Just the other day, I had a national sales director tell me that his company's e-learning is so boring, all he does is just get through courses as fast as possible. You and I both know he's not alone.
At trade shows and in discussion groups, I hear lots of interest in immersive e-learning, but also a lot of trepidation and confusion about how to get there.
Of course, games and simulations are the first topics to come up, but that's also where people start talking about all the time and budget they don't have. And most confess to a lack of knowledge and experience as their largest obstacle to immersive learning. So let's se if we can simplify things a bit.
What's the difference between a game and a simulation?
You may have heard around the e-learning watercooler that a serious game starts at something like $100,000 and goes up from there. But let's take a step back and look at the definition of a game a bit more practically. Here are the elements of a game:
- You have an environment, real or simulated.
- You have rules that guide your behavior in the environment.
- Working through the game, you gather information, experiment, develop strategies, and make decisions and mistakes.
- You should learn from exploration and practice, and then go on to be more successful the next time.
That describes every popular video game on the market today. In fact, it describes every game ever made or played. And it's no accident, because it also describes life, and we design games as a reflection of how we experience life. That's why good games make for such compelling e-learning.
With this understanding, I've intentionally blurred the line between a game and a simulation. I'm not giving up learning value this way, but I am keeping things simple and manageable. Now, a well-crafted simulation can be designed to have impact similar to that of a more complicated game.
Going a bit further, in e-learning, a game will focus more on free form exploration, discovery and consequence. Putting new knowledge to use may be quite complicated in a game. A simulation, on the other hand, makes game-like discovery behaviors a lessor part of the equation, and simplifies the environment where new knowledge is applied and practiced.
Using these tactics requires less time for development and for actual learning. Both are good reasons for crafting a game-like simulation, rather than a full-blown game. And in our experience, it certainly creates engaging e-learning that gets results.
If you'd like more information on designing simulations, check out this post: Business Results from Four Proven e-Learning Steps.