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Learning and Professional Development Go Virtual

An Update on the Future of Learning from AICPA ENGAGE

ENGAGE VR2017 is expected to be the year of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI) and digital assistants, according to Newsweek. Analysts at Gartner also included these technologies in their 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2017.  It’s likely you are engaging with many of them already. Perhaps you have an Alexa device on your kitchen counter or you’ve asked Siri a question on your iPhone. If you’ve used Uber or Lift or clicked on a personalized Amazon recommendation, you’ve taken advantage of AI. But have you thought about how these emerging technologies will impact your learning and professional development?

The exhibit hall at AICPA ENGAGE has a plethora of tech demos including AR and VR. I stopped by to see what the AICPA Learning Design and Development team has been working on and got an opportunity to try their virtual reality and augmented reality experiences. This was my first time trying these immersive technologies, and I was eager to put on the VR headset to see what all the buzz was about.

Virtual reality (VR) gained popularity in gaming and is steadily moving into educational settings as the VR headwear becomes more affordable. My middle school-aged daughter has used Google Cardboard in her classroom, and VR is beginning to gain ground in professional development as well. The use of this technology engages multiple senses, which can help a learner retain new knowledge in a way that a text simply can’t. It makes it possible to interact with and manipulate content. VR also mitigates the distractions found in a traditional classroom and forces a student to focus. It is perfect for visual learners.

The VR demo at AICPA ENGAGE gives attendees two distinct experiences: first, you can use the VR technology to engage with the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations (COSO) framework in 3 dimensions and in turn explore each facet individually; the second experience simulates an ethics hotline call center. You become the person responding to calls and providing the caller with information. This allows you to test your knowledge in a low-stress setting and become comfortable in a call center environment.

The team also developed an augmented reality (AR) experience for AICPA ENGAGE. Augmented reality superimposes digital information on the physical world in real time. It pulls graphics and sounds into the real world and allows the user to manipulate these objects. The AR uses a postcard and a smartphone app to bring elements of the event to life. With this technology, you can view videos, see the ENGAGE logo in 3D and even take a quiz.

The development of new technologies like VR and AR are part of the AICPA’s Future of Learning initiative, a global learning vision that is focused on lifelong learning and competency. The Future of Learning is designed to help the accounting profession adapt to a rapidly changing world and support the development of new skills and competencies.

If you didn’t make it to AICPA ENGAGE, you can experience a blend of technologies in self-study online. These courses combine audio, videos, graphics, text and whiteboarding in interactive exercises for a dynamic presentation of content.

Jennifer Gardner, Manager--Communications and Social Strategy, Member Learning & Competency, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

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