The training course, named SJx, uses Oculus Go headsets to take students, in groups of four, through a one-hour session during which they can gain accreditation. The trainers can manage students, assign hardware, synchronise content and provide certification through a custom-built iPad app.
St John business manager for commercial training, David Loiacono [below, right], told iTWire that the VR course had a number of pluses: it was shorter, needed less space to be administered and was better when it came to retention of what had been learnt.
The portability of the equipment used meant that it would be easily administered in regional locations as well, he said.
St John chief executive Gordon Botwright [left] said the prime motive behind the new course was to improve survival rates, increasing the proportion of those who received CPR and defibrillation where needed.
"We want to see trained people more prepared to use their CPR skills, instead of merely receiving training for compliance reasons," he said.
The cost of the VR course is actually more - the old method cost $75 and the new one costs $95 - but the positives have ensured that this did not become a hurdle. St John receives no recurrent government funding; it is a non-profit which has to manage its own budget.
Botwright said the organisation had done some research before deciding that VR would be a good path to traverse. Research had shown that people who had been trained through VR were more ready to respond in a real-life situation, with about 85% being ready, compared to 58% who were trained through the old method.
St John launched the VR course with a campaign at the Southern Cross Station recently and some TV coverage resulted; direct approaches were also being made to big customers, Botwright added.
The plan was to see how the CPR module was received and then move to creating VR courses for other modules, he said. A CPR module had been created for the childcare industry as well.
Kain Tietzel, the chief executive of Start VR, the company which created the VR software, said that though VR was not big among ordinary users, business was seeing wide adoption.
He said his company, which started out a little less than four years ago, had created a VR app for Qantas, and also done work for Samsung, Facebook and Westpac.
"We specialise in interactive storytelling and St John approached us during their tender process," Tietzel said, adding that Start VR was one of four companies which were canvassed.
The St John CPR course uses Oculus headsets which cost about $300 apiece. Tietzel said about 500 such headsets had been sold in the last 12 months, emphasising his earlier point about the rapid adoption of the technology by businesses.
There are three parts to the VR software:
- a student application that delivers interactive course content and assessment to VR and iPad devices;
- a trainer app that manages student attendance and assessment, synchronises media playback and ensures the simple and elegant roll-out of training; and
- an installation app that works with large format projectors to immerse groups of up to 20 users in a two-hour class variant. This works in concert with a BYOD offering where students are invited to take
their written assessments from their personal smartphone.