Simulations in Application Training: Is it a Good Idea?

Posted on : April 23rd, 2015
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Application SimulationContinued training efforts are required for companies to stay ahead of the competition and keep employees’ skills up-to-date or in compliance with the law. But with the pace that every industry is advancing, it is often difficult to provide opportunities to the employees to learn new skills, techniques or processes with traditional means. Application trainings often require hands-on practice on machines or software – which is many a time not available during the training session. By the time they are available, the learners are already expected to know their way around the application, which reveals a startling gap in learning.

While hands-on simulators and simulation-based training is now being utilized for variety of training, including Application Training. Simulations are being created to provide learners a chance to explore and practice on newer software or other applications before actually working on them. In a traditional approach, the workings of an application are explained in a classroom scenario or simply create text-based handouts, which the learner has to read through. Since newer software or applications are often in a ‘testing’ phase or just not available for adequate practice instances, the learners gain enough theoretical information in this approach, but do not get a chance to acquire hands-on experience. This leads to a lot of chaos in the initial days of implementation of the new software as new learners grapple their way around it – hampering work standards and output.

Simulations for application trainings provide practice and thus the learners are better prepared. Simulations can help learners master the application before starting actual work on it – making sure that the learner is more confident and is able to churn out adequate work standard as well as output.

From our experiences, here is an example of how it can be done:

For a large chain of hotels, we created a simulation-based training module, which trains its employees on the working of a website used for buying supplies online.  While the website makes buying supplies easier and faster, most employees are still attuned to the older mechanics of actually writing out invoices and getting things delivered from their vendors. The website was a new technology-based platform that they were not used to at all and needed to get trained in order to start utilizing it well.

We created a simulation-based learning solution, built along the actual design of the website – including colour schemes, layout, graphics and more. This helped the learners get familiar with the website and learn their way around it. We created the simulation in three levels – each with a different level of interactivity built-in to help the learner see, understand and then, practice.

Level 1: Label

The first level explained the structure of the website. The website had many sections and the learner had to navigate through the structure to get to the relevant section to place their orders in the right manner. The first level of the elearning solution was devoted to pointing out the different sections of the website – in logical flow that most learners would follow on the actual website. The labelling was done with the help of a series of clickable links, explaining the various functionalities built into the website. When the user clicked a link, a pop-up text would appear and explain to the user what that particular link does. This exercise was helpful in creating a necessary background.

Level 2: Explain

The next level was all about the actions that the learner needs to take within the website. It explained all that the learner needed to do in the various sections. To make the explanations interesting as well as impactful, a series of ‘demos’ were created where details were filled at relevant places to demonstrate an actual purchase being made through the website. The demos were also ‘clickable’ and the learner could click on specific fields to know what needed to be filled and how.

Level 3: Do it and Do it again

The most important benefit of a simulation is that it gives the opportunity to practice. In the third level, the learner was given the opportunity to practice on sample forms – with instant feedback on their performance. Help menus were created to make sure that the learner could get support if he or she wanted – especially the first few rounds of practice. The learner was allowed unlimited tries on the sample forms, so that the confidence build-up is the most and the utility of the elearning solution is also heightened.

More and more forward-thinking companies are finding success with simulation-based learning. It helps them get a better trained staff, in a shorter time, and to save costs. With simulation-based learning, learners are more engaged because in spite of its instructive aim, it is not always didactic. There is ample space for learning from examples and hands-on practice. Simulators and simulation-based training also deliver continuity. Users are taught the exact same techniques and procedures, no matter where they are located around the globe. With better technologies to create life-like simulations, it is evident that simulations will continue to be the preferred route for experiential learning.

Arunima Majumdar

Arunima is an e-learning blogger and likes discussing innovations in training & learning for the new-age corporate sector.

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