Embedded Training

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.

Marketresearch.com recently released a new addition to their Defense market reports, entitled “The Military Simulation and Virtual Training Market 2010-2020” among the highlights of the report is that the Military Simulation and Virtual Training market reached $8.4 billion in 2009, yes they did say billion with a “B.” The report also stated that armed forces worldwide are quickly taking to military simulations and virtual training as key tools in enhancing training capacity. One of the most influential reasons for the growth in the market is that military forces are looking to reduce training costs due to economic strains in the budgets of the organizations.

Military forces around the world rely on computer-based simulators to provide invaluable training for today’s warfighters. More and more military branches are turning to the simulation and virtual training market to increase retention and performance of our treasured warfighters, maximizing the benefits of this training technology. Computer wargames in military training have had a good run, but not until recently have you seen more and more publicity around them… sure, we can thank the military for their secretive ways on this one. These simulations and virtual training projects train military staff in a full gamut of activities; ranging from training exercises to rehearsing for complex systems, all of which provide a diverse range of training requirements that must be met. The world’s simulation industry is growing larger and larger with the United States being the leader in the simulation and virtual training markets, followed closely by the UK. Sure, sometimes resources (mainly funding) are hard to come by meaning that a lot of potential training that could be developed never makes it from the initial proposal stage to the drawing board and eventual implementation. These mission rehearsal modeling tools are aiding in overall military readiness by streamlining training capabilities. One thing is for sure it beats the so-called BOGSAT (or Bunch of Guys Sitting Around a Table). Emerging technologies are changing the way today’s military trains-up.

Militainment, huh? Just the name makes it sound so gamey and just plain wrong for training today’s techno savvy warfighters. The title itself belies the high standards of military training today. Take for example the official U.S. Army game called America’s Army, while it is a wildly popular gaming application and not to mention a great online recruiting tool, it’s still just a game. First released in 2002 and with over 26 versions since, America’s Army continues to enjoy many new players downloading each and every day. While this type of recruitment tool will awe many of the younger video game generation- is it really an accurate depiction of one might really encounter in the service? And, does it really matter??? The U.S. Army’s seven core values are promoted and while it remains one of the most popular games downloaded and played on the Internet today it isn’t free to the Army but is a real bargain comparatively speaking. The Army has done well in drawing in younger generations connecting them with something that they already enjoy doing, playing games. According to an MIT study, 30 percent of Americans 16-24 years of age had a positive impression of the Army because of the America’s Army game.

These ‘video-game’ like technologies are changing warfare today. But is it realistic enough? Military combat and training is serious stuff. Not to be confused with a game that you hope to beat someone’s high score. Recruits eat up the game and many choose the Army (and other branches of the service) specifically because of their experience from playing the ‘game’ or ‘recruitment tool.’ While even militainment can fall into the category of serious games- is this really the right category for it to take on? What is reality? Of course I’m all for the U.S. Military’s high-tech and cost savings approach of training military personnel through simulations, but the militainment title that is strictly for entertainment/recruitment purposes should not be confused with serious combat training for our soldiers that risk their lives everyday to safe guard our freedom and keep us safe. God bless them all!

A weekly wrap-up on what’s going on within the Virtual World sphere and beyond! Click on any of the below titles to read the full story.

New training in Europe brings reality to virtual worlds

Meet the Sims … and Shoot Them

‘America’s Army’ Blurs Virtual War, ‘Militainment’

Twitter OAuth Comes to Second Life

There.com is closing

By Ed Heinbockel, President and CEO, Visual Purple, LLC

Something wonderful is happening.

The controlled nature of militaries usually results in standards being pushed down the chain. Refreshingly, we are witnessing a rare phenomenon. Bohemia Interactive and its delightfully robust 3D platform, Virtual Battle Space 2 (VBS2), is taking over militaries worldwide by storm.

This bottom-up emerging standard is a testament to warfighters needing to get things done…now! They found a solution that works better than officially mandated and very expensive top-down solutions. We’re seeing VBS2 as an evolving standard for our military with the Marines leading the way and the Army close behind.

Several important announcements around VBS2 are coming soon. Stay tuned!

Visual Purple training simulations offer a blend of Simulation Technology, Adult Learning Interactive Simulation Techniques, and the latest in 3D Visual Imagery. Successfully integrating these elements into cohesive simulations illustrates the power and potential of this training modality.

The Simulation Technology quickly draws trainees into the scenario, rapidly developing a sense of urgency as they are immersed in and engaged by the believable simulation scenario, ultimately living and learning through their interactions. Adult Learning Interactive Simulation Techniques stimulate positive behavioral change in trainees while they train, meaning that improved performance is immediate.

The pre-existing personal experience and formal education of adult trainees has created established habits, information coding, and interpretation methods which need to conform to standard policies and procedures required to achieve the requirements at hand. This past experience, coupled with dominant and preferred learning style, gives trainees the basis upon which to modify and apply their learning processes to meet the changing needs and conditions presented by the simulation. To facilitate the learning experience, Visual Purple employs a variety of Adult Learning Techniques in our decision simulations which include the following:

Being immersed in these proven Adult Learning Techniques and “living the simulation,” better prepares trainees to apply the virtual experiences learned through the decision simulation to the real events they face on a daily basis. This application to real situations produces results-oriented, productive, highly effective and efficient behaviors. Trainees become self-directive since they’ve accomplished the tasks in a simulated setting and are able to apply this virtual experience to new encounters. Their training enables establishment and implementation of their various strategies for success.

