Shane Darwin, CEO of JB Hunter and JBHXR sat down with aXcelerate, Australia’s number 1 cloud-based Student Management System to chat about his work in implementing Extended Reality into training. JB Hunter was one of the first Australian RTOs to adopt online training – and are now one of the first to deliver training using Extended Reality through JBHXR.
This interview was first published here at www.axcelerate.com.au and is reproduced by permission.
What type of training does JB Hunter deliver?
JB Hunter offers training in the telecommunications space, including safety and business-based training. JBH’s training is offered in multiple formats, including classroom-based, online, apprenticeships, traineeships, and more recently, Extended Reality.
What is Extended Reality (XR) in education and training?
Virtual reality (VR) is when a learner is immersed in an entirely artificial environment that has been built for a certain scenario. Augmented reality (AR) on the other hand, uses our real environment and overlays animation or information onto it – think of it as ‘adding more’ to our reality. Extended reality (XR) encompasses both VR and AR, and could also include real-time 3D, mixed reality (MR) and other immersive technologies.
These tools are generally used for training when the work is inherently dangerous, such as dealing with electricity or fire. XR, VR and AR can also be used to complement and enhance online and face-to-face training.
When did JB Hunter begin its Extended Reality journey, and why has JB Hunter incorporated XR into training?
Around 3-4 years ago, the market for XR wasn’t looking too useful for training providers. VR headsets were designed to be tethered to desktop computers with cables, not really allowing for practical skills, such as performing a rescue, to be demonstrated.
However, not long after JB Hunter saw upcoming developments with wireless headsets, and sat down with a developer to see how they could begin their VR training journey. With JB Hunter being one of the first technology providers to adopt online training back in the early 2000s, their ambition to stay ahead of the game when it comes to technology has driven this process.
Launching XR company JBHXR and implementing it in May 2020 off the back of COVID-19, JB Hunter pushed beyond the new barrier of social distancing by providing a safe virtual training option. Safety courses are one of JB Hunter’s most popular offerings, training large volumes of learners every year, so this was the natural place to begin using the technology. Today, over 1000 learners have completed blended online and virtual reality assessments over the past year using the aXcelerate LMS and aXcelerate Assessment Engine.
How does compliance work with using VR for training?
The Standards for RTOs don’t specify what training providers can do with VR or artificial intelligence (AI), such as specifying whether it can do things like mark a practical skill. For JBH, their solution has been to have a trainer/assessor review the online and VR content before making a final decision when marking.
When deciding whether VR can be used compliantly for training, JBH looks at the skills in their accredited assessments and determines whether they can be appropriately assessed in the virtual world. One example that has passed this VR test is their low voltage rescue course.
Historically, JBH used a classroom setting where a dummy was propped up against a filing cabinet or electrical board (that was in no way connected to any electricity). Learners would then be told to imagine the dummy has been electrocuted, and to perform a rescue. This works perfectly fine, but it isn’t immersive for the learner. Using VR, the same skill set can be assessed, but instead the learner is immersed in a world where there is a ‘live’ person showing signs of electrocution next to a sparking electrical board. The learner can then perform a rescue in what seems like a very realistic environment. In other cases, VR has also been used to supplement existing methods of delivery to create a true blended training environment.
Check out this CPR example:
The best VR training will engage the learner with excellent instructional design. Treading the fine line between what can be done in VR versus what is still best done in a face-to-face or online learning space is the key to success when considering compliance.
What feedback have trainers, assessors and learners given after using VR for training and assessment?
As socially distant training using online technology became the norm due to the pandemic, there was less push back from a workforce and trainer base than may have otherwise been hesitant to use new technology. JBH has found that although adopted out of necessity, the experience of using the technology has been enjoyable for most.
Learners – flexibility, time management and immersion
In the past, a standard safety training class may have 8-10 learners, training in the classroom for 1-2 days. Learners are locked into going to this specific venue at specific times, and have to perform assessment one at a time, with the trainer/assessor focusing on one learner at a time while the rest look on. JBH’s VR offering is cloud-based, so learners can complete assessment anywhere and at any time. Learners have appreciated this flexibility, allowing them more time to spend on their core work functions.
Trainers/assessors – more flexible training capabilities
Trainers have appreciated the capabilities of the technology, and understand there’s a time and place for VR, and a time and place for face-to-face training. VR has also given more flexibility to trainers, allowing them to offer a more flexible approach to their training by using the headsets to change the virtual environment in face-to-face training scenarios. Trainers have been able to offer more practical experience to learners in the VR environment than they may otherwise get in a face-to-face setting.
JBH’s corporate clients also appreciate the productivity and cost savings, as well as the realistic nature of the training – particularly for safety.
Will VR become mainstream for RTOs to use in the future?
There are still quite a few barriers for training organisations to adopt VR, which are reminiscent of the barriers to online training back in the early 2000s. However, as costs come down, headsets get better and more VR training content is developed, VR will become another tool in the kit bag of training for more and more RTOs.
At an individual level, JBH have found that out of the 1000 plus learners who used VR, only 4% experienced some difficulties, such as dizziness, so alternate delivery methods need to be considered for these learners.
Advice for other RTOs who also want to use VR, but don’t know where to start
With JB Hunter’s extensive Extended Reality learnings and experience over the past few years, their offshoot company JBHXR is helping training organisations get into the world of XR. With the aim of demystifying XR and bringing down investment costs, JBHXR offers consultancy in accessing content, including from worldwide delivery partners, accessing hardware and options for cloud-based deployment. They also have an internal development team that can build custom content, including customising existing content already on offer.
Their advice for RTOs looking to use VR is to engage with a VR specialist, who not only knows all about the technology, but is also deeply knowledgeable about using it for training.
VR, AR and XR are exciting and immersive technologies that will become more prominent in VET, and complement training across many industries for years to come.