Getting Started with Virtual Reality for Training

Here at Unboxed, we believe that by creating new ways to educate and empower people, we can help organizations build the strong workforce they need to succeed. That’s why we’re exploring the cutting-edge world of virtual reality and testing virtual experiences learners will enjoy and remember for years to come.

What Is Virtual Reality?

As our senses are engaged with inputs (sight, sound, touch, etc.), we experience the world around us, “reality.” This reality dictates the way that we interact with our environment and the complex situations we encounter daily.

“Virtual” reality emulates those sensory inputs to create a computer-generated version of that reality.

virtual reality for training

What Do I Need to Get Started?

If you think virtual reality requires a big investment to get started, think again. With a variety of pricing options and experiences, the technology is more accessible and affordable than you might think.

Here are just a few examples.

Handheld Devices

Handheld devices allow users to experience virtual reality with a smartphone. Simply mount a device like Google Cardboard to your phone and peer into the virtual world. At around $15, it’s the most affordable way to get started with virtual reality.

Google Cardboard


Head Mounted Smartphone Devices

A head-mounted device (HMD) like the Homido goes one step further by mounting a device with your smartphone on your head for a more immersive experience than handheld. With the addition of head tracking and your peripheral vision removed, you’ll quickly find yourself “within” the virtual world, rather than “peering in.” Starting around $50, the cost to get started is still low.

Homido head mounted virtual reality

Premium Computer-Connected Devices

These are the most premium virtual reality devices currently on the market. Beyond the head tracking included with the HMDs, these devices include motion tracking, controllers that mimic the hands in the virtual space, and in some cases, room-scale mapping, which lets you move freely in open spaces. For a computer powerful enough to run the applications, as well as the headset, motion tracking, and controllers, the initial buy-in jumps up to around $2,000.

Top of the line virtual reality headset and hand controllers

Using Virtual Reality for Training

So, how can you use virtual reality for training? Since virtual reality allows users to interact with and process information in new ways, these (almost) real-life experiences, when tailored for your organizations, make it easier to deliver, retain, and recall information. Virtual reality adds a level of immersion and interactivity that gives businesses the opportunity to train their employees and customers like never before.

Virtual reality training is currently being used to educate professionals on sales, safety procedures, medical procedures, ethics, and much more. Even sports teams like the NCAA Stanford Cardinals are using virtual reality to train their freshman players on learning plays, reading the opposing team, and making quicker decisions when on the field.

Along with training, the growing list of applications include, but are not limited to architecture, healthcare, education, and entertainment. Companies like Jaguar and Audi also are releasing experiences where users can view the interior and exterior of newly developed concept cars.

What Are We Working On?

During our initial exploration of virtual reality, our team created a virtual retail world where the voice of a virtual coach guides the user through a customer interaction. This experience blazes a trail for organizations to rethink the way they train their employees–from opening a store to upselling accessories.

The virtual coach gives verbal instructions, provides words of encouragement as the user completes the given tasks, and offers additional direction if the user gets lost.

The user also has the ability to view training videos on a tablet in the virtual store. This allows the user to review information they may have learned in their initial training as a quick refresher.

Unboxed designer/developer/animator/all-around good guy Michael Laskaris used his background in game design and development to create this experience. During the creation process, Michael discovered that with a small team and the right resources, building virtual reality training experiences for our clients could be in our future sooner than we think. And let’s face it, when given the option, would you rather have another PowerPoint presentation, or would you prefer to give your learners a simulated experience that closely mimics their day-to-day?

Want to be part of that future with us? Leave a comment below, or contact us and let us know what VR experiences you’d like to see.

Animated or Live Action Training Videos: What’s Best?

One of the first questions we hear from companies looking for custom training videos is whether they should choose animation or live action.

To offer some guidance, here are three key factors we help clients evaluate when creating video-based training. We’ll also do some myth-busting along the way so you’re armed with plenty of insight and ideas to share with your team and potential video production partners.

Live action or animation

3 Key Factors To Consider When Choosing A Video Style

Audience Goals

If you want to model best practices and behaviors, live action is the way to go. It’s helpful to see someone else do something before you try it yourself. Body language and verbal and nonverbal cues are easier to demonstrate with real people, too. Plus, live action footage adds a human element, which hooks the audience emotionally and builds empathy.

If you’re explaining a concept, animation brings that information to life in a memorable way. You wouldn’t explain the intricacies of DNA without animated models, and you wouldn’t rely on interviews to explain how internal combustion engines work, right?

Subject Matter

Video, whether b roll (motion-only footage) or live action, is a great way to showcase actual people and products. When onboarding new employees, for instance, showing them real products is more effective than showing them animated models. Context is king.

