Dramatically Improve Simulations: Pull learning’s the ticket!

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The majority of system simulation training is a waste of time. Why? Because it’s generally ‘Push Learning’; it’s out of context, not in time, way too much and ‘not for me’. The outcome of such general failure in system simulations training is drastic when we compare what could happen if the training was effective … yes, the good news is the majority of simulation training could be very effective and pay huge dividends for those brave enough to design … with learning in mind.

For quite a while simulation training has bothered me. Working in an eLearning company, we often run projects where we’re creating system simulations (Captivate/Articulate storyline sims). If I took an educated guess, I would suggest 20% of custom eLearning content revenue comes from simulation based training. Over the years I have completed some innovative projects that involve simulations, but the majority of system simulation projects are not, and follow a pretty standard approach as is necessitated by time and/or our client’s preferred approach. It’s not dissimilar for most vendors:

  • Client requests system simulation training.
  • Vendor maps as much of the process as possible and then comes onsite to screen capture the whole process with a very knowledgeable subject matter expert (SME).
  • The vendor goes away and edits the simulation, so it covers all the steps involved in the whole process as supplied by the SME.
  • The files are published as standalone ‘courses or modules’ that sit on an LMS.
  • Learners are enrolled … hmmmm, most corporate learners or L&D professionals can guess what happens next as we’ve experienced this training ourselves. Let’s describe these kinds of simulation courses as, click and forget.

Listening to a talk from Jay Cross recently (links at bottom if interested – I get a mention from Jay too, as does The Learning Hook – thank you!), I was struck by an example he used of some early training that failed (in a big way) for Xerox in its early days – due to a Push Learning approach. (Remember, Pull Learning is how we win the tug of war.)


Here it is in short

Xerox brought out a game changing ‘914 Photocopier’ which was a triumph in the industry at the time. They then built the largest training centre in America and pulled in all the maintenance staff from all around the country to be trained on how to fix the things that go wrong with this copier. Trouble was, learners didn’t use the information the next day (oops, we all know what happens then), there was too much to learn, and a large portion of what they were trained on wasn’t relevant to each of the trainee’s sites (i.e. they all had quirky problems that affected their own machines – things that could only be worked out locally by the maintenance staff on the ground).

If you’ve read our blogs or visited The Learning Hook site before, you know our key drivers are ‘Just in time’, ‘Just enough’, and ‘Just for me’ >>> nothing less will do. And also that we believe in the Learning Campaign – not just the event. The story above exemplifies the power of each of these points. And looking back at the ‘Pull’ mentality, it reminded me of simulations when they fail – because they’re often designed by system owners or specialists (the engineers) that want to tell their users about every aspect of their large enterprise systems. Learners are enrolled in the simulation courses. Learners work through the ‘course’ and click where asked, are perhaps tested, perhaps try a few activities such as entering data or clicking where they just saw the simulation click. They then go back to work and get on with their job.

When they use the system in a live environment, locally, for ‘real’ tasks, it’s rarely exactly like the simulation and perhaps so long after the simulation training they don’t remember it anyway. What they do then is ask a colleague for help … and learn. One thing they never do, is log back in to the LMS and look up that outrageously great simulation their vendor built.

So what can we do with this knowledge? How do we get learners to ‘Pull’ and not try to ‘Push’ this abstract learning on to them as a standalone event?

I think the answer to both questions is ‘A LOT’. Here are a few very simple fixes, for dramatic change.

  1. Make simulations much, MUCH shorter (bite size chunks they can get when they want)
  2. Get the simulations off your LMS – they are ridiculously hard to find probably and learners will never go back again. Put them on your Intranet creating a help page for your system.
  3. Get users involved in the design process, not just power users.
  4. If it’s imperative you track them, just put up an assessment on the LMS with some hyperlinks at the start for learners to access the ‘just in time’ simulation chunks from your Intranet
  5. Push advertising to the learners and reinforce there are help files out there to be used – use learning marketing to form a campaign of at least awareness of where learning can be pulled ,when learners need it
  6. Couple every simulation with a printable or at least image they can save to their phones that has the ‘top 5′ takeaways from the lesson
  7. Plenty more – call us and we can discuss

If you’ve gotten to the bottom of this blog, let me firstly say, thank you. I always worry about writing too much. Secondly, I am now dying to know your own experiences where you have either undertaken, purchased or designed and developed yourself, some simulation training that you think ‘nailed it’ – that really made a positive impact in terms of people’s or your own ability to use a system’s software and saw improved performance outcomes follow.

Link to Jay Cross webinar (was sponsored by Raptivity)

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For more eLearning, visit www.learninghook.com.au

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