BH Takes Its Training into the Virtual World | Live BH

BH Takes Its Training into the Virtual World

February 22, 2024 |

Virtual reality is real when it comes to BH training its maintenance technicians.

BH’s pilot program with Interplay Learning began in mid-November 2023 at 14 select communities across the country where it has been adopted and embraced for the past three months.

Interplay is an on-demand trades training platform, delivering a growing catalog of courses, 3D simulations, and a comprehensive suite of measurement and engagement tools designed for skilled trades businesses such as apartment maintenance technicians. BH partnered with Interplay to revolutionize the way our maintenance professionals enhance their skills in HVAC, electrical, appliances, and plumbing.

Interplay’s virtual reality (VR) training leverages its immersive learning platform to enable participants to train and practice hands-on learning from any device or in a VR environment. Understanding how virtual reality headsets work is beneficial but not required.

Tech-savvy or not, technicians quickly become comfortable with classes that offer a deeper understanding of basic and advanced maintenance tasks.

“The VR controls are easy to learn,” Michael Coogler, BH Regional Facilities Manager, says. “It’s super simple and intuitive. When I watched one co-worker in training, he looked like a ‘natural.’ After about an hour, you get used to how VR works. If you are new to VR, you have to learn to ‘let go’ of reality. You have to realize you aren’t going to break anything. Once you have that mindset, you get moving right through it.”

Since the launch, 48 out of our 82 pilot members have engaged with the platform from within BH Corporate University (BHCU). This represents an engagement rate of 58.5%.

Those 48 associates had a total of 381 separate class engagements. This represents an average class rate of 7.94 interactions per person.

Our leaderboard shows two individuals (a service technician and a service manager) with 19 classes each and two individuals (a regional facilities manager and an assistant service manager) with 15 classes each.

Additionally, there are more than a dozen people with 10 classes or more.

Overall, there have been 46 active users in the system for a 56.1% engagement rate and 71 total VR courses completed, or an average of 1.7 classes per user.

Robert Taylor, BH Facilities Coach, says he was pleased that the pilot was presented to our test properties without any hard due dates for completion. “We did not want the feedback to be tainted by an ‘I-had-to-do-it’ feeling. Word of mouth has been positive.”

Lessons at Novice, Intermediate, and Master Levels

Michael calls the training the closest thing to doing the work without actually having a tool in your hand.

“The training is so well thought out,” he says. “It covers all the fundamentals from start to finish, including safety.”

Michael adds that the program relieves some pressure on regional trainers who sometimes have to squeeze a lot of training into a small amount of time.

Michael was trained in the field as a maintenance technician and is using Interplay to advance his skill levels and capacity.

“Interplay helps you because it tells you what to look for (such as meter readings), what to do, and why you are doing it,” Michael says. “Some techs are used to just doing what they are told and not why they are doing it a certain way.

He adds, “When you are doing a lesson, you might be down on your knees, fixing something at ground level like for an HVAC unit. It looks funny because there’s nothing really there. You are in a virtual world.”

Lessons are given at novice, intermediate, and master levels. A master course could take as long as four hours. Most of the others take about an hour or so.

Matt Hogan, BH Regional Facilities Manager in Dallas-Fort Worth, says with VR training, “It immerses you in the experiences. I did some training, from standing on a high-rise rooftop looking at systems to the furnace in a basement.

He’s comfortable with the program because, as he says, “You are learning – such as things related to high voltage electricity – in a safe manner. That’s important for anyone touching these wires for the first time.”

Matt says the system enables maintenance technicians to learn other systems that maybe they are not exposed to or familiar with.

“Before Interplay, we relied on hands-on training from co-workers,” Matt says. “That’s great to understand specifically what is used in your community, but by expanding your knowledge with this training, you are better able to help at another BH property down the street that may have different systems.

“I’m a huge fan of Interplay because I’m a huge believer in training. It’s revolutionary. I always want to stay up to date on what’s going on today. You can learn at your own pace.”

Both technicians are excited about the possibilities for them and other BH’ers as the training moves forward.

Training Fits into BH University, Too

Interplay delivers content through BHCU and in the VR experience itself.

Robert says one surprise, unexpectedly, was how convenient the Interplay app was for accessing non-VR content. With just a couple of taps, a user can quickly access any BH-created content from a tablet or other connected device.

“It has become my go-to method of handling many of the behind-the-scenes BHCU admin duties,” he says. “This ease of access opens the door for a ‘Training on the Go’ approach for future development.”

The BHCU learning paths were added to the user group’s “My Training” dashboard without any due dates. This allowed the users to pick and choose as well as jump around from class to class. Learning paths were left unlocked so that they could move from class to class and revisit those that interest them.

Robert says that VR is not a replacement for in-person, hands-on workshop training.

“It’s a piece of the puzzle and provides another tool for advancing the careers of our maintenance team members,” he says. “We are continuing to explore this platform and the 100 licenses that were included in the pilot. We are currently sending out surveys to our test group and we’re excited to get their feedback.”