Simulations in eLearning are a tried and tested area. Usually we see simulations being used when a complicated or lengthy process is explained in a mundane way, which doesn’t really excite your learner; however, the question is: how can simulations be interesting enough to keep your learner hooked to your course? The answer is right before us, but it is something that we most often don’t see as a solution or a strategy. The answer is the use of characters in simulations!
Today, characters play an integral part in instructional strategies; generally, they are used to teach soft skills. However, when it comes to complex technical subjects such as process or software the common approach is to take the learner through a simulation showing him/her how to and what to do. There is much more to simulations than this; they can be fun and informative when you have the combination of well-designed characters and an impactful audio. However, designing character-based simulations can be complex.
Let me take you through the ‘What’ ‘When’ ‘Why’ and ‘How’ you can make use of characters in eLearning simulations.
What are character simulations?
The use of characters in a simulation to engage a learner to provide a one-on-one personal interactive experience is called a character simulation. The character takes the learner through the simulation with visuals that are impactful; the audio or voice of the character serves as instruction to the learner.
Characters are used as a coach or an instructor who guides your learner thorough the simulation, giving out pointers or important points that the learner needs to know. Characters are great motivators; they create interest and add a fun factor to your simulations. Another important facet of using characters is that they are able to mimic body language and gestures that bring about a higher learning impact.
When can you use characters in simulations?
Whenever you have a simulation in your course, you can include characters in them. Most commonly simulations are seen in courses dealing with software training, process training and product training. You don’t need the character to be present through the entire course; you can use a single character for a particular simulation. This helps your learner identify requirements better.
Why do you need characters in simulations?
Characters bring about a sense of credibility; when used in simulations, they act as the perfect guide for your learner. Characters add that extra punch to your simulation; even the driest of processes seem interesting when you add characters to your simulation. The way you communicate something to your learner is more important than what you actually want to convey. This is where a character can bring about the desired behavior in your learner in a very subtle way. When your learner is engaged and interested, they learn more and are able to recall better and character simulations can help us achieve this objective. Character simulation takes the place of a real-life instructor in a virtual setting and enhances the overall learning experience.
Characters motivate your learners and create an excitement and interest, which a characterless simulation cannot achieve.
How well can you use characters in simulations?
Characters in simulations can be used in two ways – the first when your learner watches the simulation and second when he/she tries out the same simulation in the try mode. Let me explain this with an example.
In the first instance, you can have a character with a laptop or a computer, and enlarge or project the screen so that your learner has a good view of the webpage or process you are about to take your learner through. Here you can add more elements such as a good script and effective narration such as a strong character voice that can take your simulation to the next level. You can see how this is done from the screenshot below:
The second instance is in the try mode where your user tries out the software by himself or herself.
Here you can use your character to guide your learners through the try mode; for example, you can add a character that pops up every time your learner misses a step or makes a mistake. Such a scenario can be seen below:
With these four questions answered, I hope you have found an insight to using characters in simulations and if you have a better way please feel free to share it with us.