The ASU+GSV Summit, the world’s largest industry-facing conference in the field of education technology, took place earlier this month in San Diego, California. Edtech strategist Frank Catalano, who attended the conference, offered his take on the industry’s current direction at GeekWire last week. The main lesson Catalano took away from the event was that edtech companies and investors are seeing the workplace, not the classroom, as the most influential and lucrative venue for deploying these technologies in the future:
An emphasis on training the workforce, both current employees and future, was evident throughout ASU+GSV. It seemed to outshine earlier years’ emphases on disrupting the K-12 classroom (perhaps students do that well enough now) or completely upending college as we know it (MOOCs, or massively open online courses, are now corporate training tools, too). An entire programming track was focused on “talent,” including human resources, recruiting, and staff education.
In a session titled, “Mixed Reality: Can AR/VR Transform Enterprise Learning,” Dan Ayoub, Microsoft’s general manager of mixed reality and education, said that Microsoft HoloLens is skewing toward universities and the enterprise so far. Part of its appeal, he said, is that HoloLens has a front-facing camera that allows a remote expert to evaluate how the wearer is doing. …
Derek Belch, CEO of STRIVR Labs, talked about the work his company does with virtual reality for WalMart, noting that 70 percent of trainees who used VR did better than those who did not. He also described how STRIVR was able to put what had been a three-hour lecture into a 12-minute VR experience for an insurance company, and found retention of the training material was about the same.
Amazon’s ongoing foray into learning technology was also on display at ASU+GSV, Catalano added:
You’ve heard of 360 reviews, but what about 360 previews? At SHRM last week, Lin Grensing-Pophal took note of the novel recruiting technology, through which recruiters can give prospects a realistic virtual view inside their potential future workplace. Candidates even get a chance to see exactly what the jobs they are applying for entail:
The content of 360-degree videos can vary: They can offer a “day in the life” perspective about a specific job, interviews with employees and others from the organization, or a bird’s-eye view of company activities such as events and town hall meetings. The management training program at Compass Group North America, a family of food-service and support-services companies serving the hospitality industry, for instance, allows viewers to explore the company’s facilities through a tour narrated by those who are in the program. Viewers see the facilities and learn about the incumbent’s experience in the role. The viewer’s vantage point can be swiveled around for a 360-degree experience.
Psious, a virtual reality and augmented reality technology company, originally designed its products to help therapists combat anxiety disorders in patients via immersion therapy. For example, as Helen Lock of the Guardian reports, for patients with a crippling fear of insects, the therapist could expose them to their fears using VR without having to find a bunch of bugs in real life. The company has now expanded its offering to help businesses promote mental health. The vision is that instead of venting angrily around the water cooler or seething internally, there are always-on methods to support employees with depression or anger and provide an outlet to direct their feelings in a healthy way.
The technology can be used to manage a variety of maladies, including stress, ADHD, and fear of public speaking, according to the Psious website. But they aren’t the only ones: CleVR offers a range of VR systems that treat phobias through exposure therapy, while Guided Meditation VR can transport employees from their cubicle to a calm, quiet field, where they’ll be walked through breathing and meditation exercises. Some of these solutions are also suitable for treating PTSD, which can be helpful for veterans or victims of traumatic evens such as sexual assault.
Back in July, NewPathVR launched a portal called RE:NEW, which directs users to a catalogue of wellness applications. Charles Singletary at Upload highlights Google’s Happinss, the “rhythmic casual game” Thumper, and Fearless, another exposure therapy offering, among the different apps available.
WIred UK Editor-at-Large David Rowan (Simon Meyer)
“Technology doesn’t happen in isolation,” David Rowan, Editor-at-large of Wired UK, said at the opening of his keynote on Thursday at the CEB’s ReimagineHR event in London. Rather, Rowan continued, technological advancements create new norms of behavior that affect society and business in far-reaching ways. In today’s world of rapid and accelerating technological change, there is an unprecedented need for business leaders to understand not only new technologies, but also what they do to human behavior.
