Simulations have been around a lot longer than you think and with advances in fields like virtual reality, they’re becoming more lifelike by the day.
These tools have tremendous potential that can be used to shape the world we live in.
They’ve also opened up a world of opportunity for businesses and HR professionals. Emerging technologies have made it possible for companies to train their employees completely online. If you manage or train a distributed team, eLearning can be a powerful tool.
What is an eLearning simulation?
An eLearning simulation is a virtual scenario created to prepare learners for real-world situations. It’s often used in corporate training to familiarize employees with scenarios they might encounter on the job.
But eLearning isn’t just for remote teams. Even companies that train employees in the office can benefit from eLearning simulations. They provide an interactive learning environment for your employees and help break up mundane training.
There are plenty of benefits to incorporating eLearning simulations into your employee training strategy. eLearning simulations:
Provide a safe learning environment
Allow employees to learn at their own pace
Can be cheaper than outside training
Allow more personalization in training materials
Professional development is at the forefront of employee’s minds. Sixty-eight percent of employees say training and development is the company's most important policy. It’s up to your company to provide the learning opportunities your employees are looking for in order to do their jobs and eLearning is one of the most effective ways to do just that.
What are the elements of an eLearning simulation?
eLearning simulations are often designed specifically for the team or company using them in their training. This means that the content of each simulation will vary depending on the needs of your team, your industry, and more.
Even with the variety available in eLearning simulations, there are a few things you should always include when creating your own virtual learning.
Creating a realistic simulation should be the primary goal of anyone interested in eLearning. The goal of eLearning is to train employees for real-life scenarios they might encounter. That means the scenarios you use in your eLearning simulation should mirror the experiences of your employees.
Don’t get so caught up in creating interesting dialogs and scenarios that you miss the intent for your audience. Remember, you want your employees to think back to this training when they’re in these situations. It might be tempting to create quirky or weird simulations for the sake of entertainment, but that won’t help your employees' development in the long-run.
Everyone’s familiar with the typical cast of characters you see around an office. Humans are creatures of habit who enjoy things they’re familiar with.
When your employees can put themselves in the shoes of the character in the simulation, they’re more likely to pay attention to how that character acts. This will also help keep their attention longer and will help them retain the information better.
Be careful not to make the characters or the simulation too similar to your own workplace. You want your employees to feel as though they can relate, not as though they are being singled out. If you can avoid it, don’t use the same names for your characters as people on your team.
Real-life tools and solutions
When presenting scenarios in your eLearning simulation, be sure to focus on delivering solutions that are relevant to your employees.
Try to incorporate the processes, procedures, and tools your own team uses as often as possible. This will help your team remember solutions when presented with problems in the real world.
The one drawback of using specific software or procedures in your eLearning simulation is that it puts an expiration date on your training videos. If you adopt a new software or change a workflow, that example is no longer relevant to your team.
For this reason, you should avoid getting too specific to increase the shelf-life of your eLearning simulations.
Assessments and evaluations
One of the drawbacks of eLearning simulations is that the interactive element between teacher and student is gone. The ability to ask questions or request clarification are valuable teaching moments.
That doesn’t mean you can’t include them in your eLearning simulation. Creating feedback checkpoints such as quizzes and progress assessments allows you and your employees to gauge how well they are retaining the material.It also offers you the chance to reteach a point that an employee might have missed.
This’ll help bridge the gap between your virtual classroom and an in-person training. Be careful not to overload your simulation with too many checkpoints, however. Try to strike a balance between video learning and progress assessments for maximum results.
Tips for creating an eLearning simulation
One of the great things about eLearning is that it can be cheaper to do it in-house rather than through an agency if you know what you’re doing. Companies that already have access to video editing software or a multimedia studio might find it easier to simply create videos themselves.
If you’re hoping to create your own eLearning simulations, you’ll need to understand the steps it takes to reach your finished product.
Define your goal
Knowing the desired outcome of your employee training should be priority number one. What’s the purpose of the video you’re creating?
Ask yourself if an eLearning format is the right approach for this training before you begin. Flashy technology can be tempting, but it’s important to put the needs of your employees first. Think about what format would best suit your team before you begin.
After you’ve defined the goal of your training, the next step is to decide on the type of eLearning simulation you’re going to create. Having the ability to tailor your training in different formats is what makes eLearning so popular. It provides flexibility based on your educational needs and the learning styles of your employees.
Here are three different eLearning simulation styles you can choose from:
Each simulation type has its pros and cons. Choosing the right eLearning simulation style is all about defining the desired outcome first, then working backward from there. Here’s a quick overview of each simulation style to help you choose which style will work best for you.
A scenario-based simulation refers to an eLearning simulation where employees are presented with a scenario and given options for how to navigate the situation. It involves characters interacting with each other and a problem presented for the learner. Employees are then asked to review the scenario and choose the best option.
This simulation style is great because it encourages employees to use their critical thinking skills. It also provides them real-world examples of how to handle tough situations they might encounter on the job.
eLearning games are a fun and interactive way to educate employees. This simulation style takes the educational material and presents it in a game-style format.
Gamifying the educational experience gives you the chance to keep your employees engaged while teaching them what they need to know. This style of simulation does require close attention to detail. Striking the balance between fun and functionality is important.
A seminar-style simulation most closely resembles a university lecture hall. The information is presented to employees in a purely informational format with progress quizzes and assessments included throughout the simulation.
This style is great for delivering complex information and gauging how well your employees are retaining it. Seminar-style simulations do run the risk of being a bit boring or dry if you’re not careful. Be sure not to overload your employees with too much information all at once.
Focus on realism
eLearning simulations should be designed to mimic the real-world as closely as possible. The goal of your training is to prepare your team for real situations they might encounter.
EXAMPLE: You wouldn’t include an alien attack in a flight simulator for a new pilot because the chances of them encountering a UFO are slim. Instead, you might include a scenario where the fuel tank is lower than expected or a situation where they have to deal with unexpected turbulence.
Designing a realistic scenario can limit your creativity in some ways. But eLearning simulations that focus on situations that are applicable to your employees will help them retain information better, perform more effectively on the job, and deliver better results for your company.
The best part is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to make your eLearning simulation enjoyable. It just takes a little pre-planning before you get started on production.
Here are some examples of interactive eLearning you can use:
Avoid leaning too heavily on one interactive component or you might bore your employees. A healthy mix of all the modules listed above will keep your team engaged and give them a fun new way to learn.
Tailor it to your team
Just like in the classroom, there’s no one-size fits all eLearning strategy. What works for one company might not work for your team.
Don’t try to replicate eLearning training you’ve seen before and instead focus on creating a unique experience that fits your team. If you’re going through the trouble of starting from scratch, you might as well create the best experience for your team as possible.
This might mean including regular feedback checkpoints into your strategy. Sending surveys to your employees after they complete their training will help you discover what they found useful and what they didn’t enjoy. That information is key to building a better eLearning strategy over time.
Knowledge is power, use it to empower your employees
eLearning allows companies to deliver complex training and information to your entire team in a fun and educational way. If you’re not already using the power of eLearning to train your employees on the job, it’s never too late to start.
Are you new to eLearning? Maybe you don’t know which educational software solutions your business needs. If you need to learn how to make the business case for purchasing educational software, we've got you covered!
Lauren is a Content Marketing Manager at G2. You can find her work featured on CNBC, Yahoo Finance, and on the G2 Learning Hub. In her free time, Lauren enjoys watching true crime shows and spending time in the Chicago karaoke scene. (she/her/hers)