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  • Writer's pictureAmy Hortop

Evaluating transfr's VR Virtual Training Facility

Updated: May 11

This post is part of the coursework for EDUO 652 and will look at Transfr’s virtual reality product, Virtual Training Facility. While I cannot try the tool myself, their website provides information to help assess its applicability in our workforce development onboarding. More specifically, I hope to be able to address whether the tool might be a good fit for introducing potential learners to the manufacturing environment.

 

A screen grab of the transfr website showing the product Virtual Training Facility. Clicking on this image plays a video showing the tool.

Figure 1. A screen grab of the transfr website showing the product Virtual Training Facility.


Educational goals and benefits of using transfr Virtual Reality

The overarching educational goal of using transfr products is to have learners feel more job-ready. Through experiential and interactive learning, learners are exposed to potential career paths and pick up skills in a safe, low-stakes, real-world environment that they can demonstrate to potential employers (Pomerantz, 2019).


A secondary educational goal is self-efficacy.  Ideally, learners using this VR tool will gain confidence in their abilities and feel the learning is tailored to them and their career path. This tool can provide immediate feedback to learners, enabling them to understand and correct their mistakes in real time.


Challenges of its use for teaching and learning

The cost of acquiring the VR headsets and accompanying software is one of the biggest challenges to using this VR tool in teaching and learning. Additionally, costs are associated with keeping the software up to date, troubleshooting technical issues as they come up, and training the trainers on how to use and integrate these tools for workforce development courses.


My experiences with having had students use similar headsets for class align with those found by Czerkawski and Berti (2021), especially with respect to challenges with technology and accessibility. The headsets can become uncomfortable when you leave them on for a long time. They can cause eye strain, dizziness, and motion sickness, and if you are not careful about the environment you are using for students to use these headsets, they can also get injured from banging hands on desks they didn’t remember being there or walking into furniture or walls accidentally.


It takes a lot more time and resources to build up a curriculum that integrates VR because you need to know more than just the subject you are teaching but also a lot about building out experiences in VR tools if you don’t have a department or experts to help with this.


For the courses in battery manufacturing that we are considering this tool for, it might turn out that the haptics for interfacing with a virtual machine are not the same as interacting with a physical machine; this aspect will require much more exploration before it can be assessed.


XR adoption requirements

The technical specs of this product were not available online without having to schedule a demo of their product. However, after participating in an online demo, the company was extremely helpful in providing additional documentation. In short, all of the software is included in the hardware purchase, making the adoption requirements minimal: If you adopt the hardware, you can access the software.


Equity, inclusion, and ethical considerations

VR can make education and training more accessible if it works for the learners you intend to use it for. It exposes them to environments or equipment they might not usually have access to, such as Ryan as he considers a move to a new plant hundreds of miles away. However, to make this tool accessible to Ryan, he will at least need to be near a facility that has the hardware and software available for his use, or a potential employer would need to find a way of shipping a package for Ryan to try it out before sending it back.


This tool aligns with best practices for inclusive teaching, allowing for a personalized, customized learning experience. Maria could select the pace at which she wants to learn and the level of expertise she hopes to achieve in the areas that interest her most.


One aspect of equity and inclusion I was most excited about with this company is their promotion of using their tool to help those that are justice-involved acquire skills that could help them find jobs as returning citizens: https://transfrinc.com/solutions/justice-impacted/


Recommendation

Overall, this is a VR tool that I will keep on our list of potential tools that supplement the training that we are currently developing to support workforce development in clean energy technologies. It addresses our learning objectives, and the tool seems to come with much support and industry buy-in.

 

References:

Czerkawski, B., & Berti, M. (2021). Learning experience design for augmented reality. Research in Learning Technology29.

Pomerantz, J. (2019, October 10). XR for teaching and learning. Educause. https://library.educause.edu/resources/2019/10/xr-for-teaching-and-learning

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