Guidelines for designing software simulations for e-Learning

Lorraine Minister has some tips for us in her post 5 things to avoid when creating software simulations.  In her post, she mentions avoiding having the learner do everything in simulations.  Especially where it is obvious what action must be performed in that section of the software.  Instead, you should do it for them through a short video or another means.  Further into her post, she mentions that simulations (activities) should be short and total between one and four minutes.  In How to design software training, part 2: Practice activities, Cathy Moore describes this also.  Moore says to create links to basic knowledge versus making everyone work through it.  I like that idea because if you start with tasks where it is obvious how to perform them, you can bore those learners who already know that information.

 Moore also writes that creating self-contained activities is the way to go.  I get this.  If you create an entire e-Learning course that has several software simulations buried in it, the user must go through the entire course and locate the specific simulation they want to try.  This can be frustrating for most end users, due to the lack of time they have available to spend on e-Learning.  I like the idea of a library of courses that is organized by on-the-job tasks.  The library could be accessed on-demand.  The user would be able to quickly work through the simulation when they only need to know how to do that one task.  Each simulation exercise would be very short. 

In Moore’s post, she mentions making how-to information as optional.  She is making the point that it would be better to immerse the learner in a real-world scenario and to offer how-to instructions for those who need additional information.

From these two posts, I have learned the following guidelines:

  1. Design quick activities that users can do on-demand and on-the-job.
  2. Create links to screens that contain common knowledge.
  3. Do the intuitive parts of the simulation for the user (i.e. data entry, text entry, etc.)
  4. Make additional how-to activities optional for the learner

By reading the post by Minister and the post by Moore, I have a better grasp on how to design e-Learning that works.  I feel I am armed with knowledge on how to make software simulations that are effective and learner friendly.

Do you have any tips or guidelines you would like to share about creating software simulations in e-Learning courses?  If so, I’d love to hear them!  Comment below or contact me to share your ideas and tips.

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