Augmenting learning with virtual reality

INSEAD Professor Guillaume Roels
Guillaume Roels, The Timken Chaired Professor of Global Technology and Innovation

Long before the Covid-19 crisis, INSEAD Professor Guillaume Roels found it difficult to recruit students from his Competitive Supply Chains course to tour a CLAAS tractor factory in Le Mans, France—even though the experience was invaluable for understanding how supply chains work.

“Students are usually busy, and the factory is quite far,” explains Roels, the Timken Chaired Professor of Global Technology and Innovation. “As a result, even though I was teaching 60 or 70 students in the course, I only had about a dozen who would offer to come on the factory tour.”

This made Roels wonder: If students couldn’t go to the factory, was there a way to bring the factory to them?

Thanks to a new Virtual Reality (VR) initiative at INSEAD, there was a way. With support from his colleagues in the initiative, Roels visited the factory in February 2020 and shot a 360-degree film of its assembly line, inventory and fabrication of components. The footage was then used to produce a fully immersive VR tour of the factory.

In October 2020, students in Roels’ course experienced the VR tour for the first time. Wearing Oculus Rift headsets—which provide superior sound quality as well as interactive features—students engaged in both “pull experiences” (where they could explore the factory freely) and “push experiences” (where their attention was steered in a particular direction). Throughout the tour, students observed lean operations and were prompted with questions to focus their learning.

“The goal was really to stimulate their curiosity and draw their attention to specific things that are happening in the factory,” says Roels. “You don’t learn lean operations just by learning the theory; you have to see it in practice. It’s very important to bring students to the factory so they can play detective and identify improvement opportunities.”

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