Virtual training: what does the future hold?

Bernard Marr shares real-life examples of how organisations are using innovative technologies to improve learning and development

Credit: Boonchai Wedmakawand/Getty Images

The latest and greatest technological innovations are transforming the world of training and development. Adoption of tools such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) for employee training enables learners to gain hands-on experiences in risk-free environments. Immersive training programmes in the upcoming metaverse not only improve training outcomes, but often save companies money and time.

 In this article, we’ll explore what the future looks like for employee training, and how the metaverse and immersive technologies will change learning and development all over the world.

What is the metaverse?

The metaverse is a catch-all term that refers to the next iteration of the internet – an immersive, interconnected environment where we’ll use our digital avatars to learn, work and play.

Incorporating technologies like artificial intelligence, VR, AR and digital currency, the metaverse opens up enormous possibilities for virtual learning in areas such as manufacturing, medical training, education and even the military.

The premise of the metaverse – as an inhabitable digital world where workers can collaborate, practice and problem solve – makes it a perfect tool for training and development, because it gives people the opportunity to experience immersive ‘hands on’ education while managing their own learning experiences. 

The benefits of training in the metaverse

VR and AR training creates realistic, context-based training scenarios that give employees the feeling of actually being present. Training employees in the metaverse also has the following benefits:

  • It lets employees get close to real-life situations without risking injury or damage to equipment

  • Trainees can start over as many times as they need to (and make lots of mistakes) while they’re training, because they can’t ‘break’ anything in VR

  • The metaverse lets you train people faster by providing a more immersive, engaging experience ​​– research shows that workers trained in the VR/AR environment learn four times faster (and retain far more information) compared to conventional classroom settings

  • Virtual training offers practicality and convenience, because employers don’t need to arrange physical training environments or even have trainees all present in the same room

  • Training people virtually is also highly cost-effective, saving time as well as human resources

  • Organisations all over the world are already incorporating AR and VR technologies into their L&D initiatives. Here are a few examples:


    Live training has long been the standard for firefighters, but it’s notoriously dangerous. The US Fire Administration reported that more than 100 firefighters died during training between 2008 and 2014.

    Firehouses are now using VR training solutions that offer a safer alternative for firefighter training. VR platforms provide firefighters with a safe, 360-degree view of the structures in an environment, and enable ‘anywhere’ training that preserves equipment for actual emergencies.

    Medical training

    VR and AR training gives medical professionals the chance to interact in real time within simulated healthcare scenarios. For example, trainees who are practising surgery skills can see the body in 3D and in precise anatomical detail, which gives them a chance to hone their skills before touching real patients.

    GE power

    Managers of nuclear power plants in France are now using VR to help new engineers see the plant’s equipment and learn how it operates without having to enter secure facilities.

    GE Power has developed virtual 3D representations of steam turbines that spin generators inside the plants, and developed VR training that teaches trainees how to assemble and dismantle equipment. Trainees can observe how parts interact – and what the steps in the maintenance process should be – before they are tasked with doing real plant maintenance.


    HS2, a planned high-speed railway project in the UK, has developed a digital twin of their train tracks. Engineers can don a VR headset to learn how to fix faults on the tracks using sensors similar to the ones used in Formula One racing. By entering a metaverse simulation, trainees will see a virtual representation of the real world, and they can diagnose rail issues and dispatch physical teams onsite if necessary.

    Metaverse technologies like VR and AR hold enormous potential for making every organisation’s training more efficient and effective. Virtual training not only lets you train people more affordably and safely, your trainees will also be more likely to retain what they’ve learned.

    Keep your eye on the metaverse space to see how the latest tech innovations will continue to improve employee onboarding, upskilling and reskilling.

    Bernard Marr is a strategic adviser and author of new book Future Skills