Extended reality: The future of digital learning

  • Employee Experience
  • Solutions
  • 2023
  • Natalli Amato
August 23, 2023

Future of digital learning: Woman wearing a virtual reality headset while 3 others look on

Although the extended reality of the metaverse may seem like it belongs in a mystifying, somewhat distant future, we’re already living in it. It’s built on the integration of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) in the physical world.

Industry leaders are exploring how these emerging technologies can enrich existing business processes. What they’ve honed in on is that the metaverse has remarkable potential to transform the future of digital learning and work. In some circles, this transformation has already begun.

Reimagining experience

In its simplest form, the metaverse represents the next evolution of how we interact with the digital world. Up until now, the digital realm has been a tool we use. Now, through AR and VR, it can become another layer of lived experience.


“It doesn't necessarily need to be 3D or need high-end headset technology,” explained Julia Martensen, ServiceNow field innovation officer, at Knowledge 2023. Instead, “it's summed up as the scalable, real-time, and immersive experience of the digital space.”

Helping corporations move trainees from a state of disengagement to full immersion is the top priority for Andy Ho, vice president of learning experience and innovation at ServiceNow. “Even though people might think, ‘I don't care about the metaverse anymore,’ they do care about an immersive experience,” he says. “They do care about an experience that is somewhat real.”

After all, it’s through hands-on experiences that we’re able to test concepts for ourselves—and ultimately grow our skills. As the tech industry continues to wrestle with a widespread talent shortage, the future lies in harnessing AR and VR technology to help previously untapped talent pools cultivate the technical skills required by the unfilled roles.

Transforming the way we learn

Marrying the richness of tangible experience with the accessibility and convenience of online learning will have profound consequences, ushering forth an era of exponential progress.

Take corporate learning systems, for example. Everything from onboarding functions to diversity and inclusion training is delivered to employees through online modules and videos.

Although these modalities allow for the exchange of valuable information without having to inhabit the same physical space, they flatten our experience due to the inherently limited nature of staring at a screen. For many employees, this turns vital training into nothing more than tasks to check off of a to-do list.

Ho has a different vision for the future of learning. “It’s really about experiential reality,” he says, contemplating what’s next for digital learning as we integrate AR and VR.

“The experience that you have is the difference between watching a rollercoaster ride on YouTube versus actually riding the rollercoaster. What if it were actually like riding the roller coaster?” Ho asks. “The idea here is that there’s a possibility to give people an immersive experience that they can actually learn from.”

Those who are invested in cultivating the future of digital learning must determine how these emerging technologies can be used to improve overall learning experiences—and make them more meaningful to users.

This is something that ServiceNow and other early adopters have been exploring in depth. Through the use of AR and VR, Ho envisions a future in which the RiseUp with ServiceNow training program evolves into a scalable, real-time, and immersive experience for trainees—replicating true experiential learning as closely as possible.


Anytime you can make content more immersive, as with VR and AR, you create a stronger connection with your audience. -Andy Ho, VP, Learning Experience and Innovation, ServiceNow

Seeing is believing

While such an experience is not yet available to the masses, ServiceNow is already building and sharing demos of what’s possible in the not-so-distant future. At Knowledge 2023, audience members were given the opportunity to try out an early version of the AR- and VR-enhanced RiseUp with ServiceNow program for themselves.

This included a custom environment in which people could experience RiseUp initiatives in VR booths. There, they could witness people talk about the impact RiseUp has had on their careers and interact with dynamic reports and analytics to see firsthand how RiseUp is gaining momentum. Participants could use their devices to scan QR codes and interact with RiseUp-specific stories and data in real time.

“Anytime you can make content more immersive, as with VR and AR, you create a stronger connection with your audience,” Ho explains. He saw this bond grow during the demo sessions. “Getting to hear our developer advocate stories in VR impacted many participants. Some even became emotional, as they felt a deep connection to how RiseUp is affecting their own careers.”

Leading the way

Although AR and VR technology is here, the cost of embracing it can be prohibitive for individuals and corporations alike.

“As more learners experience these types of trainings and the appetite increases to provide them, competition will help drive down the cost and the need to provide VR/AR training to people will become as ubiquitous as smartphones have become in our lives,” Ho predicts.

Rather than playing catch-up when that day arrives, industry leaders are currently exploring how existing iterations can be integrated into their business operations to solve problems.

For example, ServiceNow’s integration with CareAR, a subsidiary of Xerox, is using AR to enable service teams to provide real-time remote support for customers, employees, and field workers.

The company recognized that troubleshooting often goes awry because employees rely solely on a customer’s explanation of the problem—a customer who doesn’t have the same level of technical understanding but must try their best to explain what’s going on.

With the help of live AR assistance, CareAR employees are able to see what their customers see as they guide them through the troubleshooting process, making their jobs that much easier.

This may bring to mind screen sharing or remotely accessing a computer, but the process is much more sophisticated. Through AR, employees are able to replicate their customer’s experience, as if creating a digital layer on top of the physical layer of reality.

Then, they can engage with the problem in a hands-on way. By combining video, AI computer vision, and the making of 3D digital twins, platforms such as CareAR’s empower employees to solve problems more efficiently and intuitively.

Since implementing this technology, CareAR has seen significant gains in diagnosis time and improvement in remote sales capabilities.

This is only the beginning of what’s going to be a remarkable new era. Now it's up to industry leaders to decide how they’ll evolve in tandem.

Find out more about how RiseUp with ServiceNow empowers tech careers for the future.  

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