August, 2011

The Secrets Of Successful Training Simulations

Developing effective and meaningful training simulations takes knowledge, an understanding of the learning process, as well as a keen eye for detail. Since all training simulations and serious games have different objectives, knowing what elements to include and how to present the material to the learner in the serious games is critical. In addition, 3D game authoring requires an ability to add relevant details while avoiding overwhelming the learner with a lot of extra fluff that has absolutely no bearing on the learning that is to happen.

Subjects For Simulations
While almost any type of situation can be included in serious games and training simulations, not all categories of learning are effectively taught using synthetic learning environments. Training simulations that include decision making in real time, multitasking within a work environment and performing tasks under typical or atypical pressure types of situations are ideal. It is also important to keep in mind that any type of requirement for whole concept types of decision making and systemic thinking over single decisions are great subjects for this type of learning environment. In some situations, the specifics of the simulation can quickly point out any cognitive dissonance or competing thoughts, beliefs or perceptions associated with a specific type of action, thought or decision.

Learning Not Gaming
While one of the major attractions and benefits to training simulations is that they are provided in a game type of format, they are not by very definition, the same thing as a game. Therefore the simulations must be related directly to the learning objectives and measure the responses and skills obtained or mastered by the learners. For some types of very specific skill training, a highly detailed and very realistic type of simulation may be essential, but for most types of training the background and details provided have to be minimized or limited to really allow the training to be memorable and transferable to a variety of different settings.

How To Assess and Monitor Performance
Both quantitative and qualitative types of performance measures need to be carefully considered when developing the training simulation. All quantitative recording and data collection leads to a very dry and limiting type of evaluation. Using a group or panel of experts that each develop a learning objective and blend these learning outcomes into the simulation allows for a much more realistic and comprehensive type of learning experience. The details of the simulation and the rationale behind each learning objective and serious game component can then be reviewed and feedback obtained through each learner, providing an additional layer of understanding and clarity to the training experience.

Constant Evolution
Training simulations can and should evolve over time based on the feedback of the learners and the tweaking that is required by management and training coordinators. It is important to be able to understand the feedback that learners are providing and make the appropriate changes. In some situations the learners may appreciate the game aspects of the simulation, but may not actually master the learning objectives. A good balance between learning and fun is something that will usually need to be modified after the launch of the simulation and the 3D interactive training format.