Diversity and Inclusion Training Through Virtual Reality

Project Title: Diversity and Inclusion Training Through Virtual Reality

Long Title (if desired): Developing Student Diversity and Inclusion Skills Through Virtual Reality

Project Lead's Name: Gillian Oakenfull

Project Lead's Email: goakenfull@MiamiOH.edu

Project Lead's Phone: 513-253-4515

Project Lead's Division: FSB

Primary Department: Marketing, Project Lead Is FSB Faculty Director of Diversity and Inclusion and is submitting the proposal In that role.

List Departments Benefiting or Affected by this proposal: All Farmer School of Business Students will benefit from this proposal. It will also be available to FSB faculty and staff.

  • Department of Accountancy
  • Department of Finance
  • Department of Marketing
  • Department of Information Systems and Analytics
  • Department of Economics
  • Department of Management

Estimated Number of Under-Graduate students affected per year (should be number who will actually use solution, not just who is it available to): 1,400

Estimated Number of Graduate students affected per year (should be number who will actually use solution, not just who is it  available to): 22

Describe the problem you are attempting to solve and your approach for solving that problem: Innovative strategies and successful solutions to business problems depend on cultivating vital knowledge, skills, and tools to live, leam, and lead In a diverse and dynamic business world. For 2020-2025, the Farmer School of Business' Strategic Initiatives places a high priority on graduating ethical leaders who embrace diversity, equity and Inclusion and are ready to add value In a global business environment.

Awareness of the potential biases, or "blind spots," one may have toward others Is the first step toward Improving one's effectiveness with diverse colleagues and customers. Left unchecked, unconscious biases are detrimental to leading effectively In the 21st Century-whether It's hiring, marketing, or strategic planning. Ghfen this, companies, governments, and universities are investing millions of dollars in teaching staff about the Implicit preferences they have for certain groups of people.

Currently, most training for cognitive bias Is In the form of classroom training, focus groups, slides, and written content to create awareness through mental stimulation (Imagination) to see the perspective of minorities within the workplace. Most of these diversity training Initiatives fail because:

  • Organizations attempt to "legislate" more positive attitudes toward diversity. This approach usually leaves white male els-gender males as merely "dummy variables" in the diversity equation.
  • A number of studies suggest traditional methods often activate bias or spark a backlash. As such, traditional D&I training methods may unintentionally lead to Increased alienation of the small proportion of Miami university students who are minorities.
  • The Impact Is rarely long-term. Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev In the HBR article, "Why Diversity Programs Fair' state that "researchers have been examining that question since before World War II, In nearly a thousand studies. It turns out that while people are easily taught to respond correctly to a question about bias, they soon forget the right answers. The positive effects of diversity training rarely last beyond a day or two."
  • Many training programs place the responsibility for Increasing empathy and diminishing bias within the larger majority of non-minority individuals within the organization.
One of the Farmer School's Strategic Initiatives Is to "Prepare Innovative and agile graduates who are capable of adapting to fast-paced change." It is committed to delivering the integrated skills-based curriculum with innovative co-curricular experiences, with a specific focus on experiential learning opportunities. As such, our approach to Diversity and Inclusion training for FSB students must avoid the pitfalls of traditional training methods while addressing diversity and Inclusion with an emphasis on skill development, experiential learning, and evidence-based learning.


The Farmer School of Business's approach to diversity and Inclusion ls not anchored In demographics or In-groups and out11roups, but is based In providing students with an understanding how they think, how they feel, and how they make decisions as humans when faced with different and unfamiliar contexts. Consistent with this, as part of a new Beyond Ready Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) program, the Farmer School of Business seeks funding for an Innovative Virtual Reality Diversity and Inclusion training program that will allow students to literally see from the point of view of others, including those of a different gender, race, age, or ability level.

We will work with Equal Reality, a leading-edge technology company dedicated to creating impactful and measurable Diversity and Inclusion training In Virtual Reality (VR). Equal Reality has developed a unique experiential cognitive behavior training method that enhances empathy and Increases retention of Information. The company's VR experiences allow you to "walk a mile In someone else's shoes" to learn what It is like to experience discrimination or Inappropriate behavior.

The company released the world's first Diversity and Inclusion application In VR which became the most popular business application on Vlveport (VR App Store) in the US, the UK, and Australia.

Corporate and Government organizations are currently leveraging Equal Reality's software and expertise to generate their own customized VR simulations for Diversity, Inclusion and behavior learning. Equal Reality's corporate clients Include Amazon, Procter and Gamble, PWC, Google, JP Morgan, and Intel.

