Decision-Based Training

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

I briefly introduced our latest and greatest technology, what we call “Hybrid Simulations” a few months back on the blog. Now I am pleased to say that we have an in-depth whitepaper available for download, click here to visit our home page.

A little more about what Hybrid Simulations are: Think of it as integrating decision-based elements within virtual worlds (and taking the best of each training type). Thus allowing for a lower cost solution with reduced development time to making it enticing to a variety of organization types, large and small.

I recently came across some interesting statistics in spending on training from Tom Werner at Workplace Learning Today, which he had sourced from the Performance Improvement Quarterly.

• Total training spending (in 2008 dollars) increased just 1.5% from 1986 to 2008.

• Spending on training staff (in 2008 dollars) decreased 14% from 1986 to 2008.

• Overall spending on training products and services (in 2008 dollars) increased 232% from 1982 to 2008.

Notice that for the 26 year timeframe comparison of overall spending it increased 232 percent! Note that A Consumer Price Index of 158 indicates only 58% inflation since 1982, so there is 174 percent increase when not accounting for inflation.

More often than not we here at Visual Purple meet with a client during an initial project kick-off meeting to lay out the project work plan, but by the end of the project so much has changed. It’s like you take a look back in time and think “gee if I had it to do all over again I would have done it this way…” Well I guess I should first say that this happens a lot in life, but when building a project from the ground up you must always anticipate that you could have done it a million other ways- just like building a house. You meet with the architect and draw up the plans, hire the contractor, pick fixtures and finishes and by the time the home is completed you still think, “I should have built the kitchen bigger and added an island or I should have added a window here.” Our goal here at Visual Purple is to help clients leverage our vast experience when considering possible ways of presenting training materials in an engaging manner. All the while thinking outside the box so the simulation is built in a way that the client doesn’t want to go back in time and say “I really wish they would have told me to present the training in this manner.” Well this is where our expertise and years of experience are here to help! Granted one of the many benefits of Visual Purple’s training products is our proven technologies that allow for rapid updates and changes. So unlike a newly constructed house that is more difficult to make any major changes and/ or updates to, Visual Purple simulations can easily be ‘remodeled’ later should the need arise.

We’re pretty excited! This post has been a long time coming… We are officially announcing a new capability of which we are very proud: ‘Hybrid Simulations’…where we lovingly bake in the best elements of Decision-Based Sims with the cost-effectiveness and flexibility of Virtual Worlds. Decision-Based Simulations are great except when it comes to expanding the world or making rapid changes in a cost-effective manner. Virtual worlds make it easy to expand or update but often fall short when it comes to perceptions that trainees won’t stay on task. We’ve learned through experience that many clients are looking for something beyond the perennially popular decision-based simulation, but aren’t quite sold on virtual worlds, mostly because of the negative perceptions associated with SL-based worlds. Working with select clients over the past 18 months, we have created a successful new approach and began delivering Hybrid Sims earlier this year – marrying the best of both worlds.

These interactive, decision-based virtual environment simulations perform exceptionally well and are produced quicker (in a few months) and at lower cost. We think we like to call it “3D vWorld-DB simulation software” – though our CEO still calls them Hybrid Sims. So, maybe, just maybe, we’ll stick with Hybrid Sims. These 3D animated simulations are custom built and the scenarios play out in a private virtual world. So what other advantages do these custom-built simulations present you may ask? Increased immersion, interactivity, layered decision-making, and feedback to the user (just to name a few). And perhaps the biggest advantage of all, is that this hybrid vWorld-DB simulation, er, I mean Hybrid Sim, is able to run in a browser!

Hybrid simulations also bring their own ‘tool kit’ if you will, which includes the following:
• Idea Generating Tools designed to break current, routine thinking patterns and encourage thinking beyond the status quo through the use of provocation and challenge;
• Focus Tools designed to broaden where, and from whom, students search for new ideas;
• Treatment Tools that are designed to consider real-world constraints, available resources, and other means of support; and
• Harvest Tools that are designed to maximize value received from idea generating output.

Visual Purple isn’t the typical virtual world builder where the ‘average’ virtual world will offer a free roaming character that the trainee can navigate around, our virtual worlds have walls (visible and invisible) and threaded missions to accomplish rather than just the free roaming nature that so many businesses worry about turning an employee loose in, just to “wander” around aimlessly. So there you have it folks, our latest and greatest way of presenting our clients with cutting edge simulation technologies. Stay tuned for more in-depth reviews of the new Hybrid Simulations.

With the constant mention of IMMERSIVE ENVIRONMENTS, I thought it may be fun to take a more in-depth view of the types of immersion. These highly experiential applications offer a higher level of cognition and the benefit of capturing and holding a player’s attention.

From Wikipedia: According to Ernest Adams, author and consulter on game design, immersion can be separated into three main categories:

1) Tactical immersion
Tactical immersion is experienced when performing tactile operations that involve skill. Players feel “in the zone” while perfecting actions that result in success.

