Training with VR 2023: The Ultimate Guide

Table of Contents

  1. What is VR training?
  2. Why VR training?
  3. Where is VR training used?
  4. Comparing options for VR training
  5. Tips for successful VR training scenarios
  6. How Motive can help

What is VR training?

Virtual reality (VR) training is the method of training employees through a digital, fully immersive environment. Trainees have the opportunity to practice critical skills in a virtual setting prior to having to perform them in real-life. It has long been known that interactive and “hands-on” content leads to more memorable and effective training modules. The evolution of VR has revealed exciting opportunities to deliver training content that is memorable and engaging.

Why VR training?


Mistakes in high risk environments can be dangerous to both employees and patients or customers. VR training enables employees to properly practice and interact with potentially threatening situations to mitigate future risk, therefore failing safely. In one study, Ford demonstrated a 70% decrease in employee injuries after VR training.


Receiving practical training leads to increased confidence when required to perform on the job. In turn, alongside skills, knowledge, and behavioural transfer, better performance results. Finally, material retention has proven to be enhanced through VR training. In our work with South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, trainees retained 86% of learned material 31 days after training compared to 11% when trained traditionally. Find more evidence here.


What can be trained in a day-long session can now be trained in 15 minutes without compromising training results. Increased focus and faster skill and knowledge processing paired with the ability for several people to be trained at once means VR training is more efficient.


Training standards are not always equal across locations and instructors.  Ensure consistency through standardized training in VR.

Cost Effective

Think about the costs of travel, hourly wages of trainees, subject matter experts and facilitators, and equipment being out of commission while being used for traditional training. VR training is reusable, trainers do not need to be taken out of work and employees leave training more productive. The long-term ROI of VR training is always increasing, with one ICU training program saving $124 per employee for a total of $41,000 long term over live simulation training.


In our scenario with South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, 100% of participants preferred training in VR over in a classroom. Trainees are highly focused and engaged in such scenarios, leading to higher future retention.

Easier to Measure

Employee readiness can be measured through the rich data provided in VR training using xAPI data tracking. This includes decisions made, time to complete tasks, and number of times trainees have veered off course.

Want to learn more about the benefits of training in VR? Download our Whitepaper: The Case for Immersive Learning.

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Where is VR training used?

New use cases for virtual reality are arising every day. VR training is a viable training solution when the trainee needs to be in a physical environment, procedures need to be practiced, the skill is potentially dangerous, or when the content involves decision making.

VR training is currently growing in use in industries such as construction and utilities, mining, healthcare, aerospace, and customer service. These industries benefit from being able to practice situations in a virtual environment before entering real-life, potentially threatening situations.

Soft skills training in virtual reality has also grown in popularity. Companies can make use of conversational AI to enable life-like conversations in virtual reality. A PwC study found training soft skills in VR was 4 times faster, confidence grew by 40% higher, and learners felt 3.75 times more emotionally connected to their training content when compared to training in a traditional classroom environment. Click here to get our soft skills guide.

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Comparing options for VR training

Table of Contents:

  • Content Options
  • Input Options
  • Hardware Options

Content Options

360 Video

Though often referred to as VR, 360 video is actually just a passive experience. Viewers are placed in a virtual, spherical projection screen. Users can look in all directions, however they cannot move independently around the scene. While this option can be lower cost, it is not as effective due to lack of muscle memory practice.

True VR

Computer generated imagery (CGI) VR, or true VR, allows for trainees to view and interact with 3D objects. This assists in orienting a trainee to a physical environment, training muscle memory, and enabling examining details in objects.

For a more detailed comparison of the two, click here.

Input Options

Point and Click

Users gaze at or hover a pointer over an object and then click to interact. This is the simplest input mechanism and is usually done through a standalone controller, such as a mouse of a purpose-built controller.

3 DOF Controller

Some purpose-built controllers offer 3 degrees of freedom (3 DOF) where controllers can also detect rotation, allowing for more sophisticated inputs such as hold-and-turn.

