The evolving nature of how we work, in combination with organisational environments which require flexible and innovative training solutions, means that we’re always on the lookout for new techniques and technologies that can be utilised to create the perfect learning environment. One such way is through simulations.
What is simulation-based training?
Simulation-based training utilises a constructivist learning model – meaning that individuals learn best via a hands-on approach by experimenting and making their own discoveries, rather than being told what will happen.
By using advanced techniques and technologies, simulations can be created to provide near authentic experiences as an alternative to real-world environments. In these simulated environments, individuals can gain competency in their jobs by being immersed in real-life situations.
Although the idea remains the same, there are different types of simulations based on needs required and budget available. These range from simple screen captures of real software and basic ‘click for more information’ interactions, to more advanced data input options and full simulations, which offer complete access to all situational needs – whether that’s software training, equipment training or ‘live’ scenarios.
What sectors are simulation-based training useful for?
Simulation-based training can be useful in all sectors; however, it’s particularly beneficial in aviation, medicine, finance and manufacturing. In a situation where it may not be possible to let people train on the job with advanced systems, equipment or sensitive information, simulations provide a ‘real-life’ opportunity to train without the high costs or potential risks involved.
A common example, relevant across most companies, would be simulation-based training for CRM, HR or advisor-customer systems. In fact, it’s rare these days for organisations to not use software to handle customer data or manage company content, and it’s essential that all staff are able to use it correctly.
Employing simulation-based training as a way to ensure all staff understand how to use relevant software, means that training closely mirrors the tasks staff will need to perform in the real world, whilst giving them a platform in which they can explore and make mistakes without fear of adverse repercussions.
What are the benefits?
eLearning in general has helped provide busy workplaces with a new, more efficient way to train their staff. It can help reduce the potential costs and time associated with face-to-face training, or the loss of productivity from other staff taking on the responsibility of training others themselves. It gives individuals the opportunity to train as and when they need to.
As a form of e-learning, simulation-based training can help to bring new starters up to speed with advanced systems, equipment or sensitive information so they’re more confident getting stuck into their role straight away.
Employers can also be safe in the knowledge that each individual is being trained in exactly the same way, with all the same information available to them, creating consistency within the organisation.
If the simulation isn’t a true representation, then the individual going through the training won’t get the correct information they need. As a consequence, this may cause them to create common or critical mistakes.
Because simulation-based training is always available as eLearning, it can be used as an encyclopaedia or point of reference for all staff, allowing them to continue their training as and when they need it.
In this way, it can also help minimise the chances of mistakes occurring. And as well as showcasing features of software, systems and equipment, simulations can also be developed to include scenarios of various complexities around the required subject.
These enable individuals to go through a range of common situations and see the consequences of their actions – in effect giving them the ability to problem solve and make mistakes in a safe environment.
What are the potential challenges?
The main challenge of simulation-based training is being able to develop the simulation as a true representation of the system, process or environment used by the client. This can be hindered by technological limitations or access to the correct software, process or environment.
The same technological advances pushing L&D environments to constantly improve are also helping eLearning specialists increase their ability to create simulations that showcase true representations of systems, processes and environments.
If the simulation isn’t a true representation, then the individual going through the training won’t get the correct information they need. As a consequence, this may cause them to create common or critical mistakes they may not have made; increasing the likelihood of deadly errors, higher training and maintenance costs, and even reputational damage.
In the same way that incorrect simulations can cause potential challenges, the user experience behind the simulation may also cause issues. Creating simulation-based training that isn’t simplified enough for an individual to understand or well-structured in its design can be just as damaging, making the information difficult to retain.
What is the future impact of simulation-based training on L&D?
As mentioned before, it’s rare these days for organisations to not use software to handle customer data or manage company content. As technology advances and processes become more digital-based, a higher percentage of individuals will need to interact with these ever-evolving systems, processes and environments in their day-to-day roles.
To ensure all individuals are as efficient as possible in their roles, whilst minimising potential human errors, it’s essential that they’re confident and proficient in interacting with the organisation’s systems, processes or environments – which is possible through simulation-based training.
The same technological advances pushing L&D environments to constantly improve are also helping eLearning specialists increase their ability to create simulations that showcase true representations of systems, processes and environments, whilst also lowering the costs and time involved to create them.
About Cameron Glennon
I am passionate about people and problem solving. At Virtual College, I work alongside organisations to make a tangible difference to their L&D through bespoke e-learning development. We work as one team from the solution's conception through to delivery - exceeding expectations.