Key Benefits of Equal Reality's Virtual Reality Solutions:

  • It places the user In the shoes of a minority within the workplace {as wall as others perspectives within a scenario). Users can quite literally experience the perspective of someone else In the work environment, to see, feel, and hear In a different way In order to truly understand and empathize. Virtual reality can give someone a completely different and unique experience that generates new emotions and types of empathy that the Imagination would struggle to achieve without VR assistance. Please follow this link to see a few examples of Equal Reality's VR simulations https:/lwww.youtube.com/watch?Ume_contlnue=8&v=dTVeXAc81Gw
  • Identify unconscious bias and how It emanates in a non-confrontational way. VR can create a safe environment, where the user can feel less judgment and fear of being shamed. It allows an uninhibited platform for learning, particularly when It comes to complex and sensitive topics. It's not pointing the finger al anyone (like traditional training) and telling them how they shouldn't act. It is showing them how bias looks, feels, as well as how to identify it and address it with the appropriate behavior.
  • Collects data and tracks progress over time. Equal Reality collects data Mien users Identify unconscious bias. It also collects data on the user's response to bias and how It changes or stays the same over time, but also provides as a platform to train behavior to mitigate or prevent unconscious bias in the workplace. The data produced by the VR training would provide FSB students with evidence-based learning that could be highlighted on their resume to demonstrate their work readiness


  1. CORPORATE SIMULATION AND TRAINING WORKSHOPS: Equal Reality would provide the Farmer School of Business with on11olng access to their VR applications and training workshops and materials on Disability Discrimination, Gender Discrimination, Exclusion In the Workplace, Power In the Workplace, and Challenging Conversations. This will provide students and faculty with exposure to training material that was created as a customized solution for corporate clients. These experiences are designed to kick start conversations on Inclusion and provide organizations with an entry point to immersive learning. Each application highlights slightly different features and provides a sense of what Is possible with more robust custom training builds.
  2. CUSTOMIZED SIMULATION AND TRAINING WORKSHOP: In addition, the Farmer School of Business will work with the Equal Reality development team to create a customized VR simulation and training, specifically for use with Farmer School of Business students. This provides us full control over the type of bias we can address and the situations and contexts in which students can be placed. The simulation would Include a customized "empathy scene" where students would experience bias In the shoes of someone else and a "bystander response", where students can choose their own adventure style. This will provide us with the ability to collect customized data specific to both student learning objectives training and program assessment. The customized immersive learning program will include:
  • Data collection (trigger pull at points of bias and where you were looking)
  • Tailored 3D environment
  • Customized 3D characters relevant to the scenario
  • Voice acting Integration
  • Customized animations (face and body)
  • Technical software development
  • UX testing and optimization
  • Organizational branding on title scene and credits

The training development partnership would operate over three initial phases taking three months to implement and continue as support.

3. PREMIUM SUPPORT: Equal Reality ensures the success of Integration and implementation with execution support, training the trainer programs, and measuring results. With this approach, designated FSB personnel, Including students, would be trained to operate the equipment and work with the data produced by the customized simulation and those from the public library. Additionally, Equal Reality would be on-site to launch the program, facilitate the Initial workshops and ensure that the system is performing as designed. We would also receive on-going premium support.

  • Including 2 days of in-person support (helping with initial implementation, training, and consultation).
  • Including 6-month premium support (high priority support (email, chat, phone, video), dedicated on-call support, consultation on VR Implementation and scale.
  • Including ongoing maintenance support (dedicated on-call support (email, chat, phone, video)).
How would you describe the innovation and/or the significance of your project: The Farmer School of Business is committed to ensuring its graduates are "BEYOND READY'' for their lives and careers. Consistent with our long-standing commitment to preparing global leaders, the Farmer School's innovative skills-based curriculum is designed to provide students with the ability to think critically, to engage with diverse teams collaboratively, to remain open to new ideas and perspectives, to cultivate emotional and cultural intelligence, and to communicate strategically as they prepare to become part of a vibrant global economy.

At Miami University, diversity and inclusion Are exponentially both important and challenging as only 11% of currently-enrolled Miami University students identify as minorities. Consistent with the recommendations in Miami University's Strategic plan, we have to demonstrate to prospective students that Miami University is an inclusive environment and that we have the tools in place to provide them the preparation they need for a rapidly-changing global environment.