6 DOF Controllers

Controllers enabling 6 degrees of freedom (6 DOF) allow users to interact with the environment to a greater extent. Users can perform actions such as grabbing and pushing items in the scene. This input option helps train some level of muscle memory when coarse motor control is important.

Hardware Options

VR Viewer

VR viewers, such as Google Cardboard, hold a mobile phone in a wearable headset that allows the user to experience a limited virtual reality. VR views are great for prototyping, but they don’t provide a fully immersive experience, leading to a less impactful training experience. Experiences in this type of apparatus lack visual clarity and can often lead to motion sickness due to poor graphic quality.

Standalone 3 DOF (Untethered) Headsets

Standalone 3 DOF headsets, such as the Oculus Go, are optimal for 360 video experiences due to their lack of 6 DOF compatibility. Users can interact with scenes through point-and-click and rotation. They tend to start at a lower price point.

Untethered Headsets with 6 DOF

Untethered headsets allow for freedom of portability alongside 6 DOF compatibility, allowing for greater interaction with environments. Hand controllers are fully tracked and users are able to view their limbs in the scenario. Most come packaged with enterprise solutions such as device management and software for business. Oculus Quest 2, Pico Neo 3, HTC Vive Focus are the three most popular untethered headsets for business use.

Tethered Headsets with 6 DOF

Tethered headsets, such as Oculus Rift, Windows MR, and HTC Vive allow for higher processing power and better quality graphics. They are however much more expensive, so these are best when environments are highly complex and need to be in very high quality when viewed from any distance.

Do you need more information on making a decision regarding your various content, input, and hardware options? Check out our Information and Decision Making Guide.

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Tips for successful VR training scenarios

Table of Contents:

  1. Determining whether VR training is right for you
  2. Choosing the right vendor
  3. Setting goals
  4. Planning your data use
  5. Considerations for designing the learner experience
  6. Bringing your scenario to life
  7. Assessing your learners

Determining whether VR training is right for you

We’ll be honest - VR training is not the perfect modality for every training scenario. It’s essential to determine whether your use case will enhance the learning experience through virtual reality. Ask yourself the following questions to see if your particular use case could be a good fit for VR training:

  • Does the physical environment and equipment factor into the training? Do you need to manipulate objects and machinery and navigate physical space in order to learn the skill?
  • Is the subject matter procedural? Do you need to memorize or learn a set of steps to complete the skill?
  • Is the subject matter conversational? Do you need to practice ways to say things to respond in challenging or sensitive conversations?
  • Can the training be represented by a scenario with decision points and visual and auditory clues that will compel the trainee to make choices?

If you answered yes to these questions, VR training could be a good fit. However, if you answer no to any of the following questions, you may want to reconsider implementing VR training for this particular use case:

  • Will you be training people how to use software?
  • Are you hoping to teach skills that involve fine motor manipulation?
  • Is the training academic or knowledge based (like company history, or policy)?
  • Will the training require a lot of reading?

If the skill you hope to train is interactive, influenced by the physical environment, and involves physical movement, it will likely be enhanced through training in VR.

Choosing the right VR vendor

Not all VR vendors are the same - they can differ in their capabilities, processes, tools, and features. Vendors have unique ways in which they add new scenarios, update existing ones, and distribute changes. It’s important to ensure the vendor you choose aligns with the goals you hope to achieve through VR training, including your desire to future-proof your training. This will help you save time and money going forward.

We recommend asking potential vendors the following questions before you start a project:

  • Can we make changes to our VR training content without your involvement? If so, how?
  • Do you provide a custom VR simulation which mimics our real world work environment?
  • Can trainees perform the same steps in VR that they would in the real world?
  • Can you describe your typical process for creating a VR training scenario?
  • Is the creation process different for the first training scenario compared to additional scenarios?
  • What is the process for distributing a new VR training scenario with your solution?
  • Is the distribution process different the first time compared to the second? If so, how?
  • What is the process for updating an existing, deployed VR scenario? Who needs to be involved in that process?
  • At what stages is custom development work required?
  • When does Unity or Unreal engine need to be used? Who does that work?
  • Do you track user training data and results?
  • Where is the user data stored?
  • Can the user data be stored on our network?
  • Can you integrate with our LMS or LXP?

