The collective groan that typically accompanies mandatory training may not be as loud as it used to be. Games and simulation technology gives even those learners who didn’t seek out training a reason to be enthusiastic. The platforms can be engaging enough that they resemble the games many play as pastimes, while the simulations can be so immersive that learners finally understand the stakes of their job. A great simulation allows an unmotivated or timid learner to experience, consequences free, the world their job requires them to master.
With the technology offering such potential, Training spoke to experts and a few Training Top 125 companies about how and why this technology could be used.
EASE OF USE AND DELIVERY
For Training Top 125er Ricoh, a provider of digital business services and printing solutions, games and simulations allow employees to practice working with and selling the company’s products. One such game is Choose Your Own Multifunction Printer (MFP) Adventure.
The format of the e-learning allows users to choose the direction of their own training via taking paths in a game-like program. Delivered on-demand to the company’s entire direct and dealer sales force using the Ricoh Learning Institute Learning (RLI) Management System, the training was created to enable sales employees to learn both the technical and non-technical aspects of a newly launching MFP. The objectives for this training were to make learners aware of the ability to choose among multiple technologies and non-technical workflows to achieve the same results, and to obtain an understanding of new technologies that are embedded in a newly launched MFP.
In each section of the training, learners are given a choice on how to proceed. If they choose one path, they are given one explanation, and if they choose another path, the explanation is different. In the end, they can review all paths and hear all explanations, if desired, reinforcing the learning in the path originally chosen. Ricoh says this training enhances its sales representatives’ knowledge and ability to sell the company’s products.
The advancements in games and simulation technology in recent years make it easier than ever to use this kind of training, says Ricoh Education & Development Consultant Ed Parkin. “For Ricoh’s Services Training team, the greatest enhancements to this delivery method have been in its ease to implement and the stability in its performance. Almost all current gaming and simulation development platforms are now easy enough for the training designers to create, test, and implement themselves without significant training or experience in writing code or designing graphic interfaces,” Parkin explains. “This allows the instructional designers to create, test, edit, rework, and deploy training games and simulations, many times with pre-developed editable templates, all without a team of co-workers having to be engaged. With most games and training simulations being SCORM compatible, integrating them into an existing learning management system (LMS) is now much easier.”
That said, successful implementation of games and simulations is dependent on using them selectively. “Our experience is that games and simulations are best suited for the cognitive domain where the skill development includes knowledge transfer, comprehension, and basic analysis—allowing the learner to ‘think through’ a subject, challenge, or task and apply his or her knowledge to the task,” says Parkin.
Adds Ricoh Senior Education & Training Developer Pete De Persis, “When providing technical training, our experience has been that a specific result-based simulation can be very effective.” For example, he says simulation technology can be used effectively to teach a learner how to add a user to a computer system. “You would create a step-by-step interactive simulation with screenshots from a graphical user interface (GUI) where the learner has to click on each step in the process. The fact that the learner views the exact screens he or she would see in the live system and is guided through the steps helps the learner become familiar with the GUI,” he says.
Training Top 125er PSA Airlines likewise has found games and simulation technology simple to use, and invaluable in creating engaging classroom sessions. “For instructor-led training, we have used PowerPoint and its macro functions to facilitate a Jeopardy! game in class,” says Air Operations Development Manager Brandon York. “For e-learning, we often use software simulations created by Adobe Captivate. The Jeopardy! game allows us to exercise navigation of resources (manuals) to efficiently find the correct policy or procedure.”
The technology is simple enough that no advanced technical training is necessary for Learning professionals to optimize it. “The included learning interaction templates and simulation presets in Adobe Captivate make it easy for just about anyone to create engaging content,” he notes.
York says games and simulations stimulate employees in a way few other learning approaches can. “We love to use games and simulations to meet familiarization, navigation, and memorization learning goals,” he says.
VIRTUAL REALITY REFINED
Virtual reality technology has been used for many years to create life-like games and simulations. Continued advancements are making the technology more accessible and adaptable to companies’ needs. “Hardware has vastly improved, while becoming more affordable, and scaled delivery has become a possibility. The biggest changes have been less about adding realism and more about improving accessibility and consistency in training,” says Beverly Vessella, vice president of Product at Pixvana, a provider of games and simulation technology. “New software now makes it easier than ever for companies to create training experiences on their own—with in-headset quizzing, gamification, and analytics. Using new technology, companies can tell high-impact, memorable stories; increase readiness, performance, and safety through virtual reality human interaction; repeatedly teach processes; and help employees gain familiarity with places and scenarios.”
