A Look at the Emerging Trends in Simulation Training to Turn Passive Observers into Active Learners
Janhavi Pavgi | August 30, 2019
Say these two words out loud, and you will get two separate sets of reactions—first, how great a movie it is, and second, how it was way ahead of its time in introducing the concept of ‘simulation’ to the masses.
So, what was it about simulations that captured the fancy of the audience so much? Well, simply put, it’s a make-believe world where nothing is real. You can do anything without any consequences, and attempting a task without the fear of failure is definitely one of the best ways to learn. Naturally, application simulations were among the first forms of digital learning rolled out for learners.
The evolution of Simulation-based Training
Step 1: Click the icon to open the web browser.
Step 2: Select the search box and type in the address.
Step 3: The page is displayed.
Bored? Distracted? Wondering if there is a better way than this?
Traditionally, in simulation exercises, learners have always been assigned the role of a passive observer. Albert Bandura’s Social Learning Theory is the foundation theory used to design simulation experiences around the observer role, using the processes of—
• Attention: Putting learners in control of the discussion and letting them
determine the agenda
• Retention: Incorporating peer teaching and peer coaching
• Motivation: Using reward-based simulations via gamification
As learners make decisions, they follow a decision-tree where they experience the outcome of their decisions. These depend on the reactions of other characters in the simulation, future events, and by the effect on their scores.
As Instructional Designers in the late 2010s, we have spoilt learners with choice. They no longer have to sift through pages of compliance documents before induction or pull out lengthy manuals to figure out how exactly to perform a task. We have gamified modules, transformed lengthy content into micro-learning, explained concepts through video nuggets, given the learners the ability to choose what they want to learn, and incorporated mixed reality (AR and VR) to make learning a fun and interactive process. Therefore, as things stand, learners are no longer interested in a simple page-turner simulation listing the steps to perform a task.
Top 5 emerging trends in Simulation Training
To keep pace with learners’ evolving behavior patterns and attention spans, simulations have to transition them from passive observers to active participants.
Here are a few trends in simulation training, which, we predict, are set to gain traction in 2019-2020:
1. Gamified Simulations
It’s 2019, and everything is gamified. So, how do we incorporate this into simulations? The trend is toward developing avatar-based, open-ended simulations that allow the learners to choose their own paths and view the corresponding outcomes. These can be done in several ways, the three most popular being:
Branched scenarios that give different outcomes for different paths taken by the learners
Role-play or quest-based games in which learners have to define their journeys toward a certain end by successfully completing all the steps
Simulator games like stock market simulators, laboratory simulators, language simulators, and so on
These gamified systems help learner retention, increase involvement, and make the real-life application more successful. When combined with extended reality systems (discussed below), these can give learners an immersive learning environment where they can try out several pathways without the fear of failing.
2. Explainer Videos
More and more people are turning to explainer videos to learn more about ‘what is’ and ‘how to,’ leading to the development of stacks and stacks of explainer video nuggets, with on-screen characters explaining step-by-step processes. It not only adds a more relatable and human element but also breaks down lengthy simulations into small, digestible chunks. A learner would naturally be more inclined to search for and view a particular section of a simulation tutorial than go through the entire simulation. Moreover, an explainer video is easily scalable to handheld devices and accessible anytime, anywhere.
3. Mixed Reality (Augmented and Virtual) Simulations
With the emergence of Facebook’s Oculus Rift and Oculus Quest, Google’s Google Lens, and Microsoft’s Holo Lens, mixed reality learning has advanced by leaps and bounds in a matter of a few years. It has already been successfully deployed in healthcare, automobile, and aviation sectors to help perform complicated procedures, without having to hold a scalpel or sit in a flight-deck. Technologies like Leap Motion Sensor, which is a handheld device, allow learners to interact with the virtual simulation like they would do in reality with a pilot’s yoke/steering wheel. There is no risk of killing a patient if the surgery goes south or crashing the aircraft if they miss a crucial step. This fail-safe sandbox environment is the biggest leap simulation technology has taken to date. Moreover, in the example of a flight-deck simulation, the training can be taken over much more extended time periods, as it negates the effects of zero-g flight sickness and similar physical constraints.
4. Online tutoring
The online tutoring market in India is set to grow at the rate of 16% CAGR over 2018-2020, according to Technavio. The rising competition in entrance examinations for higher education has seen a corresponding increase in online tutoring. One of its drawbacks so far has been its inability to track and monitor. This is set to change with the introduction of the Intelligent Tutoring System (ITS), which provides immediate and customized feedback to learners, without human intervention.
5. Artificial Intelligence (A.I.)
No discussion on digital learning in 2019 is complete without mentioning AI. Moreover, the upside is that it doesn’t even have to be cutting-edge. Simple feedback-based artificial intelligence can elevate even the most basic simulation by making it learner specific. When incorporated into simulation training, the program can track learner paths and generate feedback like timely assessments and quizzes to test retention. It can also act as a virtual guide always available to the learners for quick queries and searches. By breaking the process of “learn and forget,” AI in simulation training can help keep a steady flow of communication open between the learner and the developer.
With digital learning undergoing dynamic changes, organizations have to make simulations more engaging, practical, and responsive to stay relevant. Since different modes of delivery will cater to different training content, it is ultimately up to the organizations to decide the intervention most suited to their workforce.
Still undecided on which simulation technique to adopt for your organization?
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