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Leverage the Power of Software Simulation for Effective Software Training

For learning almost anything, there’s nothing better than doing and then reflecting on what you did. And the reason we learn anything for work is so we can do something new or do it better.

We need to document data, clock our time, track projects, and other things. In the world of software and computers, it’s possible to create realistic and powerful simulations for learning.

It could be learning essential tasks in Salesforce, Anaplan, ServiceNow, or other applications employees need to use. Creating something realistic will always be more effective at helping people learn than simply showing screenshots or, even worse, babbling on for hours with disjointed PowerPoint slides or, worse, no visuals at all.

The average number of applications a desk worker, also referred to as a “knowledge worker,” uses is 11, compared to six applications in 2019.

– Gartner Press Release, May 10, 2023

At that point, it’s just a guessing game whether or not employees will get value (probably not).

There’s more potential for learning software when employees do it in a simulation. It allows for realistic environments that help people quickly grasp and retain exactly what they need to do. Plus, employees won’t have to guess how the software will look if the simulation is nearly exact.

But it’s not just about creating fun and exciting experiences. Leveraging the power of software simulation is also about designing training that is both effective and efficient in helping employees perform a task so they can transfer back to their jobs. It’s also essential to know that not everything can be transferred, and there are ways to deal with that.

Softare simulations aren’t just about being realistic and fun, it’s about effectively helping people learn a task to do their job better with software.

Knowing what software simulations are and how they work is important to understand the full value of software simulations. In essence, software simulations allow users to interact with a simulated version of software applications.

It’s a realistic replica of the software. Software simulations create a safe space for them to learn so they can try things and not mess anything up.

An employee might be able to practice using a software application by completing tasks in an interactive, virtual environment. That means clocking into the company time clock to see how the entire process works before using the real system.

Or it could be learning how to navigate reporting tools to gather data needed so they know what to do on the job because they’ve already done it.

There’s nothing better than knowing what to do when you’re expected to do something! A good software simulation does exactly that.

Software simulations can be used for multiple purposes, including learning, testing, and even exploring a system if it’s an open-ended simulation. By going through real-world scenarios, employees can learn how to perform specific tasks quickly and accurately, making them more productive and proficient without messing anything up.

Realistic scenarios mixed in with software simulations make them memorable and effective.

Paired with realistic scenarios, software simulations create realistic training situations that also allow people to develop their problem-solving skills.

Now it’s time to take a deep dive into the power of software simulation for effective software training. We’ll look at its benefits, the techniques for creating effective simulations, and tips for getting the most out of your simulations. All of this information will be provided on a high level, but we’ll dive a bit deeper into it in further posts.

By the end of this post, you should better understand the potential for software simulation to help train employees in software skills and have better-prepared, more confident, and all-around happier employees.

The Benefits of Software Simulation For Training

There are many benefits of software simulation for training, with the most obvious being that it allows employees to practice and refine their skills in a safe place that’s realistic and guided. By providing a realistic experience paired with a realistic scenario, employees will understand how the software works and what they’re expected to do in it.

Software simulations are a quick way to help employees acquire the knowledge and skills needed to be successful. Paired with resources (performance support) that will help them do the not-so-regular tasks is a winning combination that helps employees do their jobs better.

With custom software training built to be realistic with a software simulation and with a good scenario, learning will be more fun, engaging, and easy to apply back on the job.

Transfering knowledge from a realistic software simulation to the job is easy.

Software simulations also offer advantages from a financial perspective.

Companies can save money by cutting training time significantly. Software training that’s a realistic simulation is typically self-paced, which means a lot more thought can go into shortening training and maximizing effectiveness. It also saves money because people usually learn better by doing and will make less costly mistakes.

If employees know what to do, they’ll make fewer mistakes, work faster, and save the organization lots of money.

With software simulations, employees are kept out of the real environment until they gain the necessary skills. Real practice in a fake environment is much better than real mistakes in a real environment with real costs. I think employees will appreciate the ability to learn and practice in a safe environment.

Nobody wants to mess up a real system and deal with that mess and cost!

However, not all software simulations are created equal. You can’t just buy software, record a process, and expect everything to come together. Technical training isn’t software tutorials created with automated processes and tools.

Just like any training, it has to be approached with strategy, process, and knowledge of how adults learn. You can work with an instructional design consultant, or if you have instructional designers on staff, they’re a great place to help you start.

