According to the 70:20:10 Framework the majority of learning is done on the job, so naturally trainers are looking for ways to incorporate this crucial area into their training portfolios. Simulations allow L&D professionals to create a structured learning environment around the 70% of learning that’s hardest to reach.
There is no perfect substitute for direct experience and participation, but simulations that mimic the real thing as closely as possible can save money and (in the case of airline pilots and doctors) can even saves lives. In business, simulations solve an important problem for learning leaders because:
- As technology has exponentially advanced and systems have become more dynamic, managers and professionals have increased difficulty learning especially about complex systems with multiple priorities under pressing deadlines.
- At the same time, advances in technology have given us the ability – and at a lower cost – to create computer-based simulations to duplicate workplace experiences and provide “just in time” feedback.
Let’s take a look at some key benefits of computer-based simulations as a learning tool; this methodology allows the learner…
- To visualize the application of the key aspects of the process or system in “real time.”
- To test the theoretical “what ifs” by manipulating variables and finding out what works – and what does not work – without costing the company time or money by testing this out “real-time” on the job.
- To view the impact of one’s own and/or other people’s behavior on the actions or lack of actions.
- To learn more about interactive and complex decision making (that can be debriefed in the moment and transferred to real-world problems and decision making).
- To realize higher-level cognitive outcomes because of the control exercised in a simulated environment.
It is important to emphasize that simulations are not games; their aim is to educate and inform. Simulations are best when they are closely related to the system or process in the workplace. At the same time, they should be a bit more generalized to allow for full participation from multiple functions within the company.
The learning from simulations is maximized in large part because the constructive feedback from the simulation itself enables participants to take full responsibility for their own learning along with the support – and the ongoing feedback – from peers.
One of the key observations from watching participants working with computer-based learning is the high level of engagement – including the ability to be the one in control. Who would think you would see people arguing over who is in control of the mouse!
As with all learning methodologies, computer-based simulations need to be carefully designed and incorporated into the learning experience so the application of the learning to the workplace is properly introduced, integrated throughout and reinforced.
Simulation learning is a virtual medium in which leaders, managers and other professionals can acquire business skills in a memorable way that can support the company and make it more successful. That said, as with all learning methodologies, computer-based simulations need to be integrated and properly aligned with both learning design and learning objectives to maximize the return on investment.