How to Use Highly Engaging Short Sims in a Microlearning Lesson

Simply put, short sims are short simulations that are based on ‘learning by doing’. Short sims are a revolutionary form of microlearning that go with a ‘do more, talk less’ approach!

Now, why do learners love sims? Well, it’s because they feel relevant, natural, fast, effective, predictable, and easy-to-deploy!

No wonder corporates are increasingly opting for a ‘Sims first’ approach!

Let’s now learn about how short sims make microlearning incredibly innovative and immersive!

How Short Sims Work

Clark Aldrich, a master simulator, pioneered the concept of short sims where interactivity is the key element.

Short Sims are short (5 to 12 minutes long) scenario-based simulations where learners make decision through a multiple-choice interface.

What a short sim does:

  • Introduces a topic without beating around the bush, taking the learner straight to the point.
  • Allows a learner to explore and experiment with a concept, idea, skill or decision-making scenario.
  • Enables the learner to take actions for a given simulation that can involve:
  • Making a choice or decision
  • Choosing the most appropriate option
  • Creating or moving objects using easy-to-use user interface

A short sim quickly can set the ball rolling for role plays, where the learner interacts with a character in the simulation, makes realistic choices, and even receives feedback on their choices or actions.

The main advantage with a short sim is that, unlike a full-blown simulation, it focuses on one element. And given the right technology tools, it can be created very quickly.

Short Sims applied to 6 Microlearning Use Case Scenarios

Short sims can be used to supplement, reinforce, augment, or remediate your training.

Based on the purpose, short sims can be created for different microlearning use case scenarios.

6 Use Case Scenarios where short sims can be created for your player (learner):

  1. Pensive: the short sim asks the learner to reflect upon an idea,
    situation, or task and brainstorm ideas or concepts.
  2. Performance: a scenario-based short sim where learners get just-in- time support (e.g., workflows to recall important steps of a process).
  3. Persuasive: the short sim depicts a scenario and provides multiple
    decision-making options to help augment training and remediate
  4. Post-instruction: the short sims delivers key concepts after the main training initiative to improve retention and recall.
  5. Practice: the short sims help the learner practice the desired skills.
  6. Preparatory: a series of short sims designed to tie into the larger
    training initiative.

In all these 6 scenarios, the decisions made by the learner can be assessed to gauge their level of understanding or mastery.

Example of a Short Sim: An HR Executive Learns to Interview

In this short sim, the learner, an HR executive, is learning ‘how to ask behavior- based questions’ in an interview. The learner interacts with a character (the candidate) who is seeking a customer-facing teller job in a bank. The teller’s job role involves helping walk-in customers with their financial transactions and responding to their queries.

The HR executive is the player in this short sim with the learning objective of honing their behavior-based questioning skills. The simulation displays both players, the HR Exec and candidate.

The player needs to learn to assess the candidate’s suitability for the job role through behavior-based questions. So, there is only one task to perform — asking the right behavior-based question depending on the given scenario.

The scenarios and options are sequenced in a logical workflow. Four options are given for each question. The player needs to select one out of the four options.

The graphics in the sim change as the interview progresses, and feedback is provided on whether the player has selected the best option. The player has the option to go back and chose another option in this interactive simulation. Once a scenario is complete, the next simulated scenario appears on screen. This goes on until all the scenarios are completed within the time available.

The player can engage with the short sim multiple times, and revisit chosen options. Instant feedback is provided on the chosen option on why it is not correct or most appropriate.

The goal for our player remains the same, ask the right behavior-based question. The sim ends once the learner succeeds in choosing the right options.

Benefits of a short sim

In the example we’ve just seen, there is only a single scene and a single goal.

A short sim format keeps the learner focused, and gives them a platform to practice quickly, honing their critical decision-making skills.

Short sims can be used to teach the process steps in a workflow. They can also be used to recall past decisions or even previous short sim sessions.

A series of short sims in your microlearning lessons saves learners’ time. They can gain knowledge and improve performance without going through full-fledged simulation exercises!

3 Tips to Develop Effective Short Sims

1. Build action.

A short sim is all about the action. The learner is required to act – make a decision, move an item, etc. A short sim needs to have a behavior or action inbuilt in it. Action and activity matter the most. Content and recall will follow automatically!

2. Measure success when goals are met.

You must measure the learner’s success when they take the right decision or perform the right action. This will give the extent of mastery gained by the player (learner). The short sim must be tied to a rubric, a scoring criteria on ‘what counts’. Based on this criteria, the player will be able to learn to assess the quality of choices made, viz., poor, good, or great.

3. Depict reality.

Your short sim must be based on an actual situation your learner will face. Then the sim ceases to be ‘just a game’. Also, short sims work well when used as social simulators. In a social simulation, two or more interactions are measured, making it more absorbing and interesting. A short sim can simulate multiple scenarios about processes, procedures, skills, and many behavioral as well as technical situations. The singular focus on one subject area makes them simple to create, implement, and engage.

To conclude, short sims fit very well in a microlearning approach. They help improve learning effectiveness through fewer words coupled with a plethora of decision- making situations.

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