How You Can Implement Software Simulation Effectively

It’s not magic; just like all things, it takes a good blend of skill and knowledge. It all comes down to creating software simulations that don’t contain too much information, are realistic, and are also engaging. Just because it’s a software simulation doesn’t guarantee it’s engaging or effective.

Even in software simulations, you have to remember that if you think everything is important, then nothing is important. In other words, if you overload people with too much information in an unorganized way, they aren’t likely to learn as much, if anything at all.

Employees can end up with train brain even with software simulations if they’re poorly made.

Using software simulations effectively revolves around organizing content, chunking similar content/tasks, and creating realistic and engaging scenarios that make sense to how employees will use the software. It has to hit home when relating to exactly what employees must do in the software.

Like most things, software simulations can be done well or poorly. Do them well.

Having employees click through a realistic simulation to learn everything software can do is a recipe for disaster.

It’s best to make the simulated environment as close to the real-world environment as possible with scenarios that make sense to employees and what they’ll experience on the job.

Here’s a good example of what you could do to make a software simulation amazing rather than bland.

If the simulated application is a customer service application, the simulation should closely imitate the look and feel of the actual application. The course should recreate a real scenario custom service reps will likely encounter and show how to deal with it, combining soft skills and technical skills to use the software during the process.

That will make it easier for employees to connect with it, believe it, and know how to use it in the context of their work.

However, you also have to remember that employees who are training are likely new to the software. That means you shouldn’t go too complex too fast. It’s all about finding the right balance of depth and complexity so the training is easy to use and understand.

With proper guidance in a software simulation, it will be easy for employees to use and learn effectively. Just be sure always to provide clear instructions and guidance so employees can quickly and accurately complete tasks.

Software simulations are extremely effective at helping employees do their job better with real practice.

Another important thing to remember when implementing software simulations effectively is keeping things modular and reusable. This is an important one that most software tools don’t help with or make easy to do. We don’t use the built-in software simulation features of development tools because they aren’t any good and give you very little control.

Using the built-in software simulation features in tools like Captivate and Storyline 360 is a great way to create poor-quality software simulations that are also not as easy to update while maintaining quality. That means updating and changing one part of the simulation is extremely difficult.

It’s helpful to keep things modular so software updates can easily be translated to course updates because it’s always important to keep eLearning up-to-date.

That’s all nice and great, but what about ensuring a positive financial value for the software simulation? Let’s take a look!

Optimizing Software Simulation for Maximum Financial Value

Sometimes, training is hard to calculate a solid financial value for. If you can compare employee performance data before and after training, then that’s a great way to see the real value.

But that’s not possible when training on new systems or training new employees.

One thing you can see is that without good training, employee turnover will be high, and training has the potential to decrease turnover significantly. Even with new processes or new employees, you can test the turnover percentage before training improvements and after.

Software simulation can offer significant value over traditional methods of training. Simply learning the content is a pretty good value, right?

Effective training that helps employees do their job better nearly always provides financial value.

Okay, on a serious note, it’s important to have a well-thought-out training process to ensure that it provides the highest possible return. That’s why instructional designers and training professionals are essential. That’s all we think about!

Every software simulation should be properly designed, implemented, and, perhaps more importantly, regularly updated and maintained.

As with most training, you also can’t see any financial value if you don’t track user progress and identify areas for improvement. This can help ensure that the simulation provides employees with the skills and knowledge they need. It’s also important to use analytics to measure the effectiveness of software simulation.

Then there are also good ‘ol employee surveys. They aren’t the best sole method of assessing training effectiveness, but they shouldn’t be discounted entirely. If created properly, surveys can provide valuable information that isn’t focused on whether employees liked the training.

Just don’t use an NPS score for training surveys. What a joke that is.

A well-crafted survey can tell you how much value your software simulation is providing to employees.

If your organization has the capability, monitor how users interact with simulations. That way you can identify areas where the simulations can be improved and optimized. Analytics can also help to identify areas where employees are struggling, allowing companies to adjust the simulations accordingly.

That might require detailed tracking software or perhaps more modern tools like xAPI because SCORM doesn’t have many tracking options. SCORM only offers the most basic pass/fail, complete/incomplete type of tracking.

Sad but true.

All these things can help you maximize the financial value of your software simulations.

In addition to providing a return, following some best practices will help create better software simulations.

