Why do pilots user flight simulators vs. real airplanes? We all know that hands-on experience is one of the best ways to learn a new skill. But don’t take my word for it. In an article featured from Laurdal they state three reasons why simulations accelerate learning and retention:
- Simulations increase engagement – By placing students into an immersive environment, they are ACTIVELY vs. passively engaged in the learning
- Simulations maximize retention – One of my favorite reasons why simulations are important. How many times have you put people through a training program and the knowledge is lost within a short amount of time
- Simulations ensure that learning is transferred to the job – This should really matter to the executive suite, when employees can accelerate their level of applying their skills directly into their work and shorten their path to mastery, this goes directly to the bottom line.
Think of it in this way, if I gave you a manual to learn how to conduct a step by step process, this is an explicit approach to learning something. It’s easily repeated and more commoditized but not as effective. On the other hand, if I gave you access to the equipment and/or placed you into a simulation which immersed you in learning this process. This is an implicit experience but much more valuable in giving you first-hand experience in learning this new task.
Finally, in a study conducted by Roger S. Taylor and Micheline T. H. Chi at the University of Pittsburgh, they conducted a study comparing students who studied using a textbook and those who used a computer simulation. This was the summary of their findings:
The Simulation condition acquired a significant amount of implicit domain information from pretest to posttest, whereas participants in the Text condition did not. These results suggest that educational computer simulations have the potential to significantly enhance the learning of implicit domain knowledge.”
But keep in mind, the simulations need to be tailored to a specific skill or task directly related to the job. It should include some form of immediate feedback and places the learner into a contextual setting, similar to what they will experience in real life. Anders Ericcson was noted as coming out with the study of “deliberate practice” Here is a video where Anders explains this concept.