What should you consider before pursuing a training simulation for your company?
When to use serious games or sims: "Three variables determine when you use this treatment: content, users, and volume (number of people). Simulations are not cheap...a retail bank with 5,000 branches and 10,000 personal bankers—that's a good application for this," says Accenture Senior Executive Tom Kraack. And when you do create one, make it "fun, relevant, and [have] learning objectives embedded," adds Bjorn Billhardt of Enspire Learning.
PC vs. cell phone: "Users will not take entire courses on a 3.5-inch screen no matter how good the quality is unless they're compelled to—and they won't like it," says Richard Kristof, CEO of Power U. When using a phone for training, "the game is going to be out in the world; the phone is simply going to be a terminal to send information back," adds Dr. Gary Woodill, researcher for Brandon Hall. In this case, the cell phone becomes more of an electronic performance support device. Another downside with phones is that problems can occur with the different screens and programming language each phone runs.
When to outsource game/sim development: "Developing a good simulated tutoring and training environment takes many hours," says Tiffany Barnes, assistant professor of computer science at University North Carolina-Charlotte. "I probably wouldn't do it myself if I were a bank."
Cost: "Anywhere from $10,000 to millions of dollars. It depends on learning objectives, what will best convey material to learners, and how to internalize the knowledge and apply it in the real world," Billhardt says.
How to select the right vendor: Look at track records and past examples of their work, Billhardt advises.
Sims as stand-alone or blended: Blended, no question. "Many focus on game dynamics themselves, but they forget to focus on how to debrief the simulation or game and instill the learning objective," says Billhardt. "Make learners reflect on what they've done. This often is done better in the classroom."