Immersive Training for Retention

Alice Bonasio
Tech Trends
Published in
8 min readMay 21, 2019

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How Virtual Reality training can help healthcare professionals retain crucial information.

Healthcare professionals are tasked with learning and retaining an enormous amount of knowledge and skills. Whether the task is to master human anatomy and physiology, the symptoms associated with a broad range of diseases and disorders, or the skills associated with performing some routine or non-routine medical procedure, healthcare professional undergo an enormous amount of training to ensure excellence when treating patients. In addition, healthcare professionals are expected to apply this knowledge and these skills under a broad range of challenging situations including time pressure, social stress, and other sub-optimal conditions.

Unfortunately, and as all healthcare professionals know first-hand, the brain is hardwired to forget. This has been known implicitly for centuries, but was formalized scientifically in 1885 when Hermann Ebbinghaus embarked on a journey to characterize and quantify the time-course of learning and memory, and in the process discovered the “forgetting curve”.

A typical forgetting curve is displayed below. The y-axis denotes the retention rate that ranges from 0 to 100%, and the x-axis denotes time. The blue dot in the upper left represents the initial level of learning. In this example, we assume that the learner obtained 100% of the knowledge initially. The red curve is the forgetting curve. Notice that the rate of forgetting is rapid initially and then tapers off over time. The retention rates of 60% after 20 minutes, 40% after one day, and 15% after a week are hypothetical but are in line with many scientific studies. Although the retention rates depend upon the nature of initial training and the type of information studied, the shape remains the same.

What this means is that you can train to perfection today, but you will immediately start to forget and ultimately will retain only a small portion of the information. This is a serious problem in any training setting, but is especially problematic in healthcare. The last thing that you want is for your healthcare professional to forget some critical…

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Alice Bonasio
Tech Trends

Technology writer for FastCo, Quartz, The Next Web, Ars Technica, Wired + more. Consultant specializing in VR #MixedReality and Strategic Communications