The Farmer School of Business is focused on creating curricular and co-curricular initiatives to develop Cultural Intelligence (CQ), the ability to adapt successfully to a new cultural setting. The term "culture" is often used as a synonym for nationally or ethnicity. However, it can also apply to different ideological or political groups, and to different organizations, age groups, or departments. Most notably, Cultural Intelligence is not innate: students can develop it along with other key work skills. Cultural Intelligence is related to emotional intelligence, but it goes a step further. People with high emotional intelligence can pick up on the emotions, wants, and needs of others. Those with high cultural intelligence are attuned to the values, beliefs, attitudes, and body language of people from different cultures; and they use this knowledge to interact with empathy and understanding. People with high cultural intelligence are not experts in every culture; rather, they use observation, empathy, and intelligence to read people and situations and to make informed decisions about why others are acting as they are. They also use cultural intelligence to monitor their own actions. Instead of making quick judgments or relying on stereotypes, they observe what is happening, and they adapt their own behavior accordingly.

Additionally, the use of virtual reality In the curriculum would provide the Farmer School of Business with a vital competitive advantage over peer schools, combining key strategic initiatives around Diversity and Inclusion, skill development and innovative technology in the curriculum. As previously mentioned, Equal Reality's clients include some of the leading multinational corporations in the world. However, while corporations have embraced Diversity and Inclusion training through VR, it has yet to be implemented within higher education curriculum to provide students with the cultural intelligence they need to succeed in a diverse workplace and marketplace.

EVIDENCE OF IMPACT OF VR FOR COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL TRAINING: Even though virtual reality itself is still a hard-to-grasp Idea for most people who have not experienced it, the clinical use for VR as therapy has been generating a "rich scientific literature" for the past 20 years. There has been a wealth of scientific literature for the past 20 years about the effectiveness of Virtual Reality for cognitive behavioral training (See here for discussion of the use of VR for PTSD and anxiety therapy (https:/ /www.buslnesslnslder.com/how-vlrtual-reality-ls-used-for-ptsd-and-anxiety-therapy-2016-1?IR=T). It also has an advantage over video experiences, as it has the unique ability to create complex and delicate scenarios. (For more detail on the proven efficacy of VR for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, see https://lnk.sprlnger.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-3-642-17824-5_5#page- 1)

A recent study at Stanford (http:l/vhll.stanford.edu/mm/2016/02/oh-chb-vlrtually-old.pdf) showed the effectiveness of Virtual Reality over mental stimulation (imagination) in combating intergenerational bias. It demonstrated that immersive Virtual Environments required less cognitive load, and was more effective than mental stimulation in encouraging individuals with more negative outgroup attitudes to take the perspective of the outgroup member, as well as protecting participants against negative intergroup attitudes.

Virtual reality's ability to put people in the shoes of another has been used to great effect ever since the technology became readily available and affordable. VR has been lauded as "the ultimate empathy machine", (https:l/www.ted.com/talcs/chrls_mllk_how_vlrtual_reallty_can_create_the_ultimate_empathy_macl language=en) but only recently have quantitative studies borne this out. See https:l/www.computeMOrfd.com.au/artlcle/648480/vr-ralses-empathy-more-than-other-medlums­ stanford-study-fllldslfor a discussion of ground-breaking data-driven results of research at Stanford University.

How will you assess the success of the project:

  • Data is collected within the application to track user awareness and learning. Equal Reality collects data when users identify unconscious bias. It also collects data on the users' response to bias and how It changes or stays the same over time, but also provides as a platform to train behavior to mitigate or prevent unconscious bias in the workplace.
  • Additionally, we will conduct pre- and post-training measurements of Cultural Intelligence (CQ) and Unconscious Bias.
  • Cultural Intelligence (CQ): FSB students will complete an online CQ assessment and receive a personalized report. The report provides self-ratings versus global norms on four CQ capabilities and sub-dimensions. The feedback report also provides self-ratings on 10 cultural value orientations. Once they have received their post-training CQ scores, students will be required to complete a development plan for improving cultural intelligence.
  • Unconscious Blas: After the VR training, students will also take the Harvard Implicit Bias Test. Launched at Harvard University in 1998, Project Implicit offers a series of "association tests" (IAT) designed to uncover participants' unconscious biases about other demographic groups.