Animation effectively visualizes complex information or concepts in a simple way. Take a software workflow—say you’re rolling out a brand new CRM. The tool can be introduced at a high level with graphics and illustrations that summarize how using this tool works into team members’ daily routine and the benefits it offers. Then, at the parts of the training video where people need to be shown specific steps (such as how to update a client’s account information), screencast of the software UI can be used to complement the animation—you can show a recording of the screens being navigated and data being entered into the system.

Content Updates

If your company needs to update training content frequently, animation is a better fit. Instead of having to update the script and coordinate the cast, production crew, and location for a video reshoot, fewer players will be needed to update the script and graphics for an animation.

If you’re producing more evergreen content that won’t change in the near future, live action makes sense. For instance, say you’ve created live action videos that demonstrate effective ways to build rapport with a prospect. Unless there’s a radical shift in your sales process, these skills—and your footage—will be relevant for a long time to come and your investment in live action video is protected.

Live Action Animation
Audience Goals Modeling best practices and behaviors Explaining a concept
Subject Matter Showcasing actual people and products Visualizing complex information in a simple way
Content Updates Building more evergreen content Frequent content updates


What About Budget?

Budgets. We all have ‘em. But we caution people not to play a strictly numbers game. Buying based on the lowest price tag is tempting. But that decision may come with other hidden costs. If the final product isn’t up to your brand’s quality standards or if it doesn’t effectively teach people what to do, you’ll have to pay to redo the video.

Plus, there’s more at stake than the initial cost to create a module—training affects job performance, employee attitudes, and ultimately revenue.

A good training partner will help you achieve your goals within the constraints of your budget. They’ll recommend good, better, and best options and help you understand what the give-and-take will be with each option, and how that will impact your learners.

Be Wary of These Video Production Myths

As you’re considering the style of training video to produce, it’s also important not to let these myths derail you and prevent you from making the best decision for your learners.

Myth 1: Live Action Video Is More Expensive

While a live video shoot typically requires more people (think cast and crew) and gear (lighting, sound equipment, cameras, and props), it won’t always be the most expensive option. Video length and production complexity are big variables. A one-minute animation that’s completely 3D and has a lot of special effects could cost the same as a three-minute live video. There might only be one animator on the project, but they’ll need more hours because of the level of detail and effort it takes to illustrate and animate a 3D feature.

That’s not to say that all live action videos are equal. Production costs are affected by factors like:

  • Location: A video shoot with multiple locations will take longer because of travel time and having to set up and take down cameras, lights, and other equipment. And if you’re not using your own stores or offices, location rental fees will come into play.
  • Actors: The bigger the cast, the bigger the cost.
  • Crew: If you need sound, you’ll need sound equipment and crew to operate it. But if you’re capturing b roll (motion-only footage), that’s not necessary.

Good production companies will know how to tailor live video to achieve the best result for learners within your budget.

Myth 2: Animation Takes Longer to Produce

Some companies will tell you an animation takes months to get to market whereas live action video can be delivered in four weeks.

Here’s the reality: timelines aren’t influenced by the style of your video. They depend more on how soon the client wants the finished product and how fast the production company can move. There is equal planning involved in both video formats, and an equal number of moving parts. And each format includes review time, editing, and final delivery of the product. A more agile company, like Unboxed, is able to flex their timeline to the client’s needs.

And similar to the cost, the timeline is also influenced by the length and complexity of the production.

Myth 3: You Have to Choose Between Live Action and Animation

The world of video production is wider than just animation and just live action. Good production companies use a combination of:

  • B roll (motion only video footage)
  • Live action footage
  • Animation
  • Screencast (recording of the interface of a program or tool)
  • Kinetic typography (moving text)

Your options are only limited by the creativity of your video production partner.

So, What’s Best? Animation or live action?

What type of video training is right for your company? The one that best fits the goals, subject matter, and shelf life of your training content. End of story.

Both animated and live action videos can connect learners to your brand, culture, solutions, and each other—but you don’t have to choose between one format or the other.

Have more questions about live action or animated video? Let’s chat. Drop us a line in the comments or send us an email. We’re here to help!

BH Media Group Teams with Unboxed to Create New Culture of Learning

BH Media was a rapidly growing organization with a need for formal, streamlined, and company-wide training that could be measured and linked to business and professional growth. Through a partnership with Unboxed Technology, they got the whole package: a custom-created sales methodology, product training, and leadership training, all ready to launch in Spoke—a super-simple, web-based social learning management system.


