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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Do they die in real life?

The other day I was giving a keynote address on games and simulations in a medical environment and one of the participants said that she was told that in a simulation, the virtual patient should never die because that would be too traumatic for the learner. I asked her if patients ever died for real in the hospital where she worked--because if they didn't I wanted to go to that hospital. She said that "yes, unfortunately patient do sometimes die in the hospital." Then, I said, they have to die in the simulation.

In a related tangent, on a consulting phone call, someone asked me to weigh in on whether or not the final assessment should be a multiple choice test or an exercise using a realistic simulation of the actual software. I asked "does the actual job require the person to complete a multiple choice test?" The answer was a giggle and then a resounding "no".

The assessment for a learning event must be as realistic as possible.

It must be as close to the real working condition as it can possibly be. If it is too far removed from the actual situation in which the learning is needed, then the transfer from the learning event to the actual event will be minimal at best. (think about the transfer from classroom to performance...not so great.)

Too often, we don't want to make the learning too hard for the learner or we don't want to "trick" the learner but, you know what, real life is hard and tricks us. Complications arise, people get hurt and, yes, sometimes they die. The learning events we create must realistically emulate those situations (if appropriate to the learning event we are delivering).

If we soft petal the learning event, we short change the learner. Let them complain about difficult training, it is better than having them totally "blow it" on the job because it was so much more difficult than the learning event.

Here are some ideas I have on creating software scenarios for learning. Creating a Scenario to Teach Software Procedures


Catalog of Recommended Books, Games and Gadgets
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Sam Driver said...

There is a lot of nuance in this question. Giving people the option not to fail can encourage a high level of repetitive learning. We do this in my Iaijitsu class, for example. While training with a partner, we don't use metal swords, but when practicing forms, we do. We get the feel of the real blade and the relatively safe engagement of paired combat. Ultimately, we need to provide the actual experience, so having a series of parameters that you can tune for the training program can really help.

Fortunately, there is data that suggests that many of the same physiological responses can be elicited using non-real events. In this study,, male video game players exhibit hormone patterns associated with warfare. They haven't actually killed their opponent, but they do get some level of experience through the game kill.

While this is the reverse of life-saving training, the logic should apply: If you can safely give people exposure to very difficult problems, you can select for those people who can handle the pressure and emotional impact of high-risk jobs.

So what we need are experiences that can, at some point in the training, provide the level of shock they'll experience in the field.

Karl Kapp said...


Thanks for the comment.

I think you "hit the nail on the head" with your example of Laijitsu class where you have a blend of realistic practice with the "feel" of the actual weapon. It provides both the safety and the realism needed for you to become an expert and work your way to even possibly fighting (safely) with the real weapon.

The realism of the event informs your training and knowledge.

Also, thanks for pointing me to that study...very interesting.