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Please note this article was originally published by our team on elearningindustry.com.
When designing a corporate training strategy, a crucial topic to address during the planning stage is how you’ll design the training. Will it be a classroom lecture? A hands-on workshop? A mobile-friendly website? Simulation training is often an excellent route to train employees. As the name implies, it simulates, or replicates, activities employees perform in the workplace.
Designing Digitally created atraining simulation for Procter and Gamble (P&G), the biggest consumer goods company in the world. The Procter and Gamble Quality Program Health Assessment Simulation drops learners into a fictional story about a plant that is releasing a new product. They must explore all facets of the facility like they would when conducting an actual Quality Program Health Assessment (QPHA) at a site. Learners visit different sections of the 3D plant, such as the research labs, production lines, and loading docks, to discover how the site is handling the new product release. They engage in multiple types of activities to mimic various tasks. Interactions include taking photos of physical observations in a scene, making choices regarding what to say in a conversation, identifying important facts in documentation, organizing notes, and choosing the best course of action in a specific scenario. After completing the simulation, learners must write a full QPHA assessment report for the fictional plant. If they worked through each interaction thoroughly, they will have all the information they need to compile a detailed and accurate report.
The QPHA simulation gives new assessors time to explore, make mistakes, and practice conducting an entire assessment on their own. It is far more engaging than classroom presentations and facilitates realistic activities in ways eLearning cannot achieve. And, while job shadowing gives real-world experience, it does not force learners to make independent decisions as the simulation does.
There are tons of training methods available, all of which have some elements of effectiveness. However, simulation training is the only way to give learners hands-on experience in a safe, controlled environment. Here are 8 specific reasons training simulations are beneficial over other training methods.
The debate over learning styles is a hot topic in the Learning & Development space this year. Some believe they’re a myth, while others feel strongly that we should design training programs to reach various styles of learners. Regardless of which side you’re on, we can likely all agree that if you’re going to teach someone how to perform a physical action, you should let them practice the action. You can’t expect a child to learn how to hit a baseball by just telling them about it or showing them. You have to let them hold the bat and practice swinging before they can confidently say, “I know how to do it!”
Training simulations facilitate this “learn by doing” approach, which correlates to kinesthetic learning. They allow employees to emulate processes or procedures they’ll perform in the workplace. This makes them the most effective way to teach physical topics such as how to prepare ordersat a restaurant, perform equipment maintenance, and use computer software.
You can design simulation training to give learners feedback on their actions in the experience. Programmers can set this up in different ways depending on your learning objectives. One route is to stop learners whenever they make a mistake, tell them what they did wrong, and make them rectify it before they can move on. A different option is to let learners proceed through the simulation, then provide feedback at the end on what they did right and wrong. Either way, a simulation can point out to learners exactly what they’re doing wrong so they can correct their behavior.
Having this detailed feedback allows you to encourage failure within the simulation. Many people learn well by trial and error. In the real world, this can be a costly method of training, yet simulations make it possible. They give learners the freedom to experiment and try different routes. Employees then have the opportunity to celebrate their success or learn from their failure. This gets them more engaged in the training, which improves knowledge retention.
As learners fail in the simulation, seeing the consequences of their actions can help them understand why their behavior at work is important. If connecting 2 wires causes a spark, the simulation can literally show that spark if the learner connects them. This can be especially helpful to demonstrate long-term effects because a simulation doesn’t have to elapse in real time. You could show the learner a safety report or a customer review that comes out a day or week after they perform a task.
Simulation training is a great way to let employees practice dangerous activities. In fact, some of the earliest adoptions were flight simulators and military training drills. Simulations are a great way to train for hazardous professions where a wrong move can be life-threatening. They can practice in a risk-free environment, then transfer their skills to real-world applications.
Testing learners in a realistic simulation is arguably the best way to verify their proficiency in a task. Alternative methods, such as a multiple-choice quiz or even a sequencing activity, do not require the learner to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the situation like a simulation does. Although, keep in mind that earning a passing score in a simulation may not be enough to declare an employee is qualified to start work. You may still need to have a manager observe their behavior in the actual setting before turning them loose on their own. You can require learners to earn a certain score on the simulation to become eligible for a manager review. The simulation will significantly increase the likelihood of a learner passing a practical exam or evaluation because they have practiced the procedure multiple times in the simulated format.
Studies on how our brains transfer knowledge to long-term memory show that we forget the majority of things we learn. There are various models of the forgetting curve, but all of them show staggering statistics of how little information we retain over time. This is why training methods like printed manuals, lectures, and static eLearning modules often produce sub-par results. The kinesthetic aspect of a training simulation helps learners solidify the information by applying it in actual scenarios. This lengthens the forgetting curve so they can hold onto the knowledge longer.
As you weigh the pros and cons of a simulation against other learning platforms, it’s important to keep in mind that you’re not always choosing a simulation over another technique. You can design a training simulation with qualities of a serious game such as points, achievements, levels, and timers. If your learners need a mobile platform, you can develop a simulation for use on smartphones. And, if you havevirtual reality (VR) technology available for learners, you can develop the training simulation in a full VR environment. Simulations are far more flexible than classroom training or static eLearning modules because they allow you to incorporate multiple learning techniques.
Simulation training has several benefits over other training methods. Consider your resources, learning objectives, and the needs of your learners as you decide which method to use. It’s almost certain that your learners will benefit from the kinesthetic, hands-on practice a simulation provides. Take a closer look at what the benefits of simulation training are compared to other methods in corporate training and download the free eBook Investing In Simulation Training To Train In A Safe Environment - A Guide For L&D Professionals.