Simulations in eLearning courses can provide a rich learning experience to learners. They are based on the age-old concept of “practice makes perfect”. However, how do you determine the extent to which simulations are adequate? Based on our experience in designing courses for our clients, we have identified 4 factors that primarily help us decide on the ideal level of simulations required for a given course.
Complexity of the application:
Simulations are used when the training is complex and would normally require a longer learning curve using traditional methods. In some industries improper use of equipment or non-adherence to set processes could lead to workplace safety hazards. Simulations can re-create potential harmful situations for improper work practices. Such instances merit the use of simulations in eLearning. The same applies for complex enterprise-wide software solutions which could seriously jeopardize the functioning of the business if the user is not skillful and trained to use it. Thus, complexity of an application and the learning required helps in deciding the type of simulation to be used.
Learning goals also helps to decide on the type of simulation that can be used. If the subject matter is dull, dry or too technical, simulations can be used to make learning engaging and interactive, thereby ensuring the learners’ attention. In instances where it is not sufficient for learners to acquire factual knowledge but they need to put the knowledge to practice immediately, simulations would be useful. If you need to train your learners on a set of processes involved in a task, they can either be asked to memorize the steps or they can be provided with a scenario where the steps are used and learners can practice the correct sequence as they participate in the scenario-based activity.
Development time available:
The higher the complexity, the longer the development time of the course with simulations. Depending on the time available for development, the instructional designer can decide on the level of simulation that can be embedded into the course.
Including simulations in eLearning is an expensive affair. Scenarios need to be created usually by content experts, relationships between multiple variables need to be established and visual designing has to be planned. You need highly skilled manpower to handle simulations which automatically increases the overall production costs. Therefore, the complexity in simulations will need to be based on the available budget.
Not all courses really require a high level of simulation. Experienced instructional designers weigh the requirements of the course, the complexity of the application, development time available and the budget to choose the most appropriate level of simulation for the course.