At the same time that technology is upending the business models and work processes of practically all industries and institutions, it is also changing the way organizations relate to their people. “You need to rethink how your people connect to the network,” Rowan said, meaning not what device they use to connect to the internet, but how they communicate, collaborate, and access information in a digital environment. Today, he asserted, “every kind of business is now a data business”: The cost of data-gathering technologies is falling exponentially and the most important innovations in business today involve figuring out ways to derive value from an ever-growing number of data sources.
Our digitally transformed economy is also producing a new type of organization. That organization, Rowan explained, is distributed, platform-based, and mission-driven. The rigid, top-down, narrowly focused organizational designs of the past are going the way of the rotary phone in a new business paradigm that rewards fast decision-making and constant innovation; Rowan pointed to several examples of CEOs who were actively trying to delegate as many of their responsibilities as possible, aiming to maximize agility by decentralizing and democratizing their companies.
While virtual reality technology has yet to find a market as a mainstream consumer product, it has begun to catch on as an enterprise learning tool, the Wall Street Journal’s Betsy Morris reported last week. According to the Journal, “businesses are taking to it for training in industries from construction to medicine to sports,” with executives saying custom VR software can offer a cheaper, safer, and more effective way to train new employees by immersing them in real-life work scenarios.
One major company going all-in on this technology is Walmart, which the Journal reports is planning to expand VR training to all 200 of its training centers this year after a successful pilot project. Tom Ward, a Walmart vice president, tells Morris that the retail giant is using VR to let trainees practice spotting problems in digital recreations of real stores, for example, or to give them a preview of what a holiday rush looks like.
At CEB (now Gartner), we have also found that learning and development professionals are increasingly seeing the potential of VR as a training vehicle. Our latest research on learning technology finds that it is the top learning channel where L&D professionals plan to invest most in the future (compared to 13 other learning channels such as e-learning modules, mobile learning, and learning portals). This data is particularly interesting since L&D professionals ranked VR lowest on adoption compared to other learning channels. CEB Learning & Development Leadership Council members can read the full research in our 2016 L&D Innovations Bullseye.
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The tech industry has a reputation as an unwelcoming place for women to work, though many leaders in the sector are working to make its culture more inclusive and less male-dominated—to no small extent because they need women to fill skills gaps in a tight labor market. The irony, of course, is that in the early years of computing, programming was considered a job for women; it only got taken over by men once the industry realized how important and technically sophisticated it was, and began handing more coding jobs to men.
Today, however, totally new fields are emerging within technology, from which women have not yet been systematically shut out, and in these corners, the women of the tech world appear to be thriving. In a feature at the Cut, Dayna Evans delves into the gender dynamics of the virtual reality industry, where women are having an outsized impact:
Sara Bean at Workplace Insight highlights the findings of Dell and Intel’s latest Future Workforce Survey, which found that “nearly half of global employees believe their current workplace is not smart enough, while 42 percent of millennial employees say they are willing to quit their job if technologies are not up to their standard”:
According to the poll of nearly 4,000 full-time employees in ten countries, over half (57 percent) believe they will be working in a smart office within the next five years, while 51 percent believe that better technologies will make face-to-face meetings redundant within the next five years. The research shows that the influx of new technology is having a significant impact on what workers expect from their employer, and that workplaces which don’t enact these new advances will be left behind. …
This expectation is highest amongst the younger workforce, with 69 percent expecting to be in a smart office within the next five years. The consequences for not meeting these expectations is also greater for the millennial workforce, with 42 percent saying they would quit a job with substandard technology and 82 percent saying workplace technology influences what role they would take. Further, a majority of workers place an emphasis on functional benefits with 63 percent of millennials and 55 percent of older workers (over 35 years old) indicating they would rather have high tech perks, such as augmented/virtual reality (AR/VR) and Internet of Things (IoT) than low-tech perks like ping pong, free food, etc.
Some of these smart office features are closer to becoming (virtual) reality than you might think—and instead of making face-to-face meetings redundant, they might just redefine “face-to-face.” At Fast Company, Stephane Kasriel peruses at some of the VR technologies already in the works to enable employees to hold virtual “meetings” over long distances: