Looking for Creative ideas for software simulation courses...

Jun 10, 2013

I'm creating a software simulation course in Storyline and am stumped on making this engaging. I'm 1/2-way through with the course and I'm already bored...so what does this say about my learner's experience? Any samples/examples, etc., would be appreciated (other than the Evernote example which is great!)

25 Replies
Steve Flowers

I used to do quite a bit of simulation for complicated software tasks. Not so much anymore but at the time I employed a few different tactics:

1) Only describe the tasks that are difficult. Dragging folks through demonstrations of things that are pretty intuitive gets boring pretty fast. One way to do this is by combining simpler tasks into a compound task. For simpler or shorter tasks, you might consider a quick illustration of the task rather than dragging it out. For these, you might indicate the difficulty with a label and / or color (EASY, MEDIUM, HARD, NIGHTMARE) that way it's consistently clear why you are using a single image to describe a sequence and when you're using the show me / let me try / test me pattern.

2) Build a campaign based on a single scenario or set of related "missions". These would lead the participant through an "application story" where they are solving a problem or set of related problems during the series.

3) Use diagrams to describe the models (the logical operation of the software or "what the user does and what the software will do in return") before laying into more complex tasks or to "build up" or scaffold a task set. For example, "Study this diagram for a minute. This illustrates what you'll do in the software and how the software should respond.". With software training, I think that's what we're aiming for - a clear mental model of the how and the why. Diagrams that are analogs of the way the software works can really help in a lot of cases.

Hope this helps


Daniel Brigham

Hi, Diane:

Scenario/story ideas:

Thought 1-- espionage: maybe the learners could track (or at least discern) how a less-than-scrupulous person is manipulating the system for evil ends. Maybe the scumbag is somehow fudging the time or expenses a bit.

Thought 2 -- correct use of the software saves the day: perhaps create a scenario in which a department needs to accurately track time and expenses. If it doesn't, something nasty happens -- e.g.,  a dept gets cut, or certain people get laid off, etc.

Thought 3 -- sort of an angel and demon theme: fudging/rounding up expenses and time is common (just being honest); maybe you could have a good character and a sort of wayward character representing what the learner might do. Sort of a click here for the honest person's feedback. It's an idea anyway.

Thought 4 -- to make it more demanding for the learner, you might add a timer: you gotta do this report in two minutes, or something bad happens.

A bit more context on how and why the software is used might help. Let us know your thoughts. --Daniel

Bruce Graham

Currently working on a software simulation - and am going with a "hidden character" who has a dialogue with the learner.

These just keep appearing from the bottom.

They "challenge" the trainer, which gets straight to many of the acceptance issues some people have with using the software. The challenge statements then give me more of a mandate to "explain it the way it is...".


Natalia Mueller

Hi Diane,

I have been completely guilty of putting out highly instructive, painfully boring software courses. It doesn't help that it's what people pretty much expect from software training. The route I take now is to make sure that stakeholders understand that people do not learn software by watching a video or taking an eLearning course. Until we have the ability to upload new skills directly to our brains a la Matrix style, we need hands on practice. This one thing alone allows me to cut down on how much is in the courses. Seeing it does not equal knowing it. So let's get the learners familiar with what the software can do and then provide help resources for practice or for on-the-job guidance. 

Now we focus more on keeping the courses lean and conceptual and then providing a lot of OnDemand/JIT resources. We use Storyline to record a series of short, informal tutorials (think YouTube) that show the employees how to do something very specific. We also make user-friendly job aids. We then have a separate library of tutorials employees can pull up as needed. The thing I love about using SL for this is that we'll use some of the same recordings in the courses as optional to "see it" and convert to Try Mode as an option to "practice". When you get away from feeling like every bit of instruction has to come from inside the course, it frees you up to make the course more interesting and even tell a story.

That being said, I'm ALWAYS looking for more ways to make technical training  interesting and even fun so I'm looking forward to seeing what else the community shares here.

Phil Mayor

I would go with something like Steve's suggestion.

By the end of today you must complete, intersperse this with view/try and test screen recordings, use someelements of gamification where the menu is actually a tasklist that gets checked off as they are completed.

Give the user some element of completion.

You culd use a mission impossible type theme (I like to rerecord themes using garlgeband, not sure if that is legal but they have never made it into a course yet, one day)

Rebecca Fleisch Cordeiro

Lots of great ideas.

Want to echo Gerry, I too hate simulations and games with no relevancy to my job or those that are so highly game focused that the "task learning" becomes less important than the game.

And as I was reading through this thread, I was about to mention task oriented vs. topic oriented learning...which is basically the relevancy that Gerry also mentions...and related to what Steve says about Learners hating to slog through lots of topics with only a couple pieces that they need to know.

Adult learners wants their (our) learning to be relevant to the tasks we need to perform. Provide a challenge - making it competitive is fine - but make it about the job.

Tracy Buthe

We had to do a series of mind-numbing courses that were not only far too long but just too much to learn in one session so we made it a blended learning situation and had them pull out their User Guide and follow along. We made the learner do most of the clicking and showed the page of the User Guide on each screen so if they got confused they could look at it.. We also had sections where they HAD to use the User Guide and fill in the info using it. 

To make it less boring we used 3 of the Storyline characters to help out, provide feedback, etc.. At the beginning we had the learner click on each one to see how they were feeling about the training. We had one that was gung-ho to start the training - you know the person that would remind the teacher you had homework to turn in. She would say things like "I am so ready for this training. I've already got my user guide printed. Let's get started." One character was a little worried about the new software she would say things like "I am so glad we have the user guide to follow, that makes me more comfortable." and we had one that was a bit over confident - like "Why do I have to take this training when I have done this job for 10 years." This one was helpful because he would pop up and say something like, "Wow, I didn't know that!"  We had them nudge people if the forgot where they were supposed to click or whatever they were supposed to do. One of the characters would pop-up and say something like..."the user guide says we're supposed to choose option B." Or "Try clicking here."   We named them and even threw in a little humor with them. We sold these characters based on the fact that if we didn't lighten up this course people were going to fall asleep or poke their eyes out.

Hope this is useful to someone.

yewande daniel-ayoade

I am actually creating a course now that is supposed to be an overview - kind of like a tour of the features of a new web-based portal. Instead of the standard simulations, I decided to structure the course as "10 cool things you can do in the new Manager Self Service portal". So my navigation is ten buttons with a feature on each one, then I added a link at the bottom that I called - but first, an introduction. They have to do the introduction first, which is basically, here's what MSS is, and why its a great tool. After that the navigation is open and they can explore the features in any order they want.

Becca Levan

Hello Bridget, and welcome to E-Learning Heroes! ⭐️

Thanks for reaching out here, and I'm happy to point you to a couple of articles I found with some software simulation downloads and examples!

Take a look here and here, and let me know what you think! If you want to share more details of what you're trying to achieve, I'm sure some other folks in the community can chime in with additional finds!