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How to Avoid Half-Cadence Video Simulations

Tuesday, December 19, 2017
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The first time I immersed myself in a video-based simulation, I felt like something was off, uneasy,, or just plain awkward. For those musically inclined, it was like hearing a half cadence or a sequence of incomplete notes. These half-cadence simulations are a source of great frustration because simulations are meant to bring the learner as close as possible to the ideal behavior or skill. However, when you fail to use this principle as your guide, you risk impeding the flow of realistic dialogue and creating an assessment rather than a simulation. What’s more, while an assessment is effective, it lacks the learner engagement necessary to achieve comprehension and retention.

To help instructional designers avoid half-cadence simulations, designers should follow 13 key guidelines. (I've created this job aid based on my past failures!)

1. Identify the business goal of the simulation. For example, the goal may be to sell 20 more cars per salesperson this year.

2. Know what application-based learning objectives you want to satisfy with the simulation. For example, do you want to ask questions that uncover the buying motives of the customer?

3. Follow good application evaluation design guidelines:

  • Avoid using "all of the above" and "none of the above" options.
  • All responses must be plausible.
  • Don't use fill-in-the-blanks.
  • Spread correct answers through the response options.
  • Eliminate excessive verbiage.
  • Use at least three response options at each decision point.

4. Assess the learner for application not knowledge. For example, what should the sales rep say when the customer states they are looking for a minivan? Is it:

  • “OK, would you like a sunroof?”
  • “What will you be using the minivan for?”
  • “How many kids do you have?”

5. Have SMEs provide realistic details behind the simulation's story. Offer question prompts that provoke thought.

6. Ask SMEs for plausible wrong answers and performance gaps they would like to fill.

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7. Make all dialogue short. Remember, Alfred Hitchcock said, a good story is “life, with the dull parts taken out.” You don’t have to tell the learner everything.

8. Use voice-over narration sparingly for instructions, decision-point prompts, and corrective feedback.

9. Provide corrective feedback for wrong answers only. Do not provide reinforcement feedback for correct answers.

10. Corrective feedback should be concise and offer the correct answer as dialogue to bridge to the next decision point. You also may choose to include "why" something is the correct response.

11. After the learner watches the videotaped response to his or her answer and receives corrective feedback, automatically advance to the next decision point. Avoid "Next" or "Submit" buttons.

12. Avoid short video responses like “yes” and “no,” as well as nonverbal communication from the on-screen actor. If there is no substantive response from the actor, move forward to the next decision point.

13. Read aloud with a partner for authenticity during your review process.

By no means, is this a complete list of guidelines. I invite you to add to it after you develop your next simulation. Let me know how it goes; I encourage feedback and enjoy learning from other’s successes and failures.

Want to learn more? Join me at ATD TechKnowledge 2018 for the session, “Anatomy of a Video-Based Simulation,” which is part of the Serious Games & Simulations track.

About the Author
Dan Keckan is vice president of e-learning and instructional design at Cinecraft Productions. He works with organizations to design and develop learning strategies, and provides thought leadership that achieves measurable business results. His expertise is in matching learning modalities to the actual skill or behavior that creates an authentic simulation. Most recently, he helped design Ace Hardware’s Helpful 101 curriculum, which won a bronze Brandon Hall Award, Henkel Corporation's Virtual Window Install with the Immersive Learning Award at DemoFest 2016 and a microcourse solution for Booz Allen Hamilton with a Best of Show at DemoFest 2017.
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