Making Soft Skill Acquisition Less Hard with Virtual Reality

There is a growing understanding that assigning the label “soft skills” to public speaking and other people skills is misleading and often damaging. Soft suggests easy but these are skills, and skill acquisition is always requires real work. They are also simply fundamental, critical skills for career success instead of just niceties. In just one example, a study by Kirch, Tucker & Kirch (2001) suggested that 80% of career success is based in the ability to effectively interact with others!

The implied ease of soft, often leads to feelings of failure in those who have not acquired these fundamental skills. It also can lead to condescending attitudes from others, who don’t recognize these as skills that one has to work hard, over time to acquire. Battling misconceptions and stressing the importance of these skills is a long term approach, but more immediate methods are needed.

There is an actionable way to start making learning these fundamental skills less hard that is available now, Virtual Reality (VR). Applications designed to help address these skills are already being deployed. 

Virtual Reality based Training

VR can address two of the most challenging aspects of learning these fundamental skills: getting targeted, realistic experience without social repercussions. Decades of research have shown that VR can effectively be used for putting people into realistic situations. These experiences are real enough to trigger stress, yet VR is non-threatening – so even clinical patients are willing to face their fears repeatedly. Getting experience with people skills traditionally requires exposing a weakness to others directly, but with VR that need not be feared.

VR experiences can be controlled and adjustable to the needs of the learner, optimizing learning. As a trainer one can be sure of what the user will experience, unlike putting them into uncontrolled real experiences.

Public Speaking training in VR

An example is Virtual Orator, a VR application for training public speaking skills. Virtual Orator creates the right training experience of public speaking targeted to the needs of the learner. From small environment with friendly audiences, to challenging venues full of uninterested or unhappy people, trainers and users can craft experiences to push just beyond current skill levels. Specific skills, like eye contact, can be practiced and controlled with objective feedback. Trainers can influence the experience as it occurs and even bring in audience speech.

Whether acquiring fundamental ‘soft’ skills, perfecting specific skills, honing important presentations or even testing/retesting skills, Virtual Orator provides an ideal way to get exposure to the right kinds of experiences.

You can experience the VR future of learning tech in booth B42 and learn more about Virtual Orator. Get a glimpse of some of our upcoming new features in addition to seeing all the existing possibilities.

Written by: Kristopher Blom – Virtual Human Technologies

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