You can’t learn how to drive a car without driving a car. Some of you are probably thinking, “well, you know what? I learnt driving by simply watching my dad drive”. I hear you; but what about maneuvering that car safely through traffic, avoiding accidents, reversing into a parking lot, or even parking straight?
From experience, we know that hands-on learning is the best way to learn driving – you train, you learn, you make mistakes, you learn from those mistakes and repeat the process until you can drive with your eyes closed (although that might not be a good idea). Hands-on training leads to successful learning; and in a perfect world, it would be safe, cost-effective, and risk-free. Unfortunately, safety, cost, and risk are drastically compromised in this form of training (remember the bruised elbows and knees when you were learning to ride a bicycle?). Fortunately, we can turn to the next best thing, which is learning through simulations.
What Is a Simulation?
Simulation is a technique for practice and learning that can be applied to many different disciplines and types of trainees. It is a technique (not a technology) to replace and amplify real experiences with guided ones, often “immersive” in nature, that evoke or replicate substantial aspects of the real world in a fully interactive fashion. “Immersive”, here, implies that participants are immersed in a task or setting as if it were the real world (Gaba D. Human work environment and simulators. In: Miller RD, editor. In Anaesthesia. 5th Edition. Churchill Livingstone: 1999. pp. 18–26).
Now, training in a simulated environment might not be the best way to learn driving or how to ride a bicycle, but I can tell you that simulations are a big hit in industries.
Why Training Simulations Work
Simulations win where hands-on training fails. From an organization’s perspective, simulations are cost-effective, safe, and risk-free. This translates to them being money savers – no accidents, repair of damaged equipment, or costly litigations that follow a training mishap.
Employees too prefer simulations, since:
- Learners are exposed to real-life scenarios, but in a controlled environment
- Training can include helping employees understand how to deal with unexpected incidents they might be faced with, when on the job
- Learners display more confidence because they feel safe in a simulated environment
- Learners are willing to take risks, knowing that they cannot cause damage to life, equipment, or property
- Concentration levels are higher, and this translates into successful skill building
- There is increased efficiency and better outputs after going ‘live’
Where Can Training Simulations Be Used?
Simulations can be used in any industry and for a wide variety of trainings. To increase their efficiency and thereby their performance, employees across industries are expected to utilize training to develop:
- Technical expertise
- Functional expertise
- Problem-solving skills
- Decision-making skills
- Interpersonal and team-building skills
- Team-based competencies
While the first four requirements are met directly by training simulations, interpersonal and team-building skills, as well as team-based competences are their by-products.
The age-old adage ‘practice makes perfect’ holds true for simulations. I do realize that simulations alone cannot be used to teach someone to ride a bicycle or drive a car, but there are all the other benefits that we now know of, that no other training can provide so successfully – yes, even to drive a car. Here’s a handy infographic on how to create online training simulations the right way.