Advanced Simulation Technologies

The Centre for People Development recently came out with a survey on trends in training… and survey says 73% of participants would prefer less classroom based courses. That’s a pretty high number of participants that are bored with current learning methods presented by their employer. And believe it or not, 87% were in favor of more e-learning/ mobile learning (which I translate into simulations). So there you have it, the trainees have spoken and they want more simulations!

According to the Encyclopedia of Educational Technology here are the 5 Levels of Simulation Design. Let’s start at the top…

Level 5: The Full Simulation
The most complex type of simulation design offering the trainee a fully immersive environment with all paths and options available.

Level 4: Multiple Input Paths
A more realistic type of simulation that offers the trainee/ learner the ability to gain a deeper understanding of more complex material presented.

Level 3: Data Input

Data entry or button choices highlight this level of simulation design. This method does offer a higher level of realism.

Level 2: Point and Click
This would be comparable to generic types of E-Learning simulation scenarios, just point and click. Nothing too complicated here folks!

Level 1: Screen Capture
Useful when doing an overview on a specific procedure, no real user interaction takes place on this level.

*Image courtesy of the Encyclopedia of Educational Technology

Children awe at being read stories from simple books that have textures for them to feel as a baby/ toddler to the grade school history text books. The point is that we are brought up around stories from an early age. Even though adults nowadays may be getting away from the traditional hardcover or paperback types of books, storytelling is still here. It may just reside in iPads and Kindles and the like instead. But what makes stories jump off the page? Well of course you can read a book full of text without pictures, while most of us tend to create specific images in our mind of the different scenarios being played out- is that really enough? By using “digital storytelling” the user is being immersed into a realistic environment that replicates the real world down to a tee.

“Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact.” –Robert McKee

Digital Storytelling
Digital storytelling is the art utilizing computer-based tools to tell a story. So I consider Visual Purple’s intelligent training simulations to do the same. Although the storyline of a simulation is immersive by itself we pepper it with decision blocks (and yes we do use Hollywood writers to craft our intelligent training simulations). Digital Stories also may encompass audio narration, images/ reference materials, video clips, etc.

Elearning! Magazine recently came out with a report on Virtual Learning Environments: Trends and Insights. The report outlined that virtual learning environments are one of the fastest growing solutions for learning.

According to the report “In a June 2010 study conducted by Elearning! Media Group, 64 percent of all corporate respondents have implemented virtual learning within their organizations, and 18 percent more plan to add them. The same study reports virtual worlds for learning will grow 250 percent over the next year to 21 percent of enterprises. At the same time, social learning and collaboration is exploding, with 77 percent of enterprise using or planning to use these tools for learning.” Let me summarize that for you in case you weren’t paying attention…64 percent of respondents have implemented virtual learning within their organizations!

Elearning magazine highlights four virtual learning solutions: 1) Virtual worlds, 2) Virtual learning environment, 3) Virtual classroom and 4) Web meetings. While all four types do offer a sense of immersion these next generation environments should be chosen carefully to fit within an organization’s specific needs. For instance a huge benefit of virtual world training is that trainees can make mistakes without fear of being embarrassed in front of an entire classroom full of students. The report further breaks down these advantages of VLEs (otherwise known as Virtual Learning Environments):
-Slash training costs
-Extend reach
-Do more with less
-Create a stimulating learning environment
-Provide “always-on” access to content
I would say that all above advantages can also be transposed into a virtual world training environment as well.

I often take for granted that readers of the blog and our customers know the different types of roles available through Visual Purple’s training simulations. It wasn’t until we re-crafted our website text that I began to realize we had never really spelled it out publicly. So here it is officially on the blog and also showcased on our newly designed website.

An often-overlooked critical aspect of simulation training is the best manner in which to train: individual or collectively. Visual Purple offers three modes:

1) Single Player, Single Role – The trainee will always play one role; synchronous interaction with live players not supported or desirable due to intelligent simulation world.
Available: Decision-Based, Virtual World, Hybrid, Embedded

2) Single Player, Multi-Role– The trainee may select from available roles and play the simulation from the unique perspective afforded by that role; synchronous interaction with live players is not supported or desirable due to intelligent nature of simulation world. Expect longer production time than single player, single role simulations but per role production time and costs will be lower.
Available: Decision-Based, Virtual World, Hybrid, Embedded