Setting Goals

What do you want to achieve through your VR training program? Setting clear goals will assist in ensuring success through your program. Your goals can be categorized in the following three ways:

Business/productivity goals

It’s important to determine what your end goal for training is as it pertains to your business and productivity goals. What problem are you trying to solve? This will not only help guide your training, but will also assist in growing stakeholder buy-in. At Motive, we use the action mapping framework to develop our goals.

Learning outcomes

A learning outcome is a statement defining what knowledge or skill a trainee should acquire after completing a training scenario. By the end of the VR training program, what do you need your employees to be able to do?

Key performance indicators

Key performance indicators (KPIs) describe specific expectations for a task. These are used to determine whether a trainee has succeeded in a given task. For each task in your VR training scenario, what does the trainee need to accomplish?

Planning Your Data Use

Robust and rich data sets can be extracted from VR training experiences. How will you measure and track this data? After determining your training goals, you need to figure out the types of data that will help in assessing success based on your KPIs.

Types of Data


Experience Application Programming Interface data, more commonly known as xAPI data, is a collection of statements describing actions taken during a training scenario. This includes data such as “learner look at object” or “learner spoke to avatar.” You can collect information on completion of the events and sometimes even their duration.

These statements become meaningful when learning designers determine the sequence and frequency of the event that represent successful completion of the activity. This can be determined based on your KPIs determined above.

Gaze and motion data

You are also able to track information on where the learner looks and how they move. Research shows that the way a learner moves and interacts with their environment can be a strong indicator of their proficiency, therefore notifying you of job readiness.

For a deep analysis of job readiness, an outside research team may be required. However, in the not so distant future, we believe employees will be able to run through scenarios and receive on-demand, unbiased information on whether or not they need more training.

Storage and visualization of data

Your company’s learning management system (LMS) may have the ability to store and visualize the data you collect from scenarios, but you may also consider a learning records store (LRS) to get more from your data. This website lists all LRS solutions that have been deemed conformant by the Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative.

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Considerations for Designing the Learner Experience

It’s easy to fall into the trap of simply replicating 2D objects into a 3D scene, such as text panels, videos, and pictures. However, in order to make use of the benefits of VR training, it’s important to move away from delivering slides in a headset.

The learner shouldn’t be an observer in a scenario, but an actor. You should be asking questions related to how the learner will experience their training within the virtual world, such as what the learner should see, what they should interact with, and the choices they should make. Check out our storyboard spreadsheet to help you keep the learner at the centre of your scenario. The following considerations will assist in putting yourself in the shoes of the learner.

3D Environment

Creating a perfect replica of your work environment that runs well in a VR headset is not an easy task for a VR novice. Consider where your 3D assets will come from and how they will be set up. It will likely be helpful to partner with an experienced 3D artist who has experience optimizing assets in VR to ensure soothing lighting and smooth animations.

Using the Space

When designing the space, place objects where they would be in the real environment. Try to replicate activities through object interaction. Don’t ask multiple choice questions of what they should do next, but prompt the user to take action while building in consequences if they take the wrong approach.

Consider that you have no control over where the learner will look. Therefore, it’s important to include both auditory and visual cues to convey essential information. A common mistake in designing new 3D experiences is placing static UI elements that remain in the learner’s field of view. This may result in annoyance; a similar feeling to having a fly on your glasses. Think strategically about where you’re placing and leaving cues in the learner's field of vision.

Ensure the interactions you require in the environment are of high value. Keep the learning goals in mind and avoid unnecessary actions.