Best Practices for Software Simulation for Training

There are some best practices to remember when using software simulation for training. Getting complex and going in-depth with the software is tempting because it’s intuitive, but fight the urge.

First, always ensure your simulation’s environment closely resembles the real-world environment. There’s nothing worse than practicing something only to find that what you practiced is dramatically different than what the real system is like.

That leads me to the second point: you must always keep the training up-to-date. Ensuring training aligns with the real system ensures employees won’t have to extrapolate too much from training to actually using the real system.

Keeping a software simulation up-to-date is essential otherwise employees will have a hard time transfering what they learned in training to their job.

Third, make sure you have good signposts. That means helping people understand what they’re supposed to do next and how to use the system. If you’re using narration, then be sure you also use a visual on screen. If someone misses a few words, they shouldn’t be lost. A nice hint that remains on the screen is always appreciated.

Nobody wants to feel lost, and that’s easy to do in a poorly designed software simulation.

So, provide clear instructions and guidance and a way to track progress or for the user to see their progress. How much longer is this course going to take!?

Finally, our fourth best practice is to provide users with feedback, and if relevant or helpful, maybe even reward them for successfully completing challenges. It could be a simple virtual pat on the back, but anything is helpful to keep things going. This is a form of gamification for technical training.

Now, let’s move on to what people care about the most but shouldn’t. Software simulation tools!

Choosing the Right Software Simulation Tool

Yes, this is always the biggest focus when creating software simulations. Of course, it should be the focus for creating them because the tools are necessary. However, the focus shouldn’t be just on creating but on creating effective software simulations.

The keyword here and for all training is effective.

The focus shouldn’t be on the tool because an effective software simulation isn’t about the tool but the plan. Having a good strategy for training design is more important, and is why we love ADDIE over all other instructional design methods.

Nope, the tool doesn’t matter. You could theoretically even use PowerPoint to create a software simulation. We’ve used PowerPoint to prototype how in-app help processes work. That’s kind of like a software simulation!

The tool you use to create the simulation is less important than your process in building the trainig framework.

So, any tool you can use to put training together can ultimately be used to build a software simulation as long as the tool allows for interactive elements.

Some tools would be less than ideal, including video tools such as Camtasia. While Camtasia does allow for interactive elements, it’s not complex enough for software simulations.

We’ll cover in more detail how we create our software simulations, but it’s not by using the software simulations functionality built into Captivate or Storyline 360.

Nope, we don’t even use the software simulation functionality of either of those. Neither one of them has built-in tools to create software simulations well. They’re both mediocre to poor at best. It must be done manually to provide the best possible simulation.

So, whatever tool you use for developing courses is the best tool for software simulations.

Here is a list of some tools you could use.

  • Storyline 360 (our fav)
  • Captivate
  • Lectora
  • PowerPoint
  • or any other that’s capable

We got our start on Lectora, but those days are long behind us. But, if you’re comfortable with Lectora, there’s no reason you can’t use it as long as you can place images and use interactive hotspots and form fields.

With basic features in most tools, you can develop realistic software simulations with any tool, and the result will be more or less the same.

Wrap Up

Software simulations are essential for any organization whose employees use software. So, pretty much every modern company because who’s not using software these days?

Even construction workers are expected to pull out their phones and do things such as check their email or document their progress. Software simulations are an invaluable tool for training employees in software skills.

To get the most out of software simulations, it’s important to understand how to build effective training (not just software simulations) and use best practices to make it awesome. It all starts with it being realistic, engaging, performance-focused, and ensuring every part of it has a goal that matches the business goal for the tool and processes being taught.

You can’t go wrong with a software simulation that helps employees work more effectively.

Whatever tool you choose (it doesn’t matter as long as there are basic features), it takes a lot of practice to build software simulations well. Software never stays the same, so one of the biggest jobs is keeping it up-to-date so employees learn the right stuff and move from learning to doing easily.

By understanding the power of software simulation and following best practices, companies can ensure they realize the amazing benefits of training with software simulations.

We’ve been creating software simulations to train employees to do their jobs with corporate technology for a long time. It’s part art and part science, but with the perfect blend, the training outcomes can be extremely effective and memorable to employees.

If you want to discuss how to train your employees in new or updated software effectively, we’d love to learn more and help you work through the process. We’re always available, so schedule a free consultation so we can get to know your project better and how we might be able to contribute to its success.

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