Training has come a long way since the existence of only classrooms and on-the-job interventions. Online learning has changed the way we impart knowledge to participants all over the world, but it has also created some unique problems. A simulation can be part of your online learning program, so let’s discuss how you can do this without running into the issues that online learning may create.
Online learning is highly effective in so many situations, especially if your target audience is spread over a wide geography. But online learning can also have the effect of putting learners out there completely alone, with no interaction with fellow learners or the facilitators. In some cases this is fine, but in some cases a simulation would be an excellent way to go against the norm of isolating learners.
First of all, consider the types of virtual interactions that may be literally at your fingertips. For example, you can utilize discussion boards, chatrooms, web and video conferencing, and even “second life” applications. Then consider your audience and your organization’s technology and choose the structure for your online simulation interventions. It does not have to be anything complex, but your program may be limited by the type of technology you can offer.
Now consider how you can use virtual simulations to reinforce learning. You may want to offer the simulation as part of an overall online course or for participants who are returning to the office from a classroom intervention. Either way, the focus of using a simulation in online learning is to continue the knowledge process and to continue application of that knowledge. Alternatively, you can use the online simulation as the learning experience itself.
One way to create an online simulation is through games and live interactions in a team environment. People play games online, via Wii, and on Xbox in teams regularly. Why not capitalize on this concept in training? The simulation case can be handed to teams, and then they can begin to formulate their strategies, choices, and decisions while competing against other teams. The moderator can check in frequently to determine where the teams are and to coach virtually.
One of the lessons we’ve learned since the beginning of online learning is not to overuse the technology or swing completely to one side of it. For example, when online learning first became popular, some organizations attempted to move entire programs to the medium. As we discovered, this is not always a good fit, so the same rule of thumb applies for online simulations. Make sure that there’s a balance. One way to balance is to use an online simulation as reinforcement to classroom or seminar-type training interventions. This way, when participants go back to the real world they can continue to apply the knowledge they’ve acquired. But the biggest consideration in using online simulations is to avoid moving interventions into the online environment when they should be live or in the classroom.
Highly complex topics or issues, such as leadership or cultural simulations, may need to stay in the classroom or boardroom to encourage face-to-face interaction and networking. On the other hand, concepts that can be reinforced through social media can move to the online environment. Many times topics that require business savvy or acumen or even financial issues are well-suited for online simulations. The interaction does not necessarily have to be live in these cases. In addition, the overall culture of the organization may dictate what moves into the virtual world and what does not. For instance, if your organization is highly technical and well-connected through social media, then you may have more leeway to move simulations into the online environment, especially if participants are accustomed to online interaction as part of their everyday lives.
Now that we’ve discussed the uses of simulations and their application to online interventions, let’s look at how to truly put simulations to work for your organization.