Date posted: 8/03/2017 3 min read

Learning in the 21st Century

Advances in technology are revolutionising staff learning and development. Are you keeping up?

In brief

  • Every business needs to invest in learning and development.
  • The progression of technology has provided opportunities to be smarter and more creative to ensure staff engagement.
  • Businesses should look to leverage new technologies to deliver better training and achieve desired outcomes.

Throughout any organisation’s life cycle, there will be a need to invest in some aspect of training and development. Whether a business requires staff upskilling, leadership coaching for managers, or altering staff habits because of a new policy, learning and development is something every business needs to consider at some stage.

In my role as the head of sales and learning in a large retail organisation, I see the immediate effect of training on the bottom line. The challenge companies face is ensuring that the deployment of training is implemented in a measureable and cost-effective manner.

As human resource-intensive as learning and development processes can be, the progression of technology has provided opportunities to be smarter and more creative in the way staff are engaged. High speed internet, video streaming, social media and handheld devices have completely altered the landscape for the learning industry.

Embracing new technology

So how do businesses take advantage of this brave new “high tech” world to deliver training and achieve desired outcomes? Let’s look at one aspect of work that many fear but have to come to terms with: public speaking. How can technology help staff become better public speakers?

I’ve grown accustomed to regular speaking engagements but I’m very conscious of colleagues in the industry who suffer from stage fright, or who outright abhor the thought of public speaking in any circumstance.

A fantastic use for virtual reality (VR) in the educational space is a smartphone app for public speaking training.

A fantastic use for virtual reality (VR) in the educational space is a smartphone app for public speaking training. What better way to help address your public speaking fears than place you in a virtual room with a virtual audience?

This is the promise of the SpeechCentre VR app, available on the Samsung Gear VR. Using the app, individuals can practise speaking to a virtual audience while moving around a room and getting a sense for the types of distractions that might happen while they are on a real-life stage.   

To use the app you will need a compatible Samsung Galaxy handset and a Gear VR headset, which the phone is inserted into. The basic app is free and add-ons can be purchased for different speaking environments and meditation locations. There are also courses available within the app to improve your knowledge and insight of speaking skills.

Practice makes permanent 

The best component of SpeechCentre VR is the practise area, which places the user on a stage with an audience of diverse, avatar-like characters. The user can move around the stage, sit in the audience or take their place behind a lectern as they might do in real-life.   

The key part of the simulation environment is making it applicable to each person’s own situation, and this is where the SpeechCentre VR app comes into its own. By converting their own PowerPoint presentation into a PDF (easily done through the native Microsoft program) and loading it in a defined folder in their phone’s storage, users can see their very own presentation in VR. This allows the user to flick through their slides using the headset’s controls – simple flicks to move from slide to slide.    

With a phone, an internet connection and a VR headset, you can teach yourself public speaking techniques.

The app also lets users record their presentation within the app and play it back. When presentations are recorded, the audience comes to life and starts clapping, talking to each other, and using their phones – all in aid of throwing distractions at you while you try to focus on your content delivery.

Before the advent of VR, the only opportunity to practise a speech was in front of a mirror or a group of peers. Now, with a phone, an internet connection and a VR headset, you can teach yourself public speaking techniques and gain confidence in front of a virtual crowd before the actual event.

This is just one of many examples of technology enabling the learning or enhancing of a new skill that’s required in business.

This article is part of an ongoing Technology column that takes aim at technology issues as they relate to business, economics and finance. As part of this column, Acuity will be running a series by Ritchie Djamhur specifically on learning and innovation.

Want more on learning and development?

Read Building Careers by Paul Golden via the Chartered Accountants ANZ library now by following the link below. Building Careers discusses current challenges in recruiting, developing and retaining key staff members.

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