Instructional Design

Could Simulations Help You Capture the Holy Grail of eLearning?

The perfect combination of learning, application and performance: It’s what every eLearning professional wants learners to get out of a program. It’s the Holy Grail of eLearning, proving that the delivery and material get results.

Of course, if you really want to capture the Holy Grail, you’re going to need a lot more than a few PowerPoint presentations. Instead, utilizing simulation-based eLearning could help get you there. As learners participate in and test out their newfound knowledge and skills, they’re more likely to engage with the material and apply what they’ve learned in real world situations. The improvement is then properly attributed to the training, and that Holy rests safely in your hands – until your next eLearning task, anyway.

When Simulations Work

While simulations have proven to be highly effective in training and learning settings, they’re not ideal for every situation. Instead, reserve simulation environments, exercises and games for when the training is hands-on and skill-based. When a learner is tasked with following a new technique or changing the way things used to be done, simulations make sense: They give learners a chance to practice in a controlled environment before entering a real world setting.

Simulations don’t really make sense when eLearning is knowledge based only. Take compliance training, for example: Learners don’t need to “act out” or test out compliance before going to work. Instead, compliance training is one of those knowledge-based or “need to know” tenants of onboarding, so information-based delivery methods are usually more appropriate.

Still, there are a number of areas where simulations are highly effective and instrumental in achieving the highest degree of eLearning success:

  • Sales training
  • Safety procedure training
  • Military applications
  • High-risk environments (learners can test out new techniques before applying them on the job in a high-risk situation).
  • Any time a change in behavior is required for the learner to be successful.


Making the Switch to Simulation Training

Feel like simulation training is your best bet? Start by identifying which of your eLearning programs would benefit from the addition of a simulation or role-playing situation. Again, focus on learning objectives that are performance-based, like sales or customer service. Any time a learner would benefit from hands-on experience, simulation works.

Sure, simulation can be high tech: Obviously the program used to teach a bomb squad how to dismantle a threat is going to vastly different from a simulation for face-to-face sales. Starting with role-playing among participants, something as simple as designing a simulated customer or service experience allows you to implement simulations in your eLearning program almost immediately.

Eventually, role playing, games and even computerized simulation training can give you method to accurately gauge the proficiency of each learner. In the end, capturing that Holy Grail of education, application and performance may be less about luck and more about practice making perfect.