Corporate Training & e-Learning Blog


Choosing the Right Type of Simulation

Have you ever been faced with the task of researching, selecting, building, and deploying the right type of educational simulation for a specific learning situation? Clark Aldrich authored the book Learning by Doing (published in 2005 by Pfeiffer). He explains and defines the different types of simulations available, then takes it a step further to educate readers about which simulations are most appropriate for which learning situations.

Simulations can range from simple live role plays to sophisticated flight simulators. The book explains four traditional online "simulation genres":

  1. 1. Branching Stories - Stories/scenarios that engage the learner in a highly defined scenario where he/she makes multiple choice decisions that branch the story down different paths at specific intervals.
  2. 2. Interactive Spreadsheets - These allow the learner to make decisions regarding how to allocate resources. The simulation generates a graph, for example, after each decision to show the results.
  3. 3. Game-based Models - Here learners engage in entertaining and competitive games.
  4. 4. Virtual Products and Virtual Labs - These are on-screen representations of objects and software that allow significant interaction and mimick many physical characteristics of the real-life counter part.

When is it appropriate to use these different simulation types? This is Clark Aldrich's advice:

  • New employees and high turnover: Branching Stories
  • Learning to use complicated equipment: Virtual Products and/or Virtual Labs
  • New consultant team building: Virtual Experience Spaces
  • Shared understanding of complex systems: Interactive Spreadsheets
  • Sales training: Branching Stories
  • Exposure to new perspective: Branching Stories and Interactive Spreadsheets
  • A big new idea: Marketing Mini-games

Aldrich explains that using the correct simulation for each learning need can provide a powerful tool for changing behavior and impacting your organization's bottom line. He also argues that next generation simulations are the only chance to develop people quickly, rigorously, and cost-effectively.


  • According to wikipedia , a simulation is an imitation of some real thing, state of affairs, or process. The act of simulating something generally entails representing certain key characteristics or behaviors of a selected physical or abstract system.

    One of our teacher explain this to us, and told us that simulation will be an effective tool.

    By Blogger niannluz, at 10:05 PM EDT  

  • Jenna,
    Thanks for identifying when it is appropriate to use different simulation types. I am in training to become a corporate trainer at my job and I need useful information; like the stuff you provided. My company needs more training; not because of turnover problems, but because of too many people hired at once. Time is an important factor.


    By Blogger Heidi, at 1:16 AM EDT  

  • I agree. We have been making technical e-learning courses for professionals and the "Virtual Objects" type simulations and games make it very easy for the learner to grasp the subject. It also makes the learning really interactive, rather than just akin to a movie or a power point presentation.

    By Blogger Sam, at 12:00 PM EDT  

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