The immersive technology of virtual reality is impactful because it engages learners’ emotions. “Virtual reality’s super powers (empathy, immersion, and presence) are great for teaching skills in situations that are complex, rare, or dangerous, because these are hard (or even impossible) to replicate in real life. Key industries that are primed to see a high ROI on a virtual reality training commitment include retail, services, logistics, and technology,” Vessella says.
Virtual reality-powered games and simulations also can easily assess how well employees have absorbed the lessons. “Virtual reality has much deeper potential to assess whether learning actually happened, because it can capture where learners looked/engaged with the content and how they reacted,” Vessella explains. “There is a much closer tie to the learner and the medium. Quizzing, user analytics, and other traditional assessment techniques may be used, as well.”
SIMULATING AND PRACTICING TOUGH BUSINESS CHOICES
Life-like simulations, in which employees are forced to choose which course to take and then are led down different paths resulting from their choice, are gaining popularity. Companies are using simulation technology to prepare future leaders for sifting through often-confusing options. The technology can replicate the nuances high-level decisions often hinge on. “Business acumen, leadership development, and sales excellence seem to be the most popular,” says William Hall, president of Simulation Studios, of the training needs most commonly addressed by simulations. “In terms of why, this is dictated by the learning goals of the organizations. From what I’ve seen, due to turnover and the need to rapidly promote employees, business acumen and leadership have become very important.”
Hall says simulations that are short and focused, and that don’t try to “boil the ocean,” are best. “In situations where we have to clean up previous simulation disasters, the problematic cause usually came from a simulation that was too large due to trying to reinforce too much content. People simply get lost due to too many goals,” he says. “A simulation that carries on past a day is probably too large. Not only are they more expensive, but participants disengage. The sweet spot for a simulation is one very packed, very exciting full day of engagement. Once you drift into the second day, the cost goes up and engagement goes down.”
If you are clear on your learning goals, you should be able to find a simply designed simulation that will last the company for as long as five years before needing to be replaced. “The greatest influence on the cost of a simulation is the complexity. A simulation should not be overly complicated. It should simply reinforce the training content, which should result in a far more affordable solution,” says Hall. “The lifespan of the technology is highly dependent on the training content and how the simulation was written. We have simulations that have lasted well over five years, and are still running today. In many cases, updating is simple, and keeps the simulation running.”
- Choose a user-friendly technology. You may be surprised at the many options available today that make it possible for a Learning professional with no technology training to create his or her own game or simulation.
- Enable learners to lead their own training by having the game or simulation unfold according to the choices each learner makes.
- Use games and simulations to familiarize employees with the products they work with or sell.
- Refine business acumen and savvy with immersive games that replicate what it feels like to have to make a decision that could impact the life or death of a company.
- Be clear on your learning goals before purchasing or creating a game or simulation. That way, you can keep the program short and focused.
- Optimize the technology to assess learning achievement. The technology usually can tell you how engaged employees were, and can help you create quizzes learners can take without having to leave the program.
Easy Queasy: 6 Ways to Avoid Making Your Audience Sick in VR
By Bill West, President, Regatta VR (http://www.regattavr.com/)
Virtual reality (VR) is an exciting addition to the e-learning family, but the enthusiasm can wear off if your users feel queasy while using it. One of the biggest challenges for VR is to create a realistic experience while keeping the user comfortable. Here are six ways you can do just that:
- Mobility: The environment’s movement relative to the user defines comfort. Think of a planetarium. It surrounds you like a VR environment surrounds you. As you walk about, the shell remains in the same place. How would it feel if the entire shell moved while you moved? Pretty odd.
- Focus and placement of the camera: Camera placement is the largest contributor to poor VR design. The camera has certain fixed points where the image is clearest. If the actors/objects are too close or too far, then the user’s ability to focus will be strained and cause fatigue. The worst violation is camera height. If you’re building VR, take the time to test varying camera heights and their resulting vantage point. When in doubt, lower the camera, then lower it again.
- Position of objects and graphics: Artificial objects in the environment, such as menus, Q&A boxes, or navigational objects, should remain in the same place in the environment. Let’s say the environment is a room with a door in front of the viewer. If you place an interface button over the door, it should stay over the door, even when the user looks away.
- Text and reading: Text is hard to read in VR. Devices are getting better with higher resolutions, but text for any interactive experience should be kept to the minimum. If the VR program involves forms or system screens, then consider blending the program with other modalities, such as a Web course, to present the initial introduction of the forms and systems. Then use the VR for context and usage of these items.
- Uninitiated movement and lack of control: Remember our planetarium? What if you stood in one place and the shell started moving? It would be disorienting. Any movement or relocation of the user should be initiated by the user.
- Toddler mode: “Toddler mode” refers to your users’ desire to explore the environment fully before engaging in your planned activity. They won’t hear a word you say until they are done investigating the environment. Build toddler moments into every program before the learning begins.