How closely should your e-learning simulate the performance of a skill?

Our advice to clients— within your budgetary and other constraints your e-learning should allow for skill performance and practice that very closely resembles the real-world environment.  No picture that I’ve come across recently exemplifies this principle more than that of Patrick below, the virtual patient used to train medical students entering the field of proctology. You can track Patrick’s very existence to this line in the article

“Currently, students receive minimal practice and interaction in intimate exams due to the high cost for training and high anxiety nature of the exams.”

Feel free to read more about Patrick and the team that developed him by clicking here. When selecting a delivery medium for instruction, never forget e-learning is most effective when:

1.        Practicing the skills to be taught is too dangerous, risky or costly to allow for practice in the real world (think of the military’s use of flight simulators, or Patrick in the article above),

2.       Your learners are very geographically dispersed, or

3.       The skills you need to teach lend themselves to online delivery (i.e. software training).

Unfortunately, decisions are sometimes made at the beginning of the instructional design process with thinking that goes something like this, “because we have all these PowerPoint’s already built and e-learning development software is so inexpensive,” or “it has been decided this will be an e-learning project.” In many of these situations where the medium does not fit the learning situation, the results are often very unfortunate but irreversible after construction of the learning materials has begun.

Alex Santos

Alex is a co-founder and Managing Member of Collabor8 Learning, LLC, an instructional design and performance management consultancy. His firm collaborates with organizations to enhance the way they develop  and train their people. To learn more about Collabor8 Learning, click here.

Alex can be reached at 786-512-1069, or via Twitter@collabor8alex.