Monday, April 28, 2008

More thoughts on Branching Simulations

In a previous post, I challenged my readers on what they felt was more important with branching simulations, the tool or the process. I recently re-discovered a post by the eLearning-Guru that challenges the effectiveness of branching simulations in general.

In this interview branching simulations come up in the topic:

Clark Aldrich: Any time you don't have the right simulation genre that is a failure. A lot of early "simulation" attempts were to use branching videos and other forms of branching stories to teach high potential managers new skills. A branching story is where you're given a bit of background and you have to make an A, B or C decision to move to the next branch in the programming tree and it's a series of answers to questions and you move along through the experience that way.

Branching stories turned out to be remarkably ineffective for high potential managers who really like and value creativity and who come to the table with a pretty good skill set and want to hone and refine their own skills as opposed to being put through a maze. That use of branching story simulations probably is one of the early spectacular simulation failures. You can't use those kinds of branching stories to teach high level management skills to high potential managers.

Karl Kapp: I'd imagine there are still vendors doing just that.

Clark Aldrich: Even as we speak. And in a lot of cases people say, "oh yeah you know we tried those simulations for our managers and it didn't work, therefore, we're not going to do any more simulations." You have to understand where those concerns stem from. The real news is that the exact same model, the same branching story model, works fabulously well with new employees and works fabulously well with unmotivated employees

In this case the branching simulation genre is not a bad genre. It was simply used in the wrong way. When that happens it creates a ripple effect. And that's the whole premise of the book…the proper application of a simulation genre depends on the audience and the content. If you ask an audience their opinion of a certain simulation genre invariably people who give an unfavorable opinion were those who took the simulation in the wrong place and those who have a very strongly favorable opinion took it in the right place.

I personally find a lot of use in well done branching simulations- showing consequences of possible option paths. What are your thoughts on Clark's comments?


Steve Howard said...

As always - choose your tools to suit your audience and to suit what it is you are teaching them. And learn from expeerience.

If you are teaching high flyers *and* new starts *and everyone in between, you'd be foolish to think that the same methods will always work for them all.

I was taught from early days that the first and most important task is analysis of user - who are you teaching? Why are you teaching them? WHAT are you teaching them? Where are you teaching them?

Scenarios certainly can be extremely successful, but then so are funny videos when they are well written, right for the audience and right the task at hand.

Clark Aldrich said...

I agree there are some fabulous branching stories. I have seen some great ones on topics as "big" as ethics and racial discrimination. I still think they work best at the front of a program to build excitement.