Friday, August 11, 2006

Doing vs. Knowing

We ran our most subscribed webinar ever yesterday. Sixty-two participants from a variety of sectors (financial services, health care, pharmaceutical, food, telecom, retail, energy, education, entertainment, legal, etc.) participated in our session on Using Simulations to Bring Your eLearning to Life. We obviously struck a chord, as it appears that gaming and simulations are getting a lot of attention these days as methods for making education and training more engaging.

When we polled participants on whether they had ever experienced a training simulation, we were pleasantly surprised that most respondents had done so. However, when we asked what that experience was like, not surprisingly, the results were mixed. The eLearning field is still in the early days of figuring out how to make the most of simulations.

We were fortunate to have James Chisholm from ExperiencePoint as a special guest at yesterday's webinar. He provided some great insight on what makes simulations work and we took a tour through a simulation on change management that his company has produced.

Here are some highlights:
  • Simulations are about placing the learner at the centre of a realistic situation or scenario, having them assess the situation, making decisions on courses of action, and getting immediate feedback on the quality of those decisions.
  • Too much of training today is focused on "knowing" things. Simulations provide opportunities to "do" things. Doing things is focused on applying new knowledge, which encourages deeper, internalized learning, and changed behaviour.
  • Simulations do not always have to be conducted online and individually. There are great opportunities to do simulations in blended learning formats, either by doing them in group settings and/or debriefing as a group.
When we asked participants for their main "take aways" from the session, two themes emerged.

1) Make the decisions within simulations challenging, so as not to obviously guide learners to the right answers (i.e. let them screw up once in a while...a lot can be learned from making mistakes in a safe environment).

2) A simulation does not have to be huge and complicated. You can contain it to a specific task or situation that can be developed fairly quickly and economically.

Here is a link to the recording of this webinar.

And keep an eye open for our Fall 2006 series of webinars, which will focus on various ways of using eLearning to support and enhance organizational performance.