Articles by Mike Todd
The rapid pace of technological advancement in the learning environment offers huge potential for the emergency services. The way the emergency services approach this new technology has the potential to transform the provision of learning and development in the sector. Perhaps the most exciting new tech for the emergency services is immersive technology. Using the likes of interactive video and VR, immersive technology shows huge potential for not only changing the way learning and development is done, but also improving its effectiveness. Why immersive tech will be so important We know that interactive learning is an incredibly effective training method. It leads to higher knowledge retention than conventional classroom training because of its immersive nature; it stimulates multiple senses, helping the brain record the activity with accuracy. The latest report from Ofcom highlights that in an education setting, that students remember approximately 30 per cent of what they hear and 20 per cent of what they see. Compare that to virtual environment technology, where students remembered 90 per cent of the material they were taught. Virtual Reality leads to higher knowledge retention than conventional classroom training because of its immersive nature What’s more, immersive learning comes with the huge added benefits of large scalability and lower cost thus making it incredibly appealing to the public sector in particular. The investment in the tech itself is not as large as one might think and once purchased, it can be adapted and rolled out across multiple geographic locations, making it more cost effective than arranging physical trainers. Key for the emergency services is the opportunity immersive tech presents for safe learning. For firefighters, for example, training requires extensive on-the-job hours and simulations. But immersive tech can accurately reflect the sights and sounds of countless work-based scenarios. And, the programming can be amended to allow for unexpected consequences of the user’s actions, creating and presenting a new problem or obstacle to overcome. VR provides immersive training OpportunityThe immersive approach allowed them to test their knowledge and explore their decision making in a safe environment. There are many options available to the user, from full headsets to smart glasses. The user can be transported to a highly realistic and interactive training scenario — anything from chemical fires, to multiple vehicle accidents, to medical emergencies. The immersive nature of the training means that it feels practically real, making it an excellent method of training emergency services team members. We live in an increasingly digitized world, so the technology is already familiar to many of us in one form or another. This means it doesn’t require specialist knowledge to make use of the tech; anyone with a smart phone should be well able to manage the experience. Why vR training is important for the emergency services We all know how quickly things can change in the emergency services’ sector. Decisions must be made in an instant, with wide-reaching consequences — both good and bad. Adequate learning and development is one of the ways the sector can best prepare its staff for the realities of the job. Covid-19 has accelerated the rate of technological development and adaptation massively. At Near-Life Tech, we recently worked with North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) to create a virtual dispatcher experience, with the learner playing the role of dispatcher presented with real-time decisions to make around resource allocation. All the video footage was filmed in the NWAS call centre, making it completely authentic, using a mix of real staff and professional actors to play out the scenarios. This particular training project was created following a change in national guidelines around dispatch priorities, so call handlers were being retrained. The immersive approach allowed them to test their knowledge and explore their decision making in a safe environment. How covid-19 has changed the demand for Virtual training Covid-19 has completely changed the way learning and development is done. It’s not currently possible to host group training sessions, and it’s difficult to manoeuvre trainers around the country. But training must continue, with statutory requirements unchanged and the need to deliver an excellent service ever-present. But Covid-19 has also ramped up the world’s reliance on technology, and that shouldn’t be any different for the emergency services. Whether it’s video conferencing or virtual workspace sharing, many industries have had to become au fait with new technology and now use it day in, day out. Covid-19 has accelerated the rate of technological development and adaptation massively. The future of VR and immersive training Tech is evolving all the time, but in this sphere specifically some of the most exciting developments will come as product development seeks to encompass more senses into the existing immersive experience. Spatial sound technology is already available, but not widely used, while social touch technology offers incredibly exciting opportunities. Social touch includes that ‘sixth sense’ that someone or something is nearby — incredibly important in the emergency services world. More and more industries are adapting immersive tech into their L&D and the emergency services sector is one that stands to benefit the most from this exciting technology.