The Sweet Spot for Learning Simulations
Last week I had an opportunity to consult with a colleague on an e-learning solution for a life sciences company. The company is implementing HCM software—a classic implementation challenge involving a wide range of users and job tasks. Most users will be doing simple employee self-service tasks. Others have slightly more complex personnel administration tasks, and a very small number will be using complex HR functionality. As we were discussing options, one of our big questions was whether it made sense for us to include software simulations in the learning solution.
As we spoke, it occurred to me that there really is a sweet spot for learning simulations—a middle range of tasks that are not too hard and not too easy. For very simple tasks, employees do not need to actually do the transactions to be able to learn enough to try the tasks online. In these cases, a job aid or a quick video does the trick. Asking them to do a system simulation might be overkill and simply frustrate them, leaving them wondering, That’s it? Why did you waste my time doing this simulation?
Meanwhile, for truly complex tasks, simulations cannot easily capture the steps and decision points needed to understand a transaction. Even if the steps could be captured in a simplified simulation, I believe that this would not adequately prepare learners to perform the task back on the job. The first time they were thrown into the transaction, they would encounter complexities that were never shown in the simulation.
Then there is the sweet spot—the tasks that are more than just a few simple steps but not full of complex decision points. These tasks follow a standard path; learners can get a good sense of the transaction by completing a simulation. And, of course, there are the infrequent tasks; learners can benefit by running through the steps to refresh their memory before they complete the task in the system.
Understanding just where the simulation sweet spot is for the functionality you are implementing can go a long way toward building an e-learning solution that resonates with your end users. And as an added bonus, identifying the sweet spot allows you to target your budget toward the most effective solution for each audience. Not every job task needs a simulation—look for the sweet spot and you will achieve better results, save time, and save money.