BH Media logoBH Media is a Berkshire Hathaway company all about community. With 30 daily and over 70 weekly newspapers—including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Winston-Salem Journal, the Tulsa World and the Omaha World-Herald—they use digital, print, and progressive media solutions to inform and engage readers in their own communities across the nation.


As BH Media acquired a significant number of papers throughout the country, competing processes as well as different cultures, communities, readership, and reach significantly impacted sales. They knew their long-term success depended on providing their busy sales professionals with a simple way to share best practices and sharpen their skills.

BH Media began an exhaustive search and conducted many interviews for the right vendor. “Not only were we looking for training content, but also a way to deliver content,” said Angela Brauer, then Director of Sales and Development.

Ultimately they chose Unboxed for that very reason: the ability to develop a cohesive sales methodology, customized training, and a learning management system to host the new content.

According to Brauer, she and Thom Kastrup, Chief Revenue Officer, knew they were in good hands with Unboxed. They received great advice on what the program should focus on, how the training should roll out, and how trainers should deliver the content.


I feel like we were colleagues and coworkers. It was a really good fit.

With Unboxed’s innovative approach to online learning, expertise in sales training, and ability to create content that brings it all to life, BH Media found their new partner.

Unboxed started a discovery process for the program by conducting ride-alongs in multiple markets and worked with a cross-company team of over 30 ad sales experts, managers, and market leaders to build content that specifically addressed sales professionals’ needs.

The development of the new program proved to be more than a typical client-vendor relationship. “I feel like we were colleagues and coworkers,” Brauer said. “It was a really good fit. And having content development experts was important to the success of the program.”


What resulted was a new sales methodology that defines stages in the sales process (the Great Sales Behaviors) and identifies target areas that drive increased sales for both sales professionals and their respective papers. Program objectives were aimed at prospecting more to increase sales activity, acquire more clients, generate high ad revenue per client, build total revenue, and reduce client churn.

In addition to the sales methodology, Unboxed developed a series of product training eLearnings and training for managers to better coach, support, reinforce, and practice the Great Sales Behaviors with their team. To tie it all together, all the content launched in Spoke, allowing learners to tap into online training materials, engage with other sales professionals, and share best practices in the community.

Training for BH Media

This new training marked the beginning of a culture of learning for BH Media, one that highlighted the investment the company had in their sales professionals. The content changed the way sales teams sell to their clients and taught them how to better care for their customers and sustain long-term relationships with them.

Over the last few years, the company has acquired multiple newspapers that at one time were all separate businesses. They each had unique processes, but now Unboxed is bringing it all together—a profound feat for what Brauer once described as “one three-year-old company made up of a bunch of 100-year-old companies.”

And with Spoke, the company now uses online training to enhance talent acquisition and onboard new hires. Sales professionals communicate across markets and share best practices with colleagues. They can even use Spoke alongside existing sales tools such as Salesforce and Chatter to tie training and community to customer relationship management.


The best onboarding training I’ve ever seen.

The program has been in place for over a year. A survey taken from training sessions spanning BH Media markets across the country and hundreds of participants demonstrated near-unanimous satisfaction with the new sales training and course materials:

  • 98% agreed and strongly agreed that the content was immediately useful and applicable within the following 30 days after the training.
  • 99% agreed and strongly agreed that the course materials were helpful and met the intended objectives of the training.
  • 98% agreed and strongly agreed when asked if they would recommend the course to others.

Participants freely offered additional feedback about the training:

  • “The best onboarding training I’ve ever seen.” (Hickory, NC)
  • “Although I’ve been selling advertising for several years, I learned [so] much useful information that [I’ve] already incorporated into my daily activities.” (Bryan-College Station, TX)
  • “This was one of the most comprehensive classes I have had in any industry. More relevant to our daily jobs than any other training session.” (Kearney, NE)

Since the initial rollout, BH Media and Unboxed Technology continue to develop new content, witness an increase in cross-market alignment, and expand the use of Spoke’s social component.

“We were thrilled with the outcome,” Brauer said. “With great new content in Spoke, we now have a program we can build upon and use for many years. We don’t have to send our people away to another company for training. They’re trained by us.”

Lochinvar Makes Training Easy by Choosing Spoke®

A manufacturer of high efficiency boilers had great online training, but the learning management system (LMS) that delivered it left them wanting more. A cumbersome user experience and limited customer support sent them searching for a better way. Two years and many LMS candidates later, they found Spoke.


Lochinvar Logo

Lochinvar, LLC is a Tennessee-based manufacturer of high efficiency boilers, water heaters, pool heaters, and storage tanks. Their need? A better way to deliver online training for more than a thousand people a year: engineers who specify their products, end users who own them, and contractors who service and install them.


