Virtual training can play a big role in acquiring IT skills.India’s IT industry is growing rapidly. Since 2008 it’s increased more than 30 percent to reach ₹5 trillion (U.S. $82 billion). We are also the world’s fourth largest base for start-up businesses — presently home to 3,000 tech start-ups, and set to increase our base to 11,500 tech start-ups by 2020. By 2018, India’s internet economy is projected to exceed more than ₹10 trillion (U.S. $161 billion), accounting for five per cent of India’s gross domestic product.

With the proliferation of internet connected devices and the Internet of Everything, there is a tremendous need for more IT professionals, especially in fields like networking and cybersecurity. Each and every one of these IT professionals will need training.

The best IT training courses include a hands-on approach that provides direct experience in executing crucial tasks with minimal error and cost. Virtual training (VT) simulations provide the IT student a valuable opportunity to engage in practical training, in an easier, less expensive and safer manner.

Numerous studies have shown that, when learning practical IT tasks, high levels of interaction with the subject matter result in better performance outcomes than a traditional video-learning method. Many students even report feeling a greater social presence within the learning environment.

The idea behind VT is that repeating practical tasks reinforces learning. Students are at liberty to repeat tasks as many times as required, at their own pace and free from excess pressure. In simulated work environments, students practice high-risk situations without the risk of catastrophic failure. VT allows one to gain the relevant experience and confidence required to perform IT tasks with ease.

For example, the layout plan for setting up and maintaining a network can be practiced virtually to analyse and test the efficiency of the system. The layout design can be put through various tests to gain a proper understanding of the system and any flaws that occur during operation.

The next step is obviously addressing and rectifying any flaws and redesigning where necessary. With VT, the design loop can continue until the most effective and efficient layout is obtained.

VT accomplishes the task of developing a trainee’s learning experience into practical experience through flexible, programmable and controlled environments tailored to the trainee’s needs. Direct interaction with specific learning content also encourages active engagement and motivates creative thinking.

Hands-on experience from repetitive interactions with the important process and steps allows technical tasks to be carried out in live environments effectively and inexpensively.

VT scenarios are increasingly common in industries dealing with technology. Some examples include flight simulators, nuclear refuelling, and even heart surgery. This helps trainees and their instructors avoid expensive crashes, meltdowns and needless deaths.

An example of such a VT tool for the IT field is TestOut Corporation’s LabSim training program. LabSim is designed to prepare students for IT certification exams. Trainees first learn an IT topic online, and then practice their skills performing specific scenarios in a safe and inexpensive simulated environment. This permits trainees to show not only what they know, but more importantly, what they can do with their IT knowledge.

Besides familiarizing trainees with specific work scenarios, developers and instructors can also include specific procedures designed to collect data on trainee performance. These may include task completion measures, sense of presence, workload and rated usability. Multiple measures provide different scenarios and the associated reactions (natural) can be documented and later verified if further action is required.

Data collection from trainee simulations in VT are typically utilized to improve the experience and its applicability to an actual work environment. Usability tests can give recommendations for changes to the user interface and interaction techniques, e.g., how to improve navigation or how to better present the information. Developers and instructors can have an empirical comparison of different designs that provide employers a basis for deciding between testing methods and trainee applicants.

As the demand for IT professionals continues to increase, VT simulations are becoming even more important. Trainees utilizing VT gain increased awareness of the consequences of their actions in safe, simulated work environments while gaining essential knowledge and experience performing job duties. They also gain the confidence to think and act more quickly with problems that arise. Additionally, employers benefit from more comprehensive trainee knowledge, motivation, job-engagement and lower employee turnover.