3 Ways AI and VR Could Change the Way Your Company Does Learning & Development

Sarah Greesonbach | 4 min read

Are virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) passing trends in the learning and development space?

Not even a little bit.

From global economy reports to leadership surveys, industry experts and CEOs alike are excited about the dramatic and lasting impact AI and VR technologies will have on how employees learn at work. Which means it’s no longer a question of “if,” but rather a question of “how” and “when” these technologies will change the way you do L&D within your own organization.

If you’re curious about how these advanced technologies will impact L&D within your organization, here’s a look at three big VR and AI experiments in action:

1. VR for More Expansive Training Opportunities

One of the most powerful L&D applications for VR is connecting teams and providing a wider range of training opportunities for retailers and franchises that staff multiple locations. Where time and distance can otherwise limit the exchange of resources and personnel, VR eliminates barriers. With VR, employers can offer consistent training experiences no matter where a store is located or what resources they have onsite.

One example of a VR-enhanced training program is Walmart’s deployment of VR headsets and pre-recorded VR sessions to train more than a million associates across the country. Employees learn in virtual classrooms, develop soft skills and empathy with virtual customers, and “visit” other stores to get a sense of how different stores organize different products. As Walmart’s VR headset vendor, Andy Mathis from Oculus, notes, “Costly, difficult, or otherwise-impossible scenarios and simulations become not only possible, but immediately within reach.”

Related: Tired Learning Content? Use These Tools to Create the Best Training in 2019

2. AI for Just-In-Time Learning

As Bersin researchers are quick to note, digital learning doesn’t necessarily mean learning on your phone — it means “bringing learning to where employees are,” which often happens to be via mobile platforms. AI will continue to support digital learning by enabling a more comprehensive, around-the-clock approach that brings learning to employees where and when employees have the time to do something about it.

A fascinating example of this AI at work is former Google Head of People Lazlo Block’s new startup, Humu. The platform uses AI to identify a small number of behavioral changes that will have the biggest impact on workers throughout the day, then uses a trademarked “nudge engine” to flag those decision points and provide helpful suggestions.

This technology in action might look like a manager getting a nudge before a meeting to ask her team to contribute to an important thread in the LMS, or a frontline worker with downtime getting a reminder of different training opportunities he could tap into during his 5-minute break. Eventually, these nudges could evolve to deliver important lessons or training sessions based on an employee’s daily workload or scheduled meetings — “just-in-time” for that training to have an impact.

Related: 4 ROIs of Learning and Development You Need to Explain to Your Stakeholders

3. AI for More Effective Program Development

Another way AI can have a powerful impact on L&D initiatives is by contributing a data-centric perspective on program and learning development. Not only does it have the potential to take over some time-consuming manual tasks for LMS administrators, but it could also suggest curriculum development ideas to fill in the gaps in an existing learning ecosystem.

While that might seem like a downside — after all, curriculum development is an important piece of the L&D specialist’s role, and some of the best LMS content is social and collaborativeAI specialists insist there’s no need to worry. AI can provide editorial guidance and identify important patterns and opportunities in curriculum development, but it can’t replace our creative human abilities: “AI is an algorithm, not a magic wand, and will not be able to fix everything,” writes Massimo Canonico, Docebo’s head of solutions engineering. “It will not fix garbage content.”

Sometimes it might seem like these breaking technologies are jumping right out of the science fiction novel on your nightstand and into your email inbox. But the reality is far less threatening. AI and VR simply help L&D specialists do what they do best: connect people with the education and skills training they need to do better at work at the right time and in the right place.


Sarah is a writer for Wisetail. By analyzing and condensing cutting-edge research and data, she helps L&D professionals develop their instincts and arrive at actionable insights for employee engagement and training. She loves to consider the possibilities of humanizing, organizing, and minimalizing all things HR.