Providing Feedback

Given how immersive VR experiences can be, clear feedback on progress is necessary to keep the learner on track. This should come in many forms, including both auditory and visual feedback. Haptic feedback from controllers can also be given to emphasize an action.

Auditory feedback can include voiceovers, with a guide telling you “good job” or “try again,” buzzes or dings to accompany notification, or changes in the sound of an actual object, such as turning down the volume to quiet music.

Visual feedback can include text notifications with icons to indicate “correct” or “incorrect,” highlighted objects, or visual changes of state in the scene, such as an object going from dirty to clean.

Bringing Your Scenario to Life

After setting goals, planning data use, and considering the learning design experience, you’ll need to bring your VR training scenario to life.

The first step is to begin authoring your content. You may need to work with an outside vendor if you do not have an in-house software development team. It’s important to maintain as much control as possible over your content to ensure you can replicate your work environment and make changes as needed to the scenario. A strong authoring tool will make this easier as it will allow you to change content without requiring a developer. These tools will allow you to scale your training content.

It’s essential that you continue to test your scenario in a headset throughout development to replicate the user experience. Playing the scenario through a web browser does not accurately represent what the trainee will undergo. End users should also test the content early as they will interact with the scene in potentially surprising ways. Knowledge of any usability issues early on will be helpful in ensuring future issues are less likely to occur.

Assessing Your Learners

Careful planning for assessment can help in generating meaningful results and in turn, meaningful feedback for your learners.

xAPI Results

xAPI results can come from an xAPI profile which includes an option “result” property. This can be in the following forms

  • Success: a binary variable, or a boolean value, either producing a result such as “pass” or “failure”
  • Completion: a boolean value criteria for completion, defined by the learning designer, depending on the results of a set of activities in the scenario
  • Score: a numerical result which can be represented as a raw score (one number) or a scaled score (percentage)

Rubrics and criteria based assessment

Using the goals you set prior to building your scenario, including KPIs, you can define what success looks like. These will vary from project to project. What combination of actions does the learner need to complete the scenario successfully? Copy out the KPIs that identify overall success and completion of the scenario. For an example of what this looks like, click here. This will check for learner action over memorized knowledge.

Analyzing the data from this assessment will help refine training to ensure it matches with your original learning goals and desired outcomes.

Teach vs test mode

Creating both a guided and an unguided version of your training will be meaningful when testing whether employees are ready for work. Trainees should experience a “teach mode” first where they can learn the steps needed to produce successful outcomes. After multiple repetitions, they can attempt a “test mode” to see if they can complete the task without help. This will help in determining job readiness.

How Motive Can Help

The Motive team will customize our training platform to meet your company’s needs - developing the optimal device for your use case, learner collaboration requirements, and collection of learner data. You are then able to take over the designing of engaging, repeatable, and memorable learning content through our authoring tools.

The following features are included in our comprehensive toolkit:

  • Multi-device: our platform can be configured to work with the device(s) of your choice
  • Collaboration: training experiences can be authored in teams
  • xAPI: data will track trainee decisions and interactions, which can then be connected to the learning management system of your choice
  • Adaptive content: create scenarios that react to a multitude of inputs and player actions
  • Branching scenarios: “choose your own adventure” style content through branching narrative authoring features
  • Gameplay engine: increase engagement through gamification in training
  • Media engine: include audio, video, images, 3D models, animations, and text to enhance a trainee’s experience
  • Content hosting: your content can be hosted on our AWS servers, on premise, or on your cloud
  • Learning records store: story and visualize learner xAPI in the learning records store of your choice
  • LMS integration: our Launch server allows you to upload VR training content to your LMS
  • Conversational AI: use natural language processing for realistic conversational scenarios with characters in the scene

VR training is revolutionizing a multitude of industries. Whether you’ve tried VR training or are looking to get started, Motive is here to meet your needs in bringing innovation to your training programs through VR training 2.0. There’s a better way to do VR training. This is it.

Interested in learning more? Get a demo here.


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Eliza Vagner

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