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virtual reality (VR) soft skills
Soft Skills

Business Students Sharpen Soft Skills in VR

As part of an ‘Exploring Entrepreneurship’ class, business school students at Fordham University in New York are engaging in social VR simulations designed to improve their soft skills aptitude by focusing on areas like negotiation, public speaking, confidence, and active listening.

In a recent Washington Post article highlighting the partnership, Lyron Bentovim, Chief Executive of the Glimpse Group which is Foretell’s parent company, commented: “Your brain actually assumes you’ve experienced the simulated environment, and it brings educational concepts to life for students. When they leave class, they don’t say, ‘We learned about negotiating today’; they say, ‘I negotiated today,’ or, ‘I led a business meeting today.’

As anonymous avatars, students can change their appearance and alter their voice to take on any role in a given scenario. And while those in VR are immersed in highly life-like experiences, their colleagues without headsets can learn from viewing the action on any monitor while also providing feedback in real time.

Foretell Reality worked closely with Fordham to develop learning environments that replicated real world scenarios students would face after graduation. Students wore Oculus stand-alone headsets which allowed them to move comfortably, further creating a sense of immersion.

Foretell Reality is an enterprise VR solution for interpersonal communication and business collaboration. Learn more here.

Therapy and Support

The Case for Kermit

I recently came across a series of interviews of people speaking openly and honestly about very personal challenges and traumas in their lives. A boy seeked solace about being bullied at school, a teenager told her story about being sent to a foster home, and an elderly man reconciled reaching the end of his life.

It wasn’t just their candor or the fact that millions of people viewed these videos on YouTube that struck me. It was that all the interviews were conducted in virtual reality with the interviewees veiled as avatars (one as Kermit the Frog).

Studies show that people are drawn to VR because it provides a feeling of authenticity while facilitating open communication in ways akin to real world interactions. This combined with the ability to move beyond physical appearances, remain anonymous if desired, and connect with people from all walks of life have resulted in more and more young people and adults spending time in highly immersive social VR worlds. And it is in these worlds that some of these same people are opening up and risking being vulnerable in ways they likely would not in a physical setting.

As an indicator of where social VR is heading, Facebook, which acquired Oculus in 2014, recently announced that it will be launching a social VR platform called ‘Horizon’ in 2020. Horizon will allow anyone with a stand-alone Oculus headset to customize avatars, socialize through voice and gestures, play games, and create and share user generated content. Given the sheer reach of Facebook, Horizon will vastly expand the number of friends using VR to connect and communicate. While this will accelerate adoption of social VR overall, it will leave behind those people who want to maintain their anonymity, and it will not address the need for safe, secure environments where those seeking help can receive it from professionals and support groups.

So why should this matter to the healing community? As VR becomes an integral part of the digital landscape much like audio, chat, and video is today, therapists and facilitators have an opportunity to reach those seeking help and support in a medium where their clients spend time and feel comfortable.

Just as teletherapy has expanded access to those who cannot or do not want to attend in-person sessions, VR offers another avenue to reach populations who feel more comfortable expressing themselves in a virtual versus physical setting.

And it is effective. A comprehensive study of 285 studies from the past 20 years showed that VR’s capability “to simulate reality could greatly increase access to psychological therapies, while treatment outcomes could be enhanced by the technology’s ability to create new realities.”

With the recent release of affordable, stand alone VR headsets, there has been no greater time for therapists and support group facilitators to reach out to those in need by embracing this groundbreaking technology.

Foretell Reality is an enterprise VR solution for interpersonal communication and business collaboration. Learn more here.

virtual reality (VR) soft skills
Soft Skills

Foretell Reality for Soft Skills Development

The Current State of Soft Skills

Every year, people spend more and more time staring at screens. On average, Americans now allocate an average of six hours each day to screen time, more than double the amount of time spent 10 years ago. How does this affect soft skills such as empathy, teamwork, negotiation, listening, and public speaking? In at least two important ways:

First, more time on screens means less time spent with others in person. In particular, it means less time spent with people who are not already friends, colleagues, or family members. Being comfortable in unfamiliar social situations, whether for business or in personal life, is ultimately reliant on repeated exposure to unknown people in a variety of circumstances.

Second, communication through screens, whether text or video, follows its own set of norms and rules that do not necessarily prepare people for physical, in person communication. For example, gesturing, eye contact, tone of voice, and overall body language cannot be conveyed over audio, chat or email and are limited with video.

The move to screens is particularly affecting a younger generation that grew up with them from an early age. The Industry & Higher Education Journal recently highlighted the effects of the decline in social capital among college students. The study found that many students lack the “cultural and behavioural information and sensitivity they need to learn soft skills” and that this is caused by a “decrease in building social capital through face-to-face interaction, rather than due to colleges not preparing graduates for success in the business environment.”

Why does this matter to businesses?

According to LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends 2019 soft skills aptitude is critical to employers. The vast majority, 92% of talent professionals, say that “soft skills are equally or more important to hire for than hard skills. And 89% said that when a new hire doesn’t work out, it’s because they lack critical soft skills.” Unfortunately another recent study found that 4 in 10 corporations and almost half of academic institutions believe that recent graduates lack critical “soft skills.”

Growing a business is a collaborative effort and effective collaboration requires strong interpersonal skills both internally and when working with clients or customers. Teaching soft skills to those entering the workforce and expanding and skills of existing employees remains a challenge as it requires people to coordinate a physical meeting location and also be comfortable envisioning imaginary scenarios and “acting out” different roles.

How can Foretell Reality help develop professional skills?

Foretell Reality is a virtual reality (VR) platform that fully immerses users in life-like 3D environments to communicate and collaborate with one another whether remotely or in person. Participants are placed in situations that feel real and simulate authentic human interactions, making learning tactile as well as auditory and visual.

In the case of soft skills training, Foretell Reality allows students and professionals to embody virtual identities in order to role play real life situations that improve skills such as public speaking, listening, empathy, negotiating, networking, and collaboration. Real time feedback, behavioral analytics, and the ability to repeat exercises over and over again all help participants navigate their own learning path.

Though it may not seem intuitive to use a digital platform to learn social skills, a study by researchers at Clemson University showed that virtual reality functions just as well as face to face tutorials for preparing students for public speaking presentations and may further develop students’ soft skills.

Soft Skills Development: Foretell Reality and Fordham University

Foretell Reality recently partnered with Fordham University to teach professional soft skills to groups of business students.

In one networking simulation, business students were assigned avatars that ranged in age, gender, and race. Students were challenged to overcome any implicit biases that could exist based on an avatar’s outward presence and instead focus on networking and listening to the technical skill set of each avatar.

In another exercise, students simulated negotiating during high stake business meetings while having their behavior broadcasted in real time before their class for critique.

Foretell Reality for Soft Skills Development

Foretell Reality offers multiple pre-built environments to practice soft skills including small and large board rooms, presentation halls, and open areas for networking. Each location can hold up to 30 remote teammates and an unlimited number of viewers who can watch the sessions from different perspectives.

Within environments, the platform provides tools that allow participants to practice skills like presenting, collaboration, pitching, and team building. These can range from white boards and sticky notes to pointers and private messaging.

The ability to embody a virtual avatar promotes empathy and also allows for anonymity. For example, a male can play the role of a female during a negotiation session or a manager can join a session as an employee without revealing his identity.

With more people spending time in front of screens and less time in person, developing soft skills is as or more critical to success as learning hard skills. Foretell Reality offers co-workers, students, and even strangers the opportunity to practice and improve professional soft skills remotely in life-like environments through realistic, customizable avatars.

Interested in learning more about Foretell Reality? Contact us or schedule a demo.

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