2) Strategic immersion
Strategic immersion is more cerebral, and is associated with mental challenge. Chess players experience strategic immersion when choosing a correct solution among a broad array of possibilities.

3) Narrative immersion
Narrative immersion occurs when players become invested in a story, and is similar to what is experienced while reading a book or watching a movie.

Staffan Björk and Jussi Holopainen, in Patterns In Game Design, divide immersion into similar categories, but call them sensory-motoric immersion, cognitive immersion and emotional immersion, respectively. In addition to these, they add three new categories:

1) Spatial immersion
Spatial immersion occurs when a player feels the simulated world is perceptually convincing. The player feels that he or she is really “there” and that a simulated world looks and feels “real”.

2) Psychological immersion
Psychological immersion occurs when a player confuses the game with real life.

3) Sensory immersion
The experience of entering into the three-dimensional environment, and being intellectually stimulated by it. The player experiences a unity of time and space as the player fuses with the image medium, which affects impression and awareness.

A colleague of mine recently sent me a link to the Mashable blog article that outlined “What is the Future of Teaching?” although I found the article very interesting my fear of college statistics class suddenly came rushing back to me. Here are the key points of the write-up:

According to the New York Times Bits blog, a recent study funded by the US Department of Education (PDF) found that on the whole, online learning environments actually led to higher tested performance than face-to-face learning environments. “On average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction,” concluded the report’s authors in their key findings.
The report looked at just under one hundred studies that compared the performance of students in online learning environments (or courses with an online study component) to those who were given strictly face-to-face instruction for the same courses. What they found was that students who completed all or some of their coursework online tested on average in the 59th percentile, compared to the 50th percentile for those who received only classroom instruction, and that the results are statistically significant.”

So why bring up the haunting of college stats class? “While the study certainly provides a vote of confidence for online learning, it’s important to note that it doesn’t necessarily demonstrate that online learning is more effective as a medium than classroom learning. “In many of the studies showing an advantage for online learning, the online and classroom conditions differed in terms of time spent, curriculum and pedagogy. It was the combination of elements in the treatment conditions (which was likely to have included additional learning time and materials as well as additional opportunities for collaboration) that produced the observed learning advantages,” writes the authors of the report (emphasis theirs). “At the same time, one should note that online learning is much more conducive to the expansion of learning time than is face-to-face instruction.”

In other words: all things are not equal. Students spending three hours per day in an online environment under the guidance of a great professor are likely, and not surprisingly, going to be better prepared than those spending an hour per week in a classroom with a mediocre one. And because the study’s results were correlational and not causal, it is impossible to say for certain whether it was actually the online learning environment that caused better tested performance. We can conclude that those in online learning environments tested better, but not necessarily why.

Further, the meta-study did not look at enough K-12 research to draw any conclusions — simply because it doesn’t exist. Researchers warned that “various online learning implementation practices may have differing effectiveness for K–12 learners than they do for older students,” which seems plausible. A major part of the job of a good educator is to equip students with the necessary mental tools to be able to continue learning on their own. Those skills are likely to be less developed in younger students, making face-to-face teacher intervention more necessary.”

Online education is becoming more and more prevalent. A growing number of college campuses are offering online courses- hey who wants to get out of their jammies and pink bunny slippers to hassle finding a parking spot and carrying books to class when you can just login from your home computer?! In summary, the article outlined significant findings on the proven applications of online learning, although much like the article says “all things are not equal.”

Are we listening to today’s learner? With new (and ever younger) talent entering today’s workforce, does this change training demands? Why yes it does! Bridging the generational gap is at the forefront of many training directors’ minds today- how to mix ‘old’ and new technologies in order to make all trainees happy. And we all know that a happy trainee is a trainee that adds value to an organization. The key to this is to make training informational for the younger generation (and not too remedial), live up to their digitally demanding expectations, while currying favor with the older generation that may be less familiar with today’s ever-evolving training technologies.

“One of the most prevailing and misguided excuses for inertia: “We have mature employees who wouldn’t embrace new learning approaches.” Why have I NEVER heard someone from a company that actually uses social networking and virtual worlds express this concern? The reality is that older workers are usually the most enthusiastic users of social media, virtual worlds and podcasting. Join our weekly Train for Success meetings in Second Life and the average age is probably around 50. Here are my top-three theories why mature workers embrace next gen learning:

1. Mature workers have a greater network of colleagues to draw insights from. Social networks are designed for those of us who need to stay in touch with our college friends and professionals colleges from years past. The fastest growing demographic of Facebook is women over 55.

2. Older people enjoy being a young avatar in Second Life with a full set of hair and the body of a 19-year old.

3. Older people have spent decades in asbestos homes gulping Aspartame sodas, and it’s beginning to take its toll. They can’t concentrate on boring lectures, they need learning that is fun and engaging! ”- According to a recent ASTD article.

