Learning by Doing with simulations

Been reading a book called Learning by Doing by Clark Aldrich. Even though many of the examples in the book come from industry and the military, his frameworks allow those examples to be translated into higher education. I liked it because it had guidelines for developing and implementing simulations in real-life. I thought I would share with you all my findings.

System simulations, created using software such as Adobe Captivate or Articulate, serve several purposes when used in eLearning. They are a great way to learn system navigation without using the actual system. I have been developing solutions using these products for years and it is quite amazing how flexible and fun it is to build these. For those not in the know, you can create simulations in several different ways, depending on the type of interaction you are looking for in your course.

Demonstration (aka Show Me based simulations) – Here, the learners watch it just like a video. The learner watches the steps in a procedure with text describing what is happening. You can even use audio using a recorded narration or text-to-speech technology. While this may be a good way to introduce system navigation, I feel that it lacks the interaction required for the learner to truly get “hands on” experience in using the system.

Guided Practice (aka Try Me based simulations) – This simulation type guides the learner through a procedure. It is as if the learner is actually using the system, but it includes text and/or audio to help guide the learner what to do. I found this the best way to use a system simulation in an eLearning course to teach the user navigation, because it includes click-by-click instructions. It also is a safe environment where the learner can make mistakes without interfering with a live system or real data.

Assessment (aka Test Me based simulations) – This simulation, is similar to the Try Me mode and has the learner click through a sequence of steps to reach a desired result. The difference is that there is no guidance/help cues. The learner has to rely on their own knowledge to complete the simulation. I find that this is the most effective way to identify if the learner has truly learned to navigate the system. However, usually you can only set it up to follow a specific path. Also the learner could get confused and can get “stuck” in the simulation if they do not follow the correct path and cannot proceed. I overcome this with feedback “bubbles” that appear when the learner clicks in the wrong places after a certain amount of attempts (usually 3).

So, there you have it, an insight into how I create simulation based eLearning solutions. Hope it helps some of you out there.

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