A Review of the Effectiveness of VR Training in Scientific Meta-Studies
Insights – Training

Virtual Reality (VR) has far surpassed the confines of entertainment, asserting itself as a significant tool in the realms of education and professional training. Advocates of this technology highlight it’s superior learning and training capabilities compared to traditional training methods. But do these benefits stand up to scientific scrutiny?

In recent years, several studies have been conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of VR in various disciplines, of which medicine, with its high-risk/high-precision situations, and general education, with its knowledge transfer, are particularly relevant if conclusions are to be drawn for the training of cleanroom personnel. Here, we delve into the insights from notable meta-analyses, combining the results of more than 200 studies that analyzed VR’s impact on enhancing training and learning experiences.

Skill Improvement: Surgical Training in VR

The 2016 meta-analysis, “Virtual reality training in laparoscopic surgery: A systematic review & meta-analysis” showcased VR’s substantial benefits in surgical training. The study examined 31 randomized controlled trials, highlighting that VR simulation is markedly superior to video trainers and at least as effective as traditional practical training. The scientists concluded that proficiency-based VR training, when augmented with supervision, prompt instructions, feedback, and haptic feedback, VR simulator training is the most effective training approach, and should be integrated into surgical training curricula.

Similarly, another study from the same year 2016 titled “Effectiveness of Virtual Reality Training in Orthopaedic Surgery” reviewed 91 articles and included trials involving 303 participants. It found significant improvements in technical skills post VR training, establishing VR’s validity in accurately measuring and enhancing surgical skills in orthopedics.

Those “early” analyses are particularly remarkable when considering the technical background and history of virtual reality. The year 2016 marked the first consumer-oriented breakthrough of the technology, when both the famous Oculus Rift (Facebook) for the PC and the PSVR (Sony) for the Playstation 4 made their debut. From then on, the technology has only improved, leading to the conclusion that the study results would also show an even greater positive effect size in the present day.

Learning and Knowledge: VR in Education

Shifting focus to general education, the 2020 study “Effectiveness of immersive virtual reality using head-mounted displays on learning performance: A meta-analysis” explored the impact of immersive VR technologies from 2013 to 2019, including 35 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) or quasi-experimental studies. This study concluded overall, that immersive VR was more effective than non-immersive learning approaches. VR had a particular and great impact on minor education, as well as science education and specific abilities development. This can be attributed to VRs ability to demonstrate complex concepts and to “show, don’t tell”, by not only replicating the real world but by enhancing it. This made the simulations and virtual world representations outperform lectures as well as real-world practice, leading to an improvement in both knowledge and skill development. This effect was also stable over time, underlining VRs significant advantage in maintaining long-term learning effectiveness.

Another critical 2021 examination, “A meta-analysis of the effect of virtual reality technology use in education” noted that VR generally improves educational outcomes significantly. It found that VR generally has a strong and positive influence on educational outcomes. Interestingly, VR also had beneficial “negative effects” in reducing anxiety and gender difference.

VR in Training Programs

The 2020 meta-analysis titled “The Effects of Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Mixed Reality as Training Enhancement Methods” compared the effectiveness of extended realities (XR) including VR, AR, and MR with traditional training methods. The results demonstrated that XR-based training is at least as effective as traditional methods and particularly valuable in high-risk or high-cost scenarios where traditional training is infeasible.

Another 2021 meta-analysis titled “A meta-analysis of virtual reality training programs“ investigated the effectiveness of virtual reality (VR) training programs compared to alternative methods through a review of controlled experimental studies. The findings indicate that VR training programs generally lead to better outcomes. However, the effectiveness can vary significantly depending on certain factors, such as the type of display and input hardware used, as well as the inclusion of game-like attributes in the training program. Additionally, the concept of task-technology fit and the specifics of the research design were identified as important influencers on the results. The study highlights that VR is no silver bullet, but that the effectiveness depends on the quality of the solution implemented.

Conclusion: VR Training Is Superior

The array of studies reviewed clearly illustrates VR’s substantial impact across various fields, particularly in enhancing the effectiveness of training and education systems. The immersive and interactive nature of VR not only improves technical skills and knowledge retention but also enhances the overall learning experience, making it a pivotal tool in modern educational and training programs. But not all VR trainings are created equally and it is important to implement a technologically advanced and methodological rich solution into the right training context.

Scientific Results: VR Training…

  • is overal superior to traditional training methods

  • is more effective in knowledge learning and skill training

  • has a higher and longer knowledge and skill retention rate

  • leads to greater and deeper understanding of complex concepts

Check out our Survey Report on User Acceptance of VR Training

Our multi-survey report combines data from various Demo-Days conducted at 15 pharmaceutical companies, involving 444 participants, to examine user acceptance and effectiveness of virtual reality (VR) simulators for cleanroom personnel training. The participants experienced the Innerspace VR Simulator during individual Demo-Days held between September 2021 and February 2023.

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