21 February 2018

How to make your training more engaging


Ever had the feeling your employees just aren’t motivated by your learning and development programme?
We’ve all been to boring training sessions where the speaker’s droned on for hours on end and it’s taken every ounce of willpower you have not to fall asleep (but hey, at least there’s usually a free lunch). Training like this fails to engage trainees, meaning that information may not be retained or understood.
This is especially problematic when the subject matter is something they really need to know. What if failure to recall the information when they need it results in a serious mistake being made? The risk of such a situation arising can be significantly reduced by making sure your training is as engaging as possible to maximise the chances of it sinking in.
As well as improving information retention and recall, more engaging training helps employees to fully get to grip with the subject the first time around. This means they’re less likely to have to go through the same course repeatedly, thus reducing training costs as well as the loss of productivity incurred by their downtime.
More engaging training is also likely to be more enjoyable, resulting in happier employees - and what’s not to like about that?
Here are some ideas to help make you training more engaging.

Make it interactive




There are few people who can stand to be talked at for several hours without zoning out. One sure way to increase engagement is to make the session interactive. Whether that’s by coming up with activities to help trainees participate or by using tools or props to incorporate an element of ‘learning by doing’, interaction should be more than just a five-minute Q&A session at the end of a day-long course.

Go immersive



Technology has advanced enough that training sessions don’t have to stay in the classroom - even if the participants don’t physically leave the room. Immersive training applications like Trainingscapes create simulated environments and scenarios that allow trainees to gain hands-on experience in a relevant and practical way. These tools provide more spatial, visual, and audio cues as well as environmental and emotional context, so trainees are more prepared for when they have to carry out tasks in the real world.

Group activities



Learning as a group can be more effective than solo training because everyone brings their own skills to the exercise, allowing people to contribute in different ways depending on where their strengths lie. Group activities during training are often more representative of the real world, especially if teamwork is core to a trainee’s job role; incorporating such tasks into training therefore also gives people the chance to work on their interpersonal, team, and cross-cultural skills.

Gamification



The practice of applying game-playing elements to learning and training has been shown to improve motivation, indicating that trainees may learn more by completing reward-based assessments than by simply being lectured. There’s a tremendous positive boost that comes from ticking off a task or achieving an objective, and this psychology can be harnessed to create more engaging courses that motivate trainees to progress. 

Practice



The vast majority of employee training sessions are delivered for a few hours, then the trainees are sent on their way. This seems to be contrary with the way we’re taught at school - practice makes perfect, remember? There’s plenty of scientific evidence to support the notion that we are better able to recall skills we’ve spent time practicing, so why should training in the workplace be any different? Utilising a training method that can also be used for repeated practice will help trainees retain the information better, and they’ll feel more confident in their own ability when they need to call upon the same skills in the real world.

Step out of the classroom



In order to increase trainee engagement, it’s important to think outside the box - the most effective training is unlikely to take the form of a dull classroom-based lecture. By considering what your trainees need to achieve and the skills they need to learn, you can choose a solution that maximises motivation and information uptake while minimising risk.


To see how we’ve helped organisations provide more engaging training with Trainingscapes, take a look at some of our case studies.

20 February 2018

Working with Bournemouth University to build Virtual Avebury Henge and Stone Circle

Checking out the import of the stone meshes


Hot on the heels of our virtual midwifery project at Bournemouth University we're now using Fieldscapes with them on a new heritage research and education project.

Visitors will be able to walk virtually through the ancient Avebury Henge and stone circle, part of the Avebury and Stonehenge World Heritage Site, and experience the sights and sounds of the location as it would have been in the Neolithic period – and well before much of the site was destroyed by the building of Avebury village – thanks to the new experience we're creating with Bournemouth University. The project has been made possible through the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Next Generation of Immersive Experiences programme. The work involves a collaboration between educators and archaeologists at Bournemouth University, sound specialists Satsymph, the National Trust and ourselves.

The main aim of this project is to bring together researchers in archaeology and virtual environment evaluation with creative partners in immersive technologies, virtual soundscapes and heritage management to develop methods of effective, innovative and fruitful working. In addition, the project aims to develop and explore the potential of virtual historical places to increase engagement with, and understanding of, the development of human cultures through a sense of virtual place.

The project builds on work already done by Professor Liz  Falconer on building a prototype 3D simulation  of the Avebury complex. The new experience is being built with using Fieldscapes, Daden’s platform for immersive learning and training. A key feature of Fieldscapes is that subject matter experts are able to create lessons and experiences from existing 3D assets without the need for any programming skills.



The Avebury complex in North Wiltshire is one of the greatest treasures of prehistoric Britain. Built during the Neolithic period around 4500 years ago, the central monument comprises  a circular bank and ditch approximately 1 kilometre in circumference, encircling an area that includes 3 ancient stone circles, and part of the more recent Avebury village. The central monument sits in a large ritual landscape that includes avenues, burial mounds and the world-famous Silbury Hill. Avebury is  part of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site.

By creating the model in Fieldscapes the team will be able to more accurately create the real-world terrain, generate better textured stones, make more use of audio, allow researchers to customise and extend experiences without specialist help, and make the experience available on a wide range of devices including smartphones, tablets and virtual reality headsets.

Bournemouth University Professor and Project Lead Liz Falconer said “We are delighted to be working with Daden, Satsymph and the National Trust on this exciting project. We will shortly be launching a blog and website where we will post regular updates on the work, and give people the opportunity to immerse themselves in Late Neolithic Wiltshire!”