A lot of organizations claim that they find some resistance initially with older generations for implementing new and innovative training methods. Sometimes referred to as the “Digital natives vs. Digital immigrants” a digital divide is created where the key is to bridge the generational gap that is now transforming many organizations training initiatives. Let’s define: Generation Y’ers. Gen Y can be defined as employees born between 1981 and 1995. They are extremely tech savvy, allowing them to easily pick up new methods of training.

From an article posted on ZD Net Asia :
“What is different about the way that they think?
The eight norms of this generation are:
1. Freedom of choice. Choice is like oxygen. I had three media choices as a kid. There is also freedom of mobility. The goal in the past was to have one job for your whole life, where today in the U.S., by the time they’re 27 they’re on their third job. Freedom is a huge norm.
2. Customization. I never got to customize TV. You can change your world today, with your screensaver, your blog.
3. Scrutiny. They are a generation of authenticators. A picture used to be a picture. You see a woman on a magazine today, and you wonder how she’s been photoshopped.
4. Integrity. It’s just not true that this generation doesn’t care. Youth volunteering in the U.S. is at an all-time high. And specific activities. They care about the world, about social justice.
5. Collaboration. Everybody collaborates, but these kids are natural collaborators. When I grew up, everything was a hierarchy, and I was used to being broadcasted to. One-size-fits-all. School and lectures and my parents broadcasted. Now there’s a huge clash. These kids are sharing information, peer-to-peer, that’s how you spend your time, instead of being a passive recipient.
6. Entertainment. They want to have fun. Having fun with a product or service is more important than what they do. Having fun in your first job is now more important than how much you get paid. The kids have got it right, learning and work can be the same thing.
7. Innovation. The speed of innovation when I was a kid was glacial. Today, people demand new improvement.
8. Speed. They want things to happen fast and quickly.”

Is learning and adapting to new technologies really a generational thing? I think that no matter what one’s age- anything is possible. So here’s to embracing new (and old) types of learning technologies across the great generational divide. And now onto training technologies that satisfy Generation Z; or otherwise referred to as ‘Millennials’…

I hear, and I forget
I see, and I remember
I do, and I understand.

-Ancient Chinese proverb

Following Visual Purple’s tagline of “Understand Everything” I thought it may be fun to detail experiential learning and how it relates to training in a simulation type of environment.

By definition: Experiential Learning is the process of making meaning from direct experience.

There are many different experiential learning models out there. I will outline a few for you here:

David A. Kolb’s on experiential learning
“David A. Kolb (with Roger Fry) created his famous model out of four elements: concrete experience, observation and reflection, the formation of abstract concepts and testing in new situations. He represented these in the famous experiential learning circle (after Kurt Lewin):


Kolb and Fry (1975) argue that the learning cycle can begin at any one of the four points – and that it should really be approached as a continuous spiral. However, it is suggested that the learning process often begins with a person carrying out a particular action and then seeing the effect of the action in this situation. Following this, the second step is to understand these effects in the particular instance so that if the same action was taken in the same circumstances it would be possible to anticipate what would follow from the action. In this pattern the third step would be understanding the general principle under which the particular instance falls.”

And now for Peter Jarvis on his approach to experiential learning…

“Jarvis (1987, 1995) set out to show that there are a number of responses to the potential learning situation. He used Kolb’s model with a number of different adult groups and asked them to explore it based on their own experience of learning. He was then able to develop a model of which allowed different routes. Some of these are non-learning, some non-reflective learning, and some reflective learning. To see these we need to trace out the trajectories on the diagram he produces.



Presumption (boxes 1-4). This is where people interact through patterned behavior. Saying hello etc.

Non-consideration (1-4). Here the person does not respond to a potential learning situation.

Rejection (boxes 1-3 to 7 to 9).


Pre-conscious (boxes 1-3 to 6 to either 4 or 9). This form occurs to every person as a result of having experiences in daily living that are not really thought about. Skimming across the surface.

Practice (boxes 1-3 to 5 to 8 to 6 to either 4 or 9). Traditionally this has been restricted to things like training for a manual occupation or acquiring particular physical skills. It may also refer to the acquisition of language itself.

Memorization (boxes 1-3 to 6 and possibly 8 to 6 and then either to 4 or 9)

Reflective learning:

Contemplation (boxes 1-3 to 7 to 8 to 6 to 9). Here the person considers it and makes an intellectual decision about it.

Reflective practice (boxes 1-3 (to 5) to 7 to 5 to 6 to 9). This is close to what Schön describes as reflection on and in action.

Experiential learning (boxes 1-3 to 7 to 5 to 7 to 8 to 6 to 9). The way in which pragmatic knowledge may be learned.”

Earlier this year Chief Learning Officer magazine published the top 5 learning technologies for 2009. Of the 5 I still think that virtual worlds and games/ simulations are at the top of my list.

1. Mobile learning
2. Do-it-yourself (DIY) learning
3. Flexible learning environments
4. Virtual worlds
5. Games and simulations