Apple Sets An Example For What Emerging Technology Can Provide To Workplace Learners

Apple Vision Pro VR Headset

Photo: Dave Gershgorn

By Frank Gartland, Chief Product and Technology Officer at Skillable 

Apple has long been an exemplar of innovation and emerging technology, from the first iPhone launch in 2007 to its latest creation, the Apple Vision Pro mixed-reality headset, due to release in early 2024. The lessons we can take from the technology giant are myriad, but a common thread is digital transformation. The ways we’re working, socializing, playing, dating, and running our homes are becoming digitized. That creates a host of opportunities for individuals and businesses alike, if we have the skills and knowledge to make the most of them. 

As the glossy Apple Vision Pro demo presented, mixed reality will create new ways to blend the digital and physical world. Impacting how we browse the internet, read and watch content, have meetings, play games, and chat with friends and family. 

Industry impacts

The opportunity becomes even more exciting when we consider how different industries will use mixed reality. In healthcare, mixed reality will help medical students get closer to the hands-on experience of the operating theater, with greater technical skills expected once they pick up the scalpel. For surgeons, mixed reality helps with pre-operative planning and in navigating complex operations with greater success rates. An interactive, multi-dimensional space to work in gives surgeons a better idea of a patient’s unique anatomy and what to expect in theater. Doctors can also collaborate via mixed reality to perform surgeries, discuss and plan complex cases, and learn from one another. 

Mixed reality makes it possible to see and manipulate 3D models in real space in architecture, engineering, design, and other highly visual fields. The Sámi Pavilion project team at the Biennale Arte in Venice used mixed reality to overcome COVID travel restrictions. They collaborated on the exhibition in a virtual space before it came to life in the physical world.

The power of MR in learning

Evidently, the applications for mixed reality are widespread across industries — IT, retail, manufacturing, law, real estate, and tourism can all benefit from it. The skills we can build through mixed reality will be deeper, more readily applicable, and learned faster than those acquired via consuming content and completing a learning pathway. 

Skills need to be learned and applied faster

Employees are being asked to learn and do more, in a rapid and ever-changing way. By 2030, 1 billion people will need to be upskilled and reskilled for future-ready roles. But we cannot always predict what these roles or skills will look like. ChatGPT is a good example. It caused a widespread, almost overnight, shift in the skills and tasks employees were required to do. Suddenly, the number of jobs referring to ‘generative AI’ rose 36-fold compared to the year before, and those who could prove that they had prompt engineering skills started commanding six-figure salaries. Ultimately, everyone had to upskill in some way to work with ChatGPT effectively, from understanding how to cajole it into the correct outputs to critically assessing those results. 

Traditional tactics aren’t enough

It was a harsh reminder for teams that a new disruption could bring about the need for new skills in a heartbeat that their C-Suite would then require them to build quickly in the workforce. Yet, many learning & development programs are hindered by traditional models of knowledge-based learning that cannot build a skill quickly or to the required level. Mostly, this form of learning asks an individual to consume massive catalogs of learning content, click a complete button, and, at best, complete a quiz to show that they’ve done it. There’s no real-world application or way for an employer to know how competent that individual is in the skill. In fact, 70% of employees report that they don’t have the mastery of skills they need to do their job well and 90% say that learning programs still lack skill proficiency.

How learning can improve

Our current digital skill crisis needs us to do better. We can achieve so much more by offering employees immersive opportunities to practice skills in a safe environment that builds actual job readiness. Simultaneously, validating that skill and giving individuals confidence in their capabilities is the only way to prepare someone to use their new skills on the job. Much like how those medical students go through years of practical, hands-on training before they can call themselves fully-fledged doctors. 

Introducing immersive, hands-on learning

So what does immersive, hands-on learning look like in most organizations? Here are some technologies worth considering:

  • Gamification: Gamification incorporates game elements, such as points, rewards, and competition, into the learning process to engage and reward individuals, making them more motivated to explore new skills.
  • Labs: Virtual labs provide a safe and realistic environment for learners to practice skills and job tasks through hands-on experiences. When content teams provide labs that validate a person’s skills based on the output of their actual performance, it can be a game-changer. For example, cybersecurity labs train analysts to prepare, defend and solve cyberattacks. Labs can be created for various industries and skills, including technical, digital, software, and manufacturing. Applying skills in realistic work scenarios encourages retention and performance-based feedback. Labs that are scored are especially beneficial to provide skill evidence for managers and leaders. 
  • Experiential Learning: Immersive learning experiences can be created through internships, apprenticeships, and on-the-job training, enabling learners to apply their knowledge in real-world settings.
  • Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR): These technologies offer immersive environments where learners can interact with realistic simulations either in a virtual world or via an augmented overlay. 

Organizations investing in hands-on learning are reporting better engagement, skills applied to the job, and manager confidence in the skills being built by their teams. With virtual hands-on learning options, teams can scale hands-on programs to their entire workforce and save on on-site training costs. This also makes hands-on learning accessible to all.

Skilling fit for the future

The traditional forms of learning and development were enough to upskill people in a world of five-year strategies and slow product development. But we’re in an age of AI, automation, robotics, quantum computing, and other advances that aren’t just changing how we do business but pushing the boundaries of economics and physics as we know it. Organizations need new ways to train their people in business-critical skills, quickly, and, most importantly, to prove that they can do those skills on the job. 

Theoretical training still plays a role in a learning program, but it shouldn’t be the only skill-building tactic you rely on to prepare people for work. The winning strategies in the future will be the ones that combine knowledge and practical skills, both in person and virtually.

As Chief Product & Technology Officer for Skillable, Frank Gartland oversees our transformation of training to skilling through challenge-centric learning (read his whitepaper!), hands-on skill development and performance-based validation. Frank challenges teams, partners and customers to create better methods to scale learning. He thrives on helping people reach their potential and loves building businesses that enable people to make a positive impact. Prior to joining Skillable, Frank was CEO of Veeya, a managed service provider focused on serving K-12 with technology as a service, where subscription revenues increased more than 300% during his tenure. Frank has been innovating with virtual classroom technologies and content since 1999 when his team first delivered fully online, instructor-led training for Cisco, Microsoft, EMC and others. As Vice President of Products with iLinc, Frank led the transformation of the virtual classroom system used by Global Knowledge, and more than 2,700 others, and he led Microsoft Virtual Academy to become an international learning community. Frank lives in Arizona with the loves of his life: his wife, Rochelle, and four kids. Connect with Frank on LinkedIn.

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