Few learning professionals would argue the educational value of virtual learning environments. They provide a safe location for real-time feedback and practice. But creating an immersive learning environment that has real value can seem overwhelming for many learning organizations, especially with restrictions on time and resources. One of the newer categories in Brandon Hall’s annual Excellence Awards program is Virtual Learning Environments, and we found several organizations, both big and small, that not only implemented effective virtual learning environments, but also highlighted considerable business impact from their investments.
We found that submissions fell into one of two categories of virtual environments:
Task-oriented virtual worlds are especially valuable for organizations that require employees to complete tasks with numerous steps that all need to be done in sequence. Two of our award-winning companies used their virtual worlds to train the learner in completing tasks to the organization’s exact specifications. It is often difficult or tedious to document correct procedures and then evaluate performance, but in a virtual world, employees can watch tasks performed correctly and then practice those skills. The world also completes impartial evaluations and identifies skills gaps.
KFC, a global quick-service restaurant environment under the Yum! Brands banner, won a Silver Award this year with its creation of a task-based virtual world that teaches its employees the correct way to perform tasks in the restaurant. KFC employs more than 140,000 employees in the U.S., and a virtual world is especially useful to reach its younger and more technology-savvy employee base. KFC noted that the current paper- based training had been replaced by “tribal knowledge,” increasing mistakes and customer service issues. With the advent of KFC’s virtual world, the organization saw high adoption rates and received positive feedback from the learners and a reduction in mistakes made by employees. Due to the success of this training at KFC, other Yum! brands are adapting virtual world training to meet their needs.
The second use for a virtual world is for exploration and engagement. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) won a Bronze Award for its Virtual Orientation Center (VOC). The NRC employs 3,500 people, and the focus of its virtual world is to engage employees who accepted employment offers but had not received their security clearances to begin working on-site. The NRC often lost people to other companies after they accepted a position with the NRC due to a long wait for security clearances. During that time, the candidate often would lose interest in the NRC and find a new position. The virtual world allowed these employees to become acclimated to their new work environment, learn about the organization’s mission and culture, and complete paperwork prior to their first day on the job. The NRC’s success is measured by a decrease in employee turnover and a reduction in recruiting and onboarding costs. In this case, the virtual world imparts information and gives the participant a chance to learn about the organization and its culture, but does not evaluate or replace traditional job training.
For more information on the KFC case study, visit http://go.brandonhall.com/KFC_training_virtual_worlds.
To read a 2010 Case Study in which IBM created a virtual world to improve negotiation skills within its organization, visit http://www.brandonhall.com/memberstore/details/611/103/document-type/case-study/ibm--improve-your-negotiation-skills-in-the-virtual-world--it-can-be-done.html.
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