3) Multiplayer– Playable by several trainees at the same time with the ability to choose from a variety of different roles. Live interaction supported for collective training but not required through use of intelligent Non-Player Characters (NPCs) that fill-in for trainees that may not be able to participate as expected. In other words, the training can always occur if even only one trainee shows up. Expect increased production costs to craft and support a custom, intelligent persistent virtual world.
Available: Virtual World

It’s no mystery that the human race always relates to other people better when they know them or have had more of an introduction to a person. That’s why movies spend quite a bit of time developing the storyline and characters, before jumping in to the “edge of your seat adventure”…well, the same holds true in simulation development. The trainee is better able to relate to the training program when the storyline and character development are presented in an in-depth matter rather than just seeing “Joe Schmoe” walking around the environment. Not only is character development an important factor in simulation design, but also realistic looking and acting characters are crucial to simulations replicating all of the complexities that the real world offers. Believe it or not…When developing simulations each character’s move is purposefully planned out by the developer- a simulation just doesn’t randomly have a person raise their hand for no apparent reason. I believe that the feeling of immersion and realness are the keys to drawing people in and making training stick.

All too often a client gets confused with all of the different types of training available, from E-Learning to CBT and Decision-Based simulations to Virtual Worlds (and now Hybrid Simulations)… the possibilities just seem endless. For those unfamiliar with the different styles of training available on the market today the task of choosing the right training method can be daunting. In the end it all comes down to utilizing the right tool to get the job done, in the most cost efficient and timely matter.

Let me highlight a few differentiating factors that an organization should consider when looking into employing a new type of training, you’ll notice that Visual Purple offers checkmarks in all of the below boxes.

Highly interactive
• 3D
• Intelligent World – trainees don’t have the luxury to just ‘play’
• Compelling storyline
• Character development and quests
• After Action reviews
• Aptitude screening
• Realistic scenarios
• LMS reporting
• Reduced cost
• Short development time
• Easily updateable
• Reference documents

The obvious choice here is a modern approach to workforce training whereby an organization can cost effectively build an efficient training tool that is proven!

I once attended this great school that had a mantra of “Learn by Doing.” Which I thought was pretty cool back in my college days, but as life has progressed I realize more and more each day just how important this mantra is (no matter what age you are). Each of one of us has gone through training that has been better than others, whether it was a driver’s training course when you turned sweet 16 or a training course for your job. Although you may sit through 8 hours of training it’s what you take away from it that counts, not that you were just a warm body filling a seat. It all boils down to Passive vs. Active Learning. So what’s that you might ask? Well the passive type of learning would be reading and hearing words (see graph below to see the low, low percentages of what is actually retained from passive learning). Whereas active learning involves doing the real thing or simulating an experience, just like what can be done when training through simulations. So I will let the graph below sell you more on the idea.

Some of you may be familiar with CMT’s (that’s Country Music Television for those of you that don’t know) once popular show called “Trick my Truck” whereby an innocent semi-truck owner is surprised by a complete truck makeover: which got me thinking about tricking out training. While some may never think of this, or the makeover of training may only happen when a new decision maker joins the training efforts… what about doing it to deliver the best possible training to employees/ students and making your training material “sticky?” So you may be thinking “My training works…it may just be a little (or lot) outdated.” Or on the other hand, you may be seeing dollar signs because a lot of training types on the market today take a lot of money to get off the ground and even more money to update and keep everything current. Well one thing you may consider is the possibility of taking an existing training program and transforming it into a completely different training type. Oh yeah- Visual Purple can do that. View this short clip to see an e-learning training that we transformed into a private virtual world environment, complete with Non-Player Characters.

“- Link to”
YouTube Visual Purple Winning in Wireless Virtual World trailer

All too often we tend to forget what we are really doing. Like many types of businesses where the end result is all about pleasing the customer… well we here at Visual Purple take it one step further than just pleasing the customer. We are building simulations for the LEARNER. That’s right…I said LEARNER! Meaning every training simulation produced is obviously centered around the customer’s content but it is produced around pleasing the learner and making sure that they actually learn what they are being taught throughout the simulation. So now we have a learner-centric high-engagement environment that the learner (otherwise known as the trainee) feels comfortable enough in to explore and the ease of use/ navigation is easily understandable. A learner (trainee) must be interested in what is being taught in order for engagement to be sustained. The focus of the training spotlight ultimately always circles back to the learner.