Creating experiential experiences learners can practice as many times as needed
What modality would you use if you wanted your learners to practice their soft skills? Or, say you wanted to present a model to help learners understand the parts of a machine—where in your L&D toolbox would you go? Or what if you wanted participants to practice a process they’ll need to do on the job? If you responded, “simulations” to any of these talent challenges, you’ve hit upon a great option. Simulations (sims) are experiential learning tools imitating a situation or process.
Is a Sim the Right Choice?Tristia Hennessey, author of “ Simulations: Learning Lived Out,” explains, “Simulations enable learners to practice procedures and operations in safe and scalable environments with less risk or waste. They provide opportunities to learn by doing.”
However, simulations are not the answer for every L&D project. They’re not a good standalone learning solution, for example. Instead, learners need context for why they’re practicing what they’re doing or learning about a particular model.
Further, you don’t want to use complex digital sims with an audience uncomfortable with technology. Consider location and the availability of tools for learners. Will you teach learners in the classroom or will they be learning remotely, for example? Will the sim require using a headset learners might have to borrow for the exercise?
Hennessey also advises considering internet connectivity before deciding on a virtual reality (VR) solution.
How much time will you have to develop your simulation? What design tools do you have readily available? And what subject matter experts and other stakeholders will you rely on for this teaching? Those, too, will be factors in whether sims are the right modality and how complex your sim learning experience can be.
Types of SimsThere are several types of simulations, according to Hennessey:
- Software Sims—Tools such as Camtasia, Captivate, or Storyline can help you create a video tutorial showing learners their objective, followed by an interactive experience simulating the functions the learner needs to do to achieve it.
- Process Sims—As the name indicates, process sims walk learners through processes step-by-step. These sims can instruct on assembling or disassembling machinery, for example, or show a physical process like a document-based task.
- Model Sims—Model sims can demonstrate the mechanics of something, anywhere from an animal’s nervous system to a device’s inner parts.
- Role-Play Sims—Want leaders to improve their communication skills? Roleplaying simulations create a safe space for practicing something often uncomfortable in person, such as having a difficult conversation.
After deciding on the sim right for your learning experience, Hennessey advises L&D leaders to dissect content and “assume nothing, and document everything”—that is, ensure you understand all the necessary steps a learner must take for an effective sim. Finally, take advantage of collaborative tools such as Miro or Mural to organize branching scenarios before testing your sim with actual users.
Getting Buy-In for SimsWill your decision-making leaders support the idea of a simulation for the learning challenge? Will learners be interested and engaged in the practice?
Gaining the support of leaders requires a strong message. Share the design idea, goal, milestones, and how the simulation addresses the learning or behavior issue. Spend time on the internet as “both inspiration for your design and for demonstrating the value behind the design,” recommends Hennessey.
Simulation is often a new modality for learners, causing them to be hesitant. This is where a strong brand message can help. Also, consider the whole learner journey when designing the sim to improve the odds of learner buy-in by understanding the desired future state for each employee.
With the right content, a well-designed sim can exponentially improve training for your organization, creating more effective learning experiences and more satisfied employees.