Volksbank Akademie Austria are using VR Coaching to train young consultants to get them ready for the job. VR helps to re-create real-world scenarios for the consultants, ensuring preparation against unwanted eventualities and guiding the trainee to seize the business opportunity creatively and with comprehensive preparedness. Analysis into learning results from these VR Coaching sessions have underlined significant advantages compared to traditional training setups.
Volksbank Akademie is the first bank in Austria to use Virtual Reality in their coaching setup. The target group comprises of young consultants who have enrolled in the sessions to improve their advisory and negotiation skills. With the VR glasses on, trainees immerse themselves into the world of a bank branch, and walk through several stages of counseling and learn to react to various scenarios with clients and potential customers.
In the VR coaching setup, actors take on the roles of customers and a bank clerk, and the learners follow them through various storylines, while assuming their own profile at the bank. The storylines cover topics ranging from general support in the bank foyer to tackling specific arguments when pursuing a lucrative contract with an existing customer.
After drafting the screenplay, which utilises a didactical approach where the storyline blends VR technology with a traditional eLearning approach through the use of CREATE’s in-house cBook Learning Experience Platform, the videos were shot with a 360° camera in a 1 day shift with the subjects, on location at the bank’s branch.
One coaching session lasts for one hour, and throughout the session, a real coach partners the trainee, advising on the scenarios in play as well as using the VR technology. These VR scenes serve as practical lessons, which can then be built upon with further reflection and analysis. The recorded sessions allow this reflection and analysis phase to proceed seamlessly.
To evaluate the VR Coaching program’s impact, the pilot phase was accompanied by qualitative and quantitative methods, and the results give first insights into the potential of the format.
46 bank clerks of Volksbank Akademie Austria participated in the study. The first group of 34 par-ticipants was trained traditionally with a F-2-F presence workshop, while the second group of 12 participants was trained using VR training.
Field trial participants found the VR technology to be ‘innovative’ and ‘trend-setting’. They de-scribed experiencing the scenes in the VR 360 ° video as ‘realistic’ and ‘relevant to their profile’. As one trainee put it: “It feels like being put right in the middle of the situation in play, sitting and ob-serving the whole scenario play out…”. The published study details how the VR solutions exceeded the expectations of participants and the learning motivation was significantly higher when compared to conventional training sessions. Furthermore, field trial participants who used the VR training were generally more satisfied with their training. In terms of effectiveness, the VR training achieved outstanding results, comparable or higher than face-to-face workshops in all analysed parameters.
The fact that the pilot project has been developed into a full-fledged training program that Volksbank Akademie has been running successfully since 2018 speaks for itself.
For Learning & Development managers, these findings indicate that the VR coaching format can be used effectively to increase motivation and as a means to simulate presence and solidify relevance of corporate learning. Trainees are increasingly embracing the technology and perceive it to be a pleasant, new and innovative means of furthering their professional development. With the techno-logical and production possibilities available today, high-quality VR content can be developed and delivered efficiently and at a reasonable cost. As reference, the production cost for a one-hour VR coaching session is comparable to any high-quality web-based eLearning program of the same dura-tion.
In a medium to long-term perspective, VR will become a serious part of the educational landscape. With the presented case-study, the participating project partners (CREATE, Volksbank Akademie & TU Graz) introduced an innovative new coaching format; and were able to produce empirical evidence for the advantageous characteristics of VR solutions.
VR Coach was developed by CREATE, a full-service eLearning agency based in Vienna, Austria. The field trials and test sessions were scientifically supported by TU Graz, Austria. 46 bank clerks participated in the first field trials, and were evaluated using qualitative and quantitative research tools. For the full details of the study, one can read the study paper titled Increasing learning motivation: An empirical study of VR effects on the Vocational Training of Bank Clerks.
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Dr. Michael Leitner is author and conceptionist of digital educational programs. Active as a media designer and researcher in the areas of innovation, UX and usability for 15 years. Regularly publishes studies and presents at international conferences. He studied Business Informatics at the Uni-versity of Vienna. He completed his doctorate at the School of Design, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.