Do your employees need to experience real-world consequences without the risk? In this article, I’ll share 5 simple tricks to enhance the realism of your online training simulations.

How To Add More Realism To Online Training Simulations

When we think of online training simulations, we think of virtual scenarios that mimic real life. It might be a detailed role-play game, or a text-based question-and-answer session. The goal of online training simulations is to find out how an employee will act and react in a particular situation. Online training simulations prepare employees by developing skills and imparting real-world experience. The issue with simulated tasks is that they can feel forced or fake. Employees don’t feel that crucial connection and simply go through the motions. However, there are ways to make online training simulations more meaningful. Let’s look at 5 of them.

1. Branch Things Out

In life, no skill exists in isolation. This is even more evident in corporate settings. Exploring the steps involved in each task is crucial. However, employees will need certain talents and abilities to carry out these steps. Leadership involves making decisions, but it also involves listening to subordinates. A leader must exude authority through confidence and competence, but the way they dress has a big impact too. Similarly, encourage corporate learners to define related skills by brainstorming a branching scenario. This should be done before the actual online training simulation. Pick a topic, and have your corporate learners list associated sub-skills. For example, troubleshooting includes observation, trial and error, patience, and clear communication. Employees should be able to employ all the tangent skills associated with the process.

2. Include ‘Real-Time’ Responses

Quite often, corporate learners face challenges that are seemingly insurmountable. That’s why they’re taking your online training course in the first place. As you design your online training course, put yourself in their shoes, then draft a step-by-step map. For instance, the online training simulation involves cold-calling a sales target. Sketch out what your sales employee might do, and follow each direction to its conclusion. They might panic and hang up before they finish. They might get nervous and say something inappropriate. They might stutter and be misunderstood, or become upset and say something rude. For each action, map out a customer response, as well as a way to undo the damage. This makes the online training course realistic, as every time the employee runs the online training simulations, they get a different true-to-life result. Not to mention, they can come back later to see exactly where they went wrong.

3. Offer Tips And Hints

Feedback is an important part of any learning experience, especially in the corporate world. While some employees may want to review their in-course performance later, those who struggled tend to avoid self-evaluation altogether. They’ll care even less if they think they aced it. This can be a disadvantage, since even “successful” corporate learners may have taken missteps along the way. Include contextual feedback inside the online training simulations to keep them on track. It might be a pop-up to suggest a more useful course of action. It could also be a brief notification explaining why their last decision wasn’t the best idea.

Be sure to praise corporate learners when they get something right, and temper your criticism when they make a mistake. Use the right tone and language inside online training simulations so that they feel supported rather than monitored and judged. In addition, consider adding social media links that allow employees to share tips and advice with their peers. For example, they can post supplemental online training resources that focus on skills and abilities required for the task.

4. Set The Right Context

The trouble with many online training simulations is that they’re too academic. They focus on teaching abstract, theoretical concepts like negotiation skills and leadership challenges. To give your employees the experience they require, let them re-enact actual scenarios. A good place to source these contextual situations is on your customer FAQ or suggestion box. Identifying the issues your clients frequently raise offers a clear indication of issues that you need to address via your online training simulations. Program some of those questions into your online training simulation. For example, have a bank employee simulate dealing with a customer whose card has just been swallowed by the ATM. Use additional effects to make the scene more realistic. In the above example, you might include traffic sounds, or ambient background noise. You could even use a professional voice actor to simulate the panicked customer.

5. Keep It All On Task

Online training simulations can be quick and simple or lengthy and convoluted. The best kind of virtual role-play is multiplatform-friendly and bite-sized. Develop branching scenarios that can be done on any device, and keep them brief. Ideally, online training simulations should last ten minutes or less. This way, corporate learners are likely to see it as a quick way to pass time. They participate repeatedly during coffee breaks, while waiting in line, or even during a lull on the sales floor. This repetition helps absorption and retention of the online training materials. Focus each online training simulation on a single, actionable, real-life task rather than an open-ended scenario. Instead of practicing “how to communicate more efficiently”, practice “hosting an urgent conference call while the net is down”. In this instance, your corporate learners won’t just communicate. They’ll uncover unexpected ways to do it.

By the very definition, online training simulations are merely intended to mimic the real world. But if it’s one thing the corporate world does well, it’s finding ways to stretch concepts and resources. Explore skill sets related to what you’re trying to teach, giving corporate learners a wider net of approach. Cover both sides of the online training simulation, realistically showing how the other party might respond. Above all, focus on one task per simulation to prevent cognitive overload and allow employees to explore every step of the process. The key is to make the online training simulation feel like it can actually happen in the real world. This way employees will be prepared for every challenge they may encounter in the workplace.

AUTHOR
Christopher Pappas

Christopher Pappas

About the author: Christopher Pappas is founder of The eLearning Industry’s Network, which is the largest online community of professionals involved in the eLearning Industry. Christopher holds an MBA, and an MEd (Learning Design) from BGSU. eLearning Blogger | EduTechpreneur | eLearning Analyst | Speaker | Social Media Addict

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