This entry won the 2012 Peer Award “Technology for People” category

ref: 12-017

Getting the Most from Virtual Environments
how to use technology to create impactful, blended training

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After conducting thorough research we found that the travel trade learn more effectively by actually experiencing the product. With over 20,000 travel agents making up our target audience, getting them all onboard one of our cruise ships is logistically impossible. Our solution was to recreate a virtual onboard experience of our ships, integrating interactive ‘virtual’ environments which were digitally created from thousands of photographs taken of various areas onboard. Result: the closest ‘onboard experience’ many travel agents have without actually boarding one of our ships. In essence we are bringing the subject matter closer than ever to the learner.

The immediate impact on learners has been positive, with many agents emailing to express how much they have enjoyed the interactive aspect of virtually ‘touring’ a ship as they learn. Another positive is that agents are using the virtual environments with customers. Showing customers the environments onscreen in many cases leads to a sale, thereby positively affecting the bottom line. Our marketing team have also been asked to look at a customer facing version! Measuring return on investment is difficult to judge due to many external factors but we believe that this innovative approach is highly effective in increasing sales.

The programme features varied virtual environments, showing our trainees what the ships really look like in a fun, interactive way. Agents can take a break from our online training programme (the modules they complete) to take a tour, which means we are retaining them in the system and they are still learning but they are not so conscious of this: they are having fun! They can tour around several different areas and see ‘virtual customers’ taking part in onboard activities. We also have key hints and tips about the different areas as they travel around.[/one_half_last]

Technical issues arose at launch stage: many agents were prevented from viewing and using virtual environments due to the inability to download Flash 10. Some travel agents however upgraded their systems to accommodate us, although we still find in some travel agencies that the programme is very slow. With the hints and tips, it is important that content is always checked in case information has changed. This means that we must have someone to monitor this on a regular basis. The major advantage to this programme is that it continually evolves with new environments which can be added continually.

Seeing is believing: it is hard to describe this programme without viewing it. We believe that this type of learning is truly engaging for kinaesthetic learners, who get switched off by completing traditional online learning with lots of text. Virtual environments really bring our cruise ships to life: for travel agents it is the nearest thing to being onboard. We offer learners an exciting and highly engaging learning tool. Agents can learn all about what’s onboard and then get useful hints and tips about key features and activities which they hopefully will retain and use to sell in the workplace.[/one_half_last]

The Speaker

[frame style=”modern” image_path=”” link_to_page=”” target=”” description=”” size=”four_col_large”] Michelle Russell
Training Manager, Michelle Russell, created Cruising for Excellence in 2003 for the UK & Ireland markets after seeing a gap in the training we provided to travel agents. Alongside a team of passionate trainers, she has been able to prove how training can be a key driver in the education and brand awareness of ‘cruising’. Michelle has a truly dedicated and driven training team who all have great ideas and this in particular, has made our elearning programme to date, so successful. The elearning model has grown to become the a key training success and seen the program launch globally in 13 languages. In addition, the focus on face to face training has increased to marry the two and bring to life our unique products through experiential learning.

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