Ready to Get Started with VR/Online Simulation? 6 Steps to Get Buy-In from Management
The easy part of changing how you train EMS and other medical responders is adding virtual reality to your training tools.
The hard part can be convincing your management.
Devin Marble, Program Coordinator for Multimedia Instruction at an accredited EMS college in Arizona and the face of the Skills Station for VRpatients knows it can be difficult.
He has some advice.
Here are six things you should do to help convince your management that a virtual simulation tool, such as VRpatients, is a great investment for your department.
1: Start Early and Understand the Procurement Process
Nothing happens overnight. The process can take a long time and even when you get the equipment, you will need to set it up and then train the trainers before you can make it part of your curriculum.
Many institutions have specific procurement processes and understanding them is important so you don’t make a mistake along the way and have to backtrack or start over.
“Many institutions require that you provide them with an equal product quote as a comparison before they make a large purchase,” Marble says.
His institution required this for any purchase over $10,000, and because items like VRpatients are unique in what they do, finding something to compare it to was problematic. Institutions that use grant money or other similar funding sources must prove they did their due diligence before selecting any vendor.
“You may pitch a VR solution that’s perfect for your administrators and your students in your institution, your hospital, wherever it is, and it might get tied up in educational red tape because people are looking for a competitor to compare it to. [Decision makers want] to make sure that they’re getting a good deal or to make sure that they’re using the best product. It becomes really challenging when you have to file additional paperwork that says this is the only product of its kind.”
Most institutions call that single source and there is specific paperwork necessary to show the product you want is the only one there is, and it is often difficult to show.
“You may find that there are other sources, but they’re not nearly going to solve the problem that you need it to,” Marble explains.
When trying to compare, here are some things that might differentiate the product you’re recommending to others:
- Is the product web based or its own application?
- How many licenses are part of the purchase?
- How do students sign into the tool? Does it need a specific login process?
- Does it require specific hardware or software?
2: Know Who You Need to Convince
“I wish I knew how many different people and departments needed to be involved to complete a purchase,” Marble says.
There are many different levels of decision makers at any institution whether it’s an education institution or an organization that trains and employs EMS workers like a fire department.
At an educational institution, from the beginning, make sure you involve:
- Department director
“Ultimately, you’re going to need higher-ups involved in larger purchases, but those people can really help move ideas along through the appropriate channels,” Marble says.
At a fire department or other similar institution, involve:
- Training directors
“These agencies operate like a well-oiled machine, but they also have a very specific ladder,” Marble says.
Ignoring that hierarchy can sometimes kill an idea before it gets anywhere.
“One of the strongest things that you can do in convincing people is have them all there together and put them through VR for the first time at the same time together and let them watch each other experience something,” Marble suggests. “It’s a lot of fun to watch someone do something in VR and not know what they’re doing because you see them laughing, you see them trying and saying, ‘this is amazing’ and then they want to try it.”
Starting small could also be a way to convince others.
“Find out what your ceiling is for a department purchase before you have to get it approved by higher ups,” Marble suggests. “Sometimes people need to see it to believe it, so make an affordable initial investment and you can argue that we haven’t invested that much if it doesn’t work out. This is an experiment.”
Involving your institution’s IT department is important both during the procurement process and once the technology arrives so it is purchased and set up appropriately.
“You should consider a virtual reality headset an IT purchase because it is very much like buying a computer or a tablet,” Marble explains, adding often paperwork and other requirements differ when it involves technology.
“Your IT department is going to want to vet these products,” Marble says.
You don’t want the headsets walking away, so the IT department needs to do whatever it needs to do to make sure they are secure both online and physically.
“You’re going to need to give yourself time. These headsets cannot arrive a week before class starts. They need to arrive the semester before class starts and during that first semester, students are probably not going to be able to use them.”
3: You Need to Show, Not Just Tell- Request a Demo
“You have to make it look easy for your administrators. You can’t just bring them an idea on paper which means you need to have a demo prepared,” Marble says. “That’s actually a lot easier than most people think because everybody is willing to give you a demo of their virtual reality product.”
VRpatients set up a time to demo the product with you and walk you through everything with the web-based version. If you have a VR headset, even better.
“You need to start with making it look easy because VR as a concept is very difficult for some people to wrap their heads around. It gets very confusing with all the acronyms and such so you really have to be crystal clear and show them physically.”
Marble suggests setting up a camera and recording someone’s first experience with VR.
“They are going to send that to their colleagues and say, ‘look what I did yesterday’ and that is going to go a long way because people want to try VR, and you’re going to want these experiences recorded. It’s going to help.”
4: Show How the ROI Compares to the Cost
“You have to plan out and project what your return on investment could be with any given product,” Marble says.
All VR products have an initial cost to them, usually hardware including a computer and VR headset and then a periodic cost to support the devices and software licensing.
“I suggest you mathematically add up what a year’s cost of what you are suggesting would be and then you have to project how many times in your year are you going to be able to go through the complete cycle of that software to come up with a success metric. That metric may be sales or student success by improved grades on their testing.”
So if a school tests students three times a year, that is three times you can review the ROI, he says.
“That’s when you can check your students’ success metrics and say, we have invested $20,000 in software and hardware and this semester, our 150 students scored 10% better on their exam. That is a measurement of return on investment and utilizing student success is incredibly valuable, because that is what educational institutions base their investment on.”
5: Understand the Hardware Barrier
“Hardware is THE barrier. It’s called the great device divide,” Marble says, adding people or institutions usually can’t afford the cost of new devices to give them access to a single lesson or provide curriculum to a single program.
“So that is a huge barrier for institutions to pull the trigger on purchasing devices and hardware. The devices and hardware are your entry into this VR market.”
Understanding this, many companies out there like VRpatients that offer both web and the full VR version of their program.
“That is phenomenal because that means any institution can get started today using it through the web browser. However, the ultimate goal is to immerse your students, so that institution is going to want to eventually invest in virtual reality headsets.”
Also, understanding any technology contracts, especially exclusivity contracts, your institution might have can be helpful.
6: Give it Time
VR is different and not everyone will be ready to jump onboard, especially if they think it will replace an instructor or training session, Marble warns.
“Being able to answer the question of why are we doing VR is incredibly important,” he says.
Another important thing to remember is VR is not a tool to use instead of live instructors, it’s a supplement.
“Anyone out there who tries to say we’re going to do VR because one day we won’t need the teacher and it’s going to streamline our education is kidding themselves,” Marble says.
That is not the case at all. Live instructors will always take center stage in EMS instruction.
Remember, seeing is believing.
“Put the decision makers in VR put the headset on them so they will understand. That is when they’re going to pull the trigger and say we need this, and our students need this.”
Of course, seeing is believing so be sure to schedule a customized demo of VRpatients if you haven’t already done so. We’d be happy to repeat it with any of your organization’s key stakeholders.