Simulations … the New Instructional Design

As a kid, my ultimate Christmas present was a Davy Crockett coonskin hat, the ones with the tails, remember? 🙂  At the end of 2012 when I leant about a conference being held in a hotel across the road from the Alamo in Texas I have to confess I thought it was the coolest location I’ve heard of in 10 years.  Of course it being the Second Immersive Learning Conference and Symposium, focusing on a pedagogical approach I have been passionate about for 9 years also helped.

kenspero_leftI made contact with Ken Spero, a Senior Strategist with The Regis Company, and who helped design and launch the Immersive Learning University (ILU).  The ILU hosted the conference and thanks to his support I was able to attend.  This podcast episode recorded on SKYPE is with Ken who actually is in Philadelphia USA with me in Adelaide South Australia. Ken has been thought leading, teaching, promoting and supporting Scenario-based eLearning (aka Immersive Learning) for almost 25 years. His experience and understanding of the subject is awesome and you need to listen to the podcast a couple of times at least.

I asked Ken the question, “What are the benefits of Scenario-Based Learning” and in this podcast episode he unpacks the following seven benefits. I encourage you to reflect on these and think about your own teaching opportunities:

  1. They are a Form of Storytelling:  A couple of notable quotes from the podcast are “If we don’t have a motivated and engaged student we have nothing” and “Harness the energy of a good story into our learning applications and we have more freedom to achieve our learning outcomes”. Ken also talks about the mother-in-law example from his booklet, how everybody can relate and so people remember. What are your thoughts on these concepts? Please use the comments area below. I also asked Ken if educators need to be good storytellers and his answer and it’s rationale is quite an “ah aha”
  2. motherinlawfinalThey Engage Our Emotions: We talk about remembering and retrieving. Long term and short term memory.
  3. They Enable “Failing Forward”: We discussed if the concept of “failing is not an option” is needed in learning, about how giving students a chance to fail helps them build capacity to fix their mistakes as they would in real –life situations.
  4.  They Promote Critical Thinking:  Ken talks about context and the need for thinking and the process of judgment. We touch on the big question of “Is scenario-based learning good for all disciplines in higher education?” Ken gives a fascinating example from the teaching of history.
  5. They Accelerate Time: We discuss how the learning designer can use simulations to compress time to help the learner make a decision, implement it and experience its consequences all within the same exercise.
  6. They Provide Shared Context:  Ken returns to the power of the shared story and how it impacts the learner and we discuss the profound idea that simulations may be a better way to train and may accelerate community building or bonding between people and improve morale … go listen and comment on that idea please, we would love you to join the conversation.
  7. They Trigger Our Memories: Ken refers to studies on how the brain works and how simulations can create linkages.

We encourage you to listen to this podcast episode carefully and reflect on how you might use scenario-based elearning in your discipline. Also please join the conversation in the comments below and if you would like to email either Ken or me Allan we would be happy to hear from you.

Podcast Episode:

Online Resources

  • Scenario-Based E-Learning: Ken Spero, ASTD INFOline series Oct 2012
    Allan’s comment: This is a 16 pg. booklet published by ASTD targeted at and priced for the corporate marketplace. It sells for U$25.00. Ken mentioned a one off entry.  I was not able to check that for when I went to this search page, I visited a different one of the results and am now locked out.  Please take care on your first visit if you want to see the book
  • Learning’s Hierarchy of Tools: Addressing Transactional Need Through Experiential Simulation: In this article Ken talks about a model he calls “Learning’s Hierarchy of Tools  and models it on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs … well worth a read
  • Three Keys to Designing Good Scenarios: This is a short article but touches on three important tips for designing good scenarios
  • ASTD Philadelphia E-Learning SIG Presentation Capturing and Deploying Experience Through Simulations with Ken Spero:  This was a presentation Ken made at the ASTD in Philadelphia on Thu Sept 20th 2012. There are a good set of PowerPoint slides here for downloading.


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