displays that recreate the virtual world outside the training cockpit. Clouds, rain, snow—anything that can be seen by the pilot is recreated and even interactive. Recent models are even being fitted with networking capabilities so that pilots can train formation flying from several different places on the globe. Formation flying is an important tactical method of military aviation and can involve combat missions, dangerous take-off or landing environments, and mid-air aircraft refueling, and two pilots in two different locations can train for these situations in real-time. They can see what the other is doing and since the simulations are interactive, the proximity of other aircraft are sometimes even necessary (like with refueling). High-quality graphics of these scenarios is crucial because it gives the trainee priceless familiarity with the visual details.

And while these simulators are a far cry from the 8-bit graphics of my cousins’ old Top Gun NES cartridge, it’s very likely that refueling and landing are just as difficult.

The Face of Medical Illustration


Early in the summer, I wrote a post about Phineas Gage, and how medical illustration helps us see things we otherwise couldn’t. And while working this I was confronted with a question that I’ve been meaning to come back to ever since: what is the real value of medical illustration (or, for digital age, medical animation)? And it seemed that no sooner had I asked that a video surfaced on the internet that seems to answer the question all by itself.

It is a brief 3D animation from the BBC miniseries, Inside the Human Body showing the formation of a human face in utero. The formation of a person’s face “is a complicated ballet of growth and fusion of moving plates of tissue," lead animator David Barker told the New Scientist website. He explained how using 3D models to design the face was “was a nightmare for structures like the nose and palate, which didn't exist for most of the animation." Michael Mosley, the series’ creator and narrator, explains how this sequence takes place between the second and third months after conception. “The three main sections of the puzzle meet in the middle of your top lip, creating the groove that is your philtrum,” Mosley explains in the video.

The question that came to me while I was writing the Gage piece was this: Isn’t working hands on with patients enough for doctors to know how the body is put together? And the answer is that for some situations, yes, hands-on experience is all a physician might need to stitch up a wound, diagnose and illness, or relieves pain. But what about the things that a doctor can’t see with the unaided eye? The way that blood transports food and oxygen and fights off germs; how different cells behave and reproduce; and how certain organs, especially the brain, operate inside a living person are among the numerous functions the body performs outside the perception of the naked eye.

Medical science, just like any other field, operates on theories of how the body works. What medical illustration offers medical experts is a map for the work that they do away from their patients. And in the case of some of history’s greatest medical illustrators—Vesalius, Jan Wandelaar, Max Brödel—very detailed maps that give researchers a tangible concept to apply their research models to.

There are also educational benefits for people outside the healthcare industry. Medical illustration, which now includes medical animation, also helps serve the public, as in the case of the above BBC video, by giving people who aren’t healthcare professionals the chance to understand complex concepts in a practical way. For instance, many of us who had to take anatomy, biology, and health classes in high school don’t go into the healthcare industry.

The illustrations of the body that we had to study, as boring as it may have been then, become incredibly important as we get older. As briefly as we may have encountered those text book illustrations as teens—or an animation in the news, or a diagram in a newspaper or magazine— the truth is that they’ve helped educate us about how our bodies work. We know what our doctors are telling us because of pictures we studied 20 or 30 years ago.

Accurate, dynamic knowledge of the human anatomy is indispensible to the work of the physician. And what the history of medical illustration has shown is that this knowledge doesn’t exist only for doctors: it’s an art that works for all of us.