VR or Online? Choosing a Platform for Training Simulations

Designing Digitally



Virtual Reality, or VR, is taking the training industry by storm. Corporations are reaping the benefits of realistic scenarios that immerse learners in the sights and sounds they’ll encounter in the workplace. However, VR has not replaced online training simulations. In fact, as much as we love working on VR projects, we know online simulations are sometimes the best solution for our clients’ training needs.

Required Equipment

The most notable difference between these platforms is the required equipment. All forms of VR require a headset, and most use one or two hand-held controllers. The higher-end systems need to be connected to a computer. There are stand-alone options, such as the Oculus Go, or phone-based systems, like Google Daydream View, where you place a compatible smartphone in the VR headset. A typical VR system ranges anywhere from $170 - $400.

Only one person can use each headset at a time. Therefore, businesses utilizing VR for training usually schedule learners to come to the designated training area at a specific time. You may need a facilitator available to help learners get started if they are not familiar with VR equipment.

Online simulations can run on a desktop or laptop computer, a mobile tablet, or even a smartphone. Nearly all office employees already have access to a computer, so they would not need any additional equipment to begin training. Employees who aren’t stationed at a desk could take training on a company tablet or on their personal phones. Learners only need minimal instructions to launch and begin an online simulation. The barrier to entry is noticeably lower than that for VR simulations.

Comparing Experiences

Let’s compare two different training simulations Designing Digitally created for restaurant cooks. Pizza Hero is a VR simulation and Sandwich Master is an online experience. Both games drop you into a restaurant’s kitchen. In Pizza Hero, you can turn your head to look around the kitchen, whereas Sandwich Master displays the full counter in front of you.

The first step in Pizza Hero is to reach with your hand towards the crust options, press the trigger on the controller to pick one up, move your hand to “carry” the crust to the counter, then release the trigger to set the crust down. For Sandwich Master, you need to click on the appropriate bag of buns, drag to retrieve a bun, then release it over the toaster to “place” the bun in the toaster.

Both simulations allow learners to complete all the steps in the process to prepare a pizza or a sandwich. The only significant differences are how the learner interacts with the environment. Sandwich Master simplifies actions to clicks or drags, whereas Pizza Hero requires learners to move their arms to reach items.

Deciding Which is Best

A common question we receive is, “Which kind of simulation should I create?” Of course, many factors play into your decision. Here are some of the benefits each platform provides:

Virtual Reality Simulations

  • Feel more authentic and immersive
  • Focus a learner’s attention by blocking out all their surroundings
  • Allow learners to build muscle memory by emulating motions they’ll complete on the job
  • Build excitement in an organization because learners get to “play” with VR

Online Simulations

  • Replicate realistic scenarios on a familiar 2D platform (computers, tablets, or phones)
  • Run on equipment most organizations already have
  • Typically cost less to develop than VR simulations
  • Can be housed in a standard Learning Management System (LMS)

It is important to realize any kind of simulation will have gaps between it and real life. For instance, in real life you can feel the texture of pizza crust or a hamburger bun in your hand, whereas Pizza Hero nor Sandwich Maker deliver that layer of reality. We like to walk through clients’ needs to assess the requirements for their learners. We often find an online simulation can fill those needs, so it is up to each client to weigh the pros and cons of the platforms to make the best choice for their situation.

Our Learning Solutions Specialists would love to help you determine the best platform for your training solution! We create custom Training Simulations and Serious Games for VR, web browsers, and mobile apps.Book a free consultation with our team today to get started!