“E-learning is about knowledge acquisition, not about using it at work”. William Peres

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In my opinion, what is key to any kind of change is to acquire and adopt new behaviors. It means two things for businesses today :

• They must help people on the field to keep up with the pace of evolution of their job and the required knowledge and techniques.

• They must reinvent learning approaches that are focused on knowledge acquisition and not on their implementation.

To use trendy concepts, I’d say that it’s important to create a learning experience that will help to deliver an experience to the customer too.

That’s the topic of my discussion with William Peres, founder of Serious Factory. Starting with the same assumptions, William has been working on immersive and intelligent learning approaches which last versions perfectly meet today’s needs

Bertrand Duperrin : Hello William. Can you tell me more about the origins of the training solution we’re going to talk about today.

William Peres : We started with virtual showrooms. Then we made configurators for the showroom, then added more and more realistic avatars, then added artificial intelligence to these avatars. We eventually allowed to interact with the avatars, made made us turn the solution into a learning/training one.

BD : Training of what kind ?

WP :It may be behavioral trainings for people in front of the customers or who have very complex machines to operate. Knowing what to do and in which sequence matters a lot in this case.

So we packaged all the knowledge we’ve acquired since the birth of the company in what we call the Virtual Training Suite (VTS).

BD : What makes you different on an already overcrowded market ?

WP :We believe that no enterprise transformation is possible without a good learning. The market has always been focused on knowledge acquisition and validation. But when you’re on the field you realize that even if you know you don’t know how to. How-to supposes practicing on concrete cases.

There’s no transformation without learning

BD : But businesses are already doing this, mainly in presential trainings

WP :You have two people playing doing an actor job. Others are watching. Then they debrief and chose two new actors But the trainees are not actors, those who judge them are not professionals and you’ll have to watch 6 people practicing before practicing yourself. In this context the only think you focus on is to avoid saying bullshit, not learning how to do.

So you don’t practice, not on concrete cases that are those of your day-to-day customers. You’re not train in your “universe” but on general cases that won’t happen when you’ll be at work.

The virtual training suite allows people to be trained on their universe.

BD : And what does it look like ?

WP : In the basic version here’s what the user sees. Everything is configurable, manageable, customizable.

It’s real-time 3D so the characters will have real time facial emotions and gesture that relates to their state of mind. No learning solution addresses the non verbal part of a conversation while it accounts for 60% of it.

 

No one cant’ be trained while overlooking the non-verbal side of any situation

The person being trained with the Virtual Training Suite will have to pay attention to gesture, hands, facial expressions of the avatar he interacts with to make the right decisions. We’re investing a lot in R&D to improve this side, mainly by working on cognitive sciences.

In a very close future this training won’t happen on a screen but with a virtual reality device. You’ll be in a store with customers, they will talk, move, you’ll have to  deal with several customers at the same time and take their emotional situation into account.

That’s the only way for you to work on behaviors because behaviors require practice, trial/error.

 

BD : How do trainees interact with avatars ?

WP : There are three modes.

In the first one, questions, answers and actions will be suggested. It’s the most traditional one. It’s a kind of animated and context quiz that looks pretty much like what we all kow.

In the seconde mode, suggestions disappears and are replaced with a chat module. You ask questions directly to the avatar who will answer in an intelligent way. You’re facing your own competences : if you don’t ask the right question you don’t progress and achieve your mission.

The third mode is the verbal one. You’ll talk to the avatar and he’ll respond. It’s a real simulator. Contrary to serious games, e-learning and blended learning solutions that are only about learning, we’re also addressing the “how to” side. the VTS is not only about acquiring knowledge but also acquiring competences.

E-learning focuses on knowledge and overlooks “how-tos”.

Today the only way we have to acquire competences is to put people and the field and let the fail in front of real customers. That’s no effective nor reasonable. We propose to train and fail in a virtual world to be ready in front of real customers.

For example in medecine…it’s better to fail with a virtual patient.

 

BD : Same for airlines…It’s better to crash on a simulator

WP : That’s an excellent example. Pilots who have safely landed thousands of planes in decades still to go train in simulators because they don’t experience each kind of issue in their day to day life.

That’ the same in real life. That’s not because you’re good a selling  a product that you will stay a good sales person as products are evolving very fast, catalogues get thicker…It does not take a long time for a sales person to realize it does not know his products anymore.

In every business where people don’t train you can hear “they don’t know the offers, and how to sell them”. It’s not an accident.

BD : So what differentiates serious factory is…

WP : We’re able top deliver a full learning/training program that goes from acquisition with traditional solutions to practicing in the most realistic universe possible whith one’s real products, offers, kinds of customers etc. The simulator makes it easy to make product or marketing updates. We all track competence aquisition with quantitative and qualitative metrics. For example “75% of my sales people can’t sell such product in 15 mins when they’re in front of a geek who know the product very well”.

Everything is logged so each business can create its own indicators.

In the case you the 75% unable to sell…. it shows a lack a knowledge of the product that causes problems in front of a savvy customer. The same in front of neophyte customers would suggest a too technical discourse… So with the right indicators you can decide the best actions to improve things.

BD : What’s the difference between the VTS and other learning solutions, except the artificial intelligence  ?

WP : the scenario is not linear, the steps are not set. You’re not expected to ask such question as such moment, the conversation with the client can be endless. The dialogue is not scenarized.

And, of course, the scenario is about the real products of your company. No fictive ones.

At the end of the session au can have debrief surveys or self-assessment quiz. It’s important for the trainee to know what he did well and wrong.

The administrator receives detailed quantitative and qualitative feedbacks.

BD : It’ rich but complex, most of all if the solution must be frequentely updated with new products, offers etc.

WP : It takes less than month to get the simulator I just showed you. You can even have a prototype in one week.

BD : And what about more complex environments ?

WP : Let’s have a look to what we did in the field of  medical training….

 

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The demo I had is pretty close to this video. What I found interesting is that in the context of a blended learning session, the trainer can launch the session on several ipads via local wifi and follow in real time what the trainees are doing.

The scenario is not scripted so the trainee faces his responsibilities and does whatever he wants.

Another noticeable point  : the engine is very good at recognizing human speech. It takes the history of the conversations into account.

That’s a real simulator, very realistic and impressive. Even the sound of the heartbeat is not the same depending on where the stethoscope is put.

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BD : What’s the future of such solutions ?

WP : More realistic, more immersive… stay tuned for future announcements.

 

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I’d like to thank William for the interview and the opportunity to test all these products. As these solutions become more realistic, avatars more intelligent, it’s becoming more and more unavoidable to test the anchoring of knowledge in virtual environments instead of using customers or patients as guinea-pigs.

Same if we consider that delivering an experience is a important as following the script or the process.

I’ve really been impressed by this solution that, from my point of view, has two main benefits : help to put knowledge at work and deliver an amazing learning experience.