Financial Information

Total Amount Requested: $55,989.90

Budget Details: While VR has been around and in use for over two decades, the cost of special systems and headsets has limited its adoption. Those cost barriers to adoption were lifted in 2016 when high­ end virtual reality hardware, such as the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, became accessible and genuinely ready for the consumer market. However, while these VR sets provided the six degrees of freedom required for immersive VR training, they also required a VR  ready laptop that could cost up to $10,000. As such, using VR as the foundation for a Diversity and Inclusion training program that could be scaled for all Farmer School students was still not financially feasible - until now!

2019 has marked an enormous leap forward in the feasibility of large-scare D&I training through virtual reality. With a price tag of $499.99, the new Oculus Quest VR set has the six degrees of freedom required for immersive VR training, but, unlike its predecessors, does not need to be accompanied by a pricey VR ready laptop, or any laptop at all. A typical VR simulation lasts around five-minutes and is placed within a customized workshop. A $5,000 investment in ten Oculus Quest VR sets now makes it possible to comfortably complete a VR-driven D&I training for a typical FSB class of 30 students within a 6O-minute class period.


    • Unlimited number of VR set Licenses to Equal Reality Corporate VR Training Library
    • Development and delivery of Customized VR Training
  • Premium Support Including:
    • Implementation Support: 2 days of in-person support (helping with initial implementation, training, and consultation.)
    • Premium Support: Six months of high priority with dedicated on-call support, consultation on VR Implementation and scale
    • Maintenance Support: On-going trouble-shooting support (dedicated on-call support (email, chat, phone, video))
  • HARDWARE: $4,999.90
    • 110 Oculus Quest VR Sets ($499.99 per set)

*$50,990 Is a Negotiated Discounted Education Price for the Customized VR Solution

Corporate Cost of:

  • $84,990 for Customized VR Solution and 6-months Premium Support
  • $1,188 per VR set annual license to VR Library
  • $19,900 annual support and consultation

Is this a multi-year request: No

Please address how, if at all, this project aligns with University, Divisional, Departmental or Center strategic goals: If funded, this project will directly contribute to all four of the Farmer School of Business' newly­ created Strategic Initiatives for 2020-2025. As mentioned earlier, Cultural Intelligence is not innate, but a developmental skill that comes with coaching, training, and dialogues. With interest, support, and practice, all FSB students, regardless of their inherent divinity, can learn and develop cultural intelligence. This experiential co-curricular program will be required for all Farmer School students are part of the business core. Research has shown that an organization's commitment to actionable diversity and inclusion has a positive impact on the recruitment of faculty and staff from diverse backgrounds, which, in turn, attracts high-achieving students from diverse backgrounds. Additionally, employers who have long called out the skills gap in this area will be attracted by Farmer School graduates with high cultural intelligence and the proven ability to adapt to the difference they will experience in the workplace and the marketplace.

Farmer School of Business Strategic Initiatives for 2020-2025.

1. Prepare Innovative and agile graduates who are capable of adapting to fast-paced change.
  • Deliver an integrated skills-based curriculum with innovative co-curricular experiences.
  • Broaden and deepen experiential learning opportunities.

2. Graduate ethical leaders who embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion and are ready to add value in a global business environment.

  • Teach and model ways to embrace ethics, diversity, equity, and inclusion in everything we do.
  • Broaden and deepen global perspectives that transcend geographic boundaries.

3. Promote excellence in teaching, scholarship and the practice of business with a strong academic community of faculty and staff.

  • Support innovative teaching and programs that reflect an integrated skills-based approach to learning.
  • Recruit, retain and develop faculty and staff from diverse backgrounds creating an inclusive community with mutual respect.

4. Strengthen our relationships and share our story with alumni and friends, corporate and academic partners, with fluid and frequent engagement and communication.

  • Communicate with our stakeholders the distinctive Farmer experience

Additionally, within Miami University's Strategic Plan, the Committee on Diversity and Inclusion stated grave concern about "a number of climate issues fester and continue to adversely impact:

  • the overall morale of many students, staff, and faculty
  • Miami's reputation in and among diverse communities
  • our ability to prepare a cadre of students who are equipped to meet the challenges of diversity, inclusion, and equity, that they will experience in their personal and professional pursuits."

This customized approach detailed in this proposal is designed to address all three of these concerns by putting the Farmer School of Business and, by extension, Miami University at the forefront of diversity-related skills training within higher education. We are proposing a technique with proven results that will provide our students with enduring, demonstratable, and relatively rare cultural skills that will not only provide them with readiness for diverse and global work and living environment but will increase their attractiveness to employers who consistently complain of this skills gap.