For those of you that are familiar with Visual Purple’s work you are probably well aware that we are very passionate about the power of story in relation to our simulations (whether they are embedded or virtual world based). We are hard-wired to relate to characters and story. Think about it: What draws you into a movie, simulation, or even a virtual world? ENGAGEMENT is key through the narrative. The narrative is able to drive the player through an entire sequence of events (for you hardcore instructional design types, story really does answer the mail on sequencing) that engages and aids the learner in retaining the materials covered. The storyline also allows the player character a way to become fully immersed in the simulation and also offers a way for the simulation path to branch into a variety of different scenarios based upon the player’s actions or inactions.

You find storytelling in everyday aspects of your life from posting and reading tweets on Twitter to talking on the phone – storytelling is all a part of what we do. Whether in relation to work or on a personal note; storytelling is weaved into our everyday lives…it IS our life! Every person has a story and every simulation has a story, each storyline is unique to the character (whether real or an avatar). By creating a storyline for a simulation to follow, the trainee is better able to interact, be immersed and learn and retain to very high levels. The use of storytelling in the form of simulation is key to immersing the trainee/ learner to train up.

Embedded Training simulations use stories to train users of complex software systems. These embedded training simulations contain all the best features of Visual Purple decision-based simulations (described below), but are built in to (or essentially reside as a layer on top of) the client software. Users experience a compelling story that motivates them to excellence while training on their own software system. One hundred percent of Visual Purple embedded training translates into performance improvement because the on-the-job software becomes the training software – nothing gets lost in translation!

Complex systems are ripe for embedded training. The U.S. military recognizes the value of fusing realworld software applications with advanced training simulations. This fusion permits the trainee to use the actual software application and become proficient in not only the buttonology, but to gain an appreciation and understanding of the “big picture” as well. Future Combat Systems (FCS), a major Army modernization program (and currently being redefined and renamed), has as one of its core tenets that both collective and individual training be embedded to increase efficiency, improve retention, enable on-demand, anytime-training, reduce costs and ultimately reduce or eliminate the often costly and cumbersome logistics tail associated with in-theater training.

In late 2008, Visual Purple released its first embedded trainer to support our warfighters in theater. Utilizing a vast array of proven simulation technology, Visual Purple is able to provide immersive 3D embedded training to a variety of sectors. Resident in Visual Purple’s approach to embedded training is that the advanced training simulation reacts to the software application as it is driven by a training database. This approach allows users with no training whatsoever on the software application to be guided to mastery at their own pace. As trainee skills evolve the embedded trainer reacts and increases the tempo reducing time-to-train. Visual Purple’s proven approach to embedded training in some ways represents the Holy Grail of training in today’s increasingly complex and data intensive world.

“- Link to”
YouTube Visual Purple Visual Purple Embedded Training Trailer

So how much should training really cost- well it is all dependent upon the type of training. Fun fact: Did you know that the global market for learning is worth over $2 Trillion dollars? The price for different types of training does vary significantly from medium to medium. Training Industry recently estimated the following numbers:
2008 expenditures for training services was approximately $129.2B, down from $132B in 2007.
• The 2009 market is predicted to drop to $116B; the steepest single year decline in the industry since 2001.

According to Bersin & Associates – The Corporate Learning Factbook 2009:
“The U.S. corporate training market shrunk from $58.5 billion in 2007 to $56.2 billion in 2008, the greatest decline in more than 10 years. Average training expenditures per employee (which include training budgets and payroll) fell 11 percent over the past year – from $1,202 per learner in 2007 to $1,075 per learner in 2008. Staff resources also took a hit. In 2008, large companies employed 3.4 training staffers per 1,000 learners, down from 5.1 per 1,000 in 2007; mid-sized companies employed 4.9 staffers per 1,000 learners in 2008, compared to 7.0 staffers per 1,000 in 2007.”

Other findings:
The average number of formal training hours dropped from 25 hours per learner in 2007 to 17.2 hours in 2008. Training consumption dropped most substantially among small and midsize businesses, with learners taking 33 percent fewer training hours, on average, than in 2007
• Although instructor-led classroom training remained steady (at 67 percent of all training hours), the proportion of e-learning decreased for the first time ever in 2008. Companies also reduced their use of virtual classroom training, so that (combined with self-study e-learning) the total amount of online training dropped from 30 percent of training hours in 2007 to 24 percent in 2008. This shift illustrates the industry’s steady move toward informal learning and social networking.
• As companies downsized their training staffs, many turned to external providers to fill the resource gaps. Large businesses, in particular, outsourced more functions to third-party providers in 2008, as their staffing numbers were hardest hit.

Virtual worlds are now the new go- to for the government, military and corporate sectors as a cost savings proposition. But not only cost savings exists- organizations are also turning to virtual worlds for immersive training environments. Virtual worlds are easily tailored to the customers’ needs- thus allowing for lower cost of development and a shorter development time frame when compared to traditional training and learning delivery methods.