Daden MD, David Burden said – “We’re really pleased and honoured to be a part of this project. We’ve always known that immersive environments can have a significant impact on how we view and understand the past, and this is an ideal opportunity to put our thoughts into practice.”



The virtual experience will be available at Avebury Visitors Centre for the public to evaluate during the summer of 2018, and there will also be an evaluation of remote use for those unable to visit the site. It is hoped that the project will lead to the development of a fuller experience made permanently available to both the public and to schools, and then to the use of the technology for other heritage sites across the globe.

We'll keep you posted on progress as the project progresses.





15 February 2018

Fieldscapes 1.5 released: Web browsing, chatbots and more...





Today we released v1.5 of Fieldscapes. This has a load of new and important features designed to make immersive training and learning experiences even more flexible, rewarding and engaging, as well as a number of more minor fixes and changes.

The highlights are listed below. v1.5 is available on all our supported platforms (Windows, Mac, Android, iOS). Full release notes are available on the wiki.

Web Browsing



There are two new Flat Screen props in the default inventory set. Add the new Web Browser widget to these screens and they become fully capable in-world web browsers - able to view and navigate almost any web page, and even play videos! If you really want to blow your mind you can bring up a WebGL 3D environment in the browser and view it in 2D from a 3D world! You can also set the screen into multi-user mode so that all avatars in the same assignment will see the same thing - ideal for a spot of centralised learning or sharing during an exercise. The URL can be changed by a PIVOTE command from any other prop in an exercise. Future releases will allow almost any surface to become a web browser. Go to the Web Browser wiki page for more information.

Chatbot Integration



Chatbots are computer programmes that simulate natural language conversation. Fieldscapes now has a Chatbot widget which enables you to use the text-chat window to chat with a chatbot provided by an external service. We will be detailing the interface in due course so you can build your own chatbots to talk to the system, and maybe even interfaces to common platforms such as Pandorabots. We have also added a default Daden NPCs inventory with some sample avatars. Future releases will add animation and walking, but you can already use existing PIVOTE commands to teleport and move (glide) the Non-Player Characters you create.  Go to the Chatbot wiki page for more information.

Multi-User Widget




Fieldscapes initially operated in either solo mode (you only see yourself in an exercise) or a hybrid-multi-user mode (you see other people, but when they change something in the environment - eg pick up a rock - you don't see it, the rock is still there for you to pick up). With v1.5 you can now add a "multi-user widget" to any prop which makes that prop multi-user. That means there will only be one instance of the that within an exercise, no matter how many users, and if you move or otherwise change that prop then everyone else will see it move or change to. Implementing multi-user in this way means that you only make multi-user what needs to be multi-user, which massively saves on processing and communications. As well as enabling you to implement more realistic field trips (if you want to!) it also allows you to create more collaborative exercises and also to create multi-user games- check out our VR chess game! Go to the Multi-User Widget wiki page for more information.


New Avatars



We have added 6 new avatars and removed the worst of the older ones. Included in the new set is our first hijab wearing avatar (thanks Sharn!)!


Editor Improvements

Based on six months or so of using Fieldscapes in anger we have added two new features to the editor to help make exercise creation a bit easier:


  • Lock a prop in place so you can't accidentally move it
  • Change a prop for another one, which means you can lay out cubes initially, and then replce them once you have the proper 3D models you need

VR Improvements



Started in 1.4.4 but finished in 1.5 we have now completely overhauled the VR UI to make VR use easier.




Enjoy the new features and do let us know how you get on!

25 January 2018

Newspeak Bot for Wolverhampton Literature Festival


We've been speaking to Seb Groes (now Professor of English Literature, University of Wolverhampton) about chatbot related projects for a while now, and just before Christmas we hit on a great idea for a bot to support the Wolverhampton Literature Festival which runs 26-28 Jan 2018 in Wolverhampton.

With the unveiling of a new statue to him at the BBC at the end of 2017, George Orwell seemed to be everywhere on the media. And with the rise of Trump and fake-news what better time to revisit Newspeak!


The Newspeak Bot turns Twitter feeds, such as those by Donald Trump, BBC News and Number 10 Downing Street, into Newspeak, the language of control Orwell invented for the totalitarian state in his dystopian classic. We currently have a library of 596 words and phrases that are being translated into Newspeak, either using words from 1984 (eg Minitrue), or using the guidance in the Appendix to 1984 to create our own (e.g. UnEurope for Brexit).

Here are some of our favourite retweets so far:












Professor Sebastian Groes said: “Many feel we are currently living in a dystopia not far removed from Nineteen Eighty-Four. We seem to be ruled by megalomaniac world leaders of superstates at perpetual war with one another, who are producing communications radically divorced from reality. Like Big brother, some of these leaders enjoy a cult of personality; they seek, in Orwell’s words, "power entirely for its own sake. [They are] not interested in the good of others." Or we seem governed by elitist political parties whose privileged rule feels tyrannical because other voices are excluded. Just as in Orwell’s nightmare, memory is weakened by information overload and other strategies of distraction; technology thrashes coherent thought; personal and sexual relationships are randomly assembled by computers; we are merely chunks of information collected in databases.” 

You can read the full Festival press release for the project at http://wolvesliteraturefestival.co.uk/newsspeak/4594185019

Seb and I are discussing the project at an event on the Festival on Friday afternoon - see above link for details.