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 to the behavior or skill as possible. 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. And, an assessment, while effective, lacks the learner engagement necessary to achieve comprehension and retention.
To help instructional designers avoid "half cadence" simulations, I've created a job aid based on my past failures:
1. What is the business goal of the simulation? I.e. Sell 20 more cars per salesperson this year.
2. What application based learning objectives do you want to satisfy with the simulation? I.e. 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"
- 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 3 response options at each decision point
4. Assess the learner for application not knowledge. I.e. The customer states they are looking for a minivan. What do you say?
a. “Ok, would you like a sunroof?”
b. “What will you be using the minivan for?”
c. “How many kids do you have?”
5. Ask SME's for assistance and have them provide realistic details behind the simulation's story. Prompt them with questions to help provoke thought.
6. Ask SME's for plausible wrong answers and performance gaps they would like to fill.
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 the following:
- Decision point prompts i.e. What do you say?
- 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 may choose to also include "why" this 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” “no” or nonverbal communication from the on-screen actor. If there is no substantive response from the actor, move forward to the next decision point.
13. Finally, read aloud with a partner for authenticity during your review process.
This, by no means, is a complete list of guidelines. I invite you to add to it after you write your next simulation. Let me know how it goes, I encourage feedback and enjoy learning from other’s successes and failures.