Lochinvar’s product training was solid content-wise, but their LMS got in the way of learners’ access to that content. Users said the platform was hard to navigate. Plus, it wasn’t mobile-friendly. “Everyone has a smart device these days,” said Ernie Chase, technical trainer and administrator for Lochinvar University. “We have to get the training to learners wherever they are, not just on a PC in the office.”


Now they can focus on learning instead of navigating the platform.

Enter Spoke, the simple and social learning management system. “Spoke is intuitive,” Chase said. “It’s so easy to use. Users are only two clicks away from training. Now they can focus on learning instead of navigating the platform.”

Spoke Dashboard and Reports

“Plus, customer service is beyond just ‘Give us your money and we’ll give you our product,’” Chase continued. “Any time we have a question, we get an answer. When we have a problem, Unboxed finds the solution. And with Unboxed, we know they’re always updating Spoke and keeping it current. It’s a moving, living thing.”


We’ve had an extremely positive experience with Spoke. The platform is easy to navigate. It’s intuitive. Nothing is buried.

Initial results indicate learners are more engaged, and LochinvarU is delighted. “It’s unbelievable,” Chase shared. “All we did was move our old content onto Spoke. Overnight, the feedback was, ‘This is amazing training!’ Once the platform issues were out of the way, people could enjoy and learn from our content. Plus, people are talking about how many Spoke coins they have. It gets their competitive nature flowing. They want to complete more courses to get more coins.”

Training reports

Spoke’s reporting features give LochinvarU new insight into what content their audience wants—and uses. “We spent six months developing an interactive troubleshooter. We never knew how many people were using it, until Spoke,” Chase said. “This helps us with planning. We know what people are using, which guides our future training decisions.”

“We’ve had an extremely positive experience with Spoke. The platform is easy to navigate. It’s intuitive. Nothing is buried,” Chase said. “And we love the open communication with Unboxed.”

Blended Learning: The Way It Should Be


There’s a difference between cooking and baking. Cooking is more of an imprecise art, tailored to taste. Baking is much more of a science: the ingredient amounts, oven temp, and blender speed matter.

In the training world, designing a blended learning experience is like baking a perfectly golden homemade crust. There’s a science to it. Blended learning is more than superficially mixing together a few more eLearnings. It’s being intentional about the way you combine content in various formats so that your employees can easily consume, retain, and apply your training.

For a perfectly blended learning experience, you need to:

  • Let the subject matter inform your modality.
  • Embrace learners’ constraints.
  • Choose a learning platform that supports blended learning.

Let the subject matter inform your modality

As companies grow, classroom training can get expensive and time consuming. It’s tempting to convert a two-hour instructor-led training into a recording of your slides with voiceover and call that an eLearning. But, it’s not really a 1:1 relationship. Instead of converting the whole thing into an eLearning, you’ve got to take a step back and ask yourself, “What do my learners need to know, or be able to do, at the end of this course? Why?” Then, ask yourself, “What modality is best suited to deliver this content and help them accomplish that goal?”

A simulation video is a great way to model behaviors consistently. A huddle, or interactive group activity, works well for roleplaying and practicing what you’ve learned. Always keep your learner in mind. That’ll make it easy to ensure form and function are in harmony.

Embrace learners’ constraints

Humans don’t learn like robots. We need time to absorb and process new information. To help your learners out, you’ve got to:

  • Set a realistic time limit
  • Break up content in small chunks
  • Engage different senses and learning styles.

Here’s what embracing learner constraints looks like. Say you’ve got an eLearning to teach a new behavior. The runtime should be 15-20 minutes max, where learners stop every few minutes to answer questions in an interactive quiz. If you try to pack in more, your learners’ attention spans will short out, and they’ll have a hard time retaining it all. You’ll empower people to apply what they’re learning, when they don’t feel burdened with information overload.

Choose a learning platform that supports blended learning

Your learning platform can kill your blended training experience. Imagine advertising you have an awesome new eLearning, then making people hunt for it in a cumbersome, disorganized Sharepoint site. Not to mention Sharepoint has no way for learners to interact with their content or each other; they can only watch the course in a vacuum.

Sounds terrible, right? Now reimagine this scenario with a social learning management system in place. It organizes content according to the learning journey and gives learners a way to talk about what they’re learning, ask questions, and share ideas in online forums. A social learning management system enhances blended learning, instead of detracting from it.

Your blended learning doesn’t have to fall short. Align content and modality, respect your learners’ natural limits, and use the right learning platform, and you’ll create training that empowers your team to learn more and, ultimately, do their job better.