Simulation training can encourage real life application.
Simulation training can encourage real life application.

We’ve recently discussed the importance of simulations in healthcare eLearning. As we covered, they’re valuable for a myriad of reasons, but namely they provide the opportunity for healthcare professionals to make decisions in a risk-free environment, which can then be translated to a real-world clinical situation.

Along with the risk-mitigation value of simulations, they’re also good for the healthcare industry because they lower training costs and tend to increase the overall effectiveness of training and development.

After gaining an understanding of just what benefits simulation-based eLearning has for the healthcare industry, comes the question of what strategies work best when developing this particular type of content.

When you’re developing simulations, remember these tips:

  1. The best approach for simulations is to follow the watch-try-do methodology. This is an effective and interactive approach to simulations where the first step relies on an explanation of a task. This can include any relevant background knowledge, and this is where information is conveyed to the learner. After the concept is thoroughly explained, your eLearning module can then move to the try phase, which is really the simulation. Learners try out taking their own approach to a situation based on what they’ve learned, and simulations are great because they let the learner go by trial-and-error, and explore a range of consequences for their actions. Then, once the simulation is mastered, the healthcare professional can move to actually applying what they’ve learned in the first two phases to a clinical setting.
  2. Before creating a simulation, it’s important to think about a few basics with regard to the content and its organization. First, you’ll need to determine your design model. With simulations there are three primary design models: linear, exploratory and branching. Linear tends to be the best method for presenting a fairly simply simulation, while branching is often the preferred method for a complex simulation. It can also be a good idea to create a storyboard of the simulation before its actual creation, particularly for the most complex cases.
  3. The best simulations provide a great deal of interactivity, freedom and flexibility for the learner. This is vital in healthcare training because a healthcare professional will be faced with situations that require them to make decisions, and in some cases life and death decisions. When faced with numerous options, they have to be able to feel comfortable they’re making the best one. By providing a high level of freedom and flexibility in the eLearning simulations, you’re equipping learners with an arsenal of decision-making tools, and they can use this learning process as a time to explore possible outcomes of their decisions, whether these outcomes are positive or negative.
  4. When developing simulations, encourage collaboration. With healthcare training and development, it’s important to foster an environment of sharing and working with others, so add components to your eLearning that allows for this, whether it’s simply discussing possible options and outcomes with other students in a chat room setting, or allowing for the sharing of cases between users and instructors.
  5. As a technical consideration, when developing eLearning simulations try to keep the overall navigation style and user interface as simple and straightforward as possible. Simulations can become very complex, and a student may feel overloaded if they’re tackling a challenging healthcare situation and also have to struggle with navigating the eLearning module. Another technical consideration to keep in mind is ensuring your learner has the ability to replay any part of the simulation they want, on-demand.
  6. Incorporate elements of not only feedback from instructors, but also self-assessment. If you include feedback in multiple forms, it allows for greater comprehension and retention of information on the part of the learner. You can, for example, utilize multiple choice quizzes after a simulation, but you can also have the learner explain in an open-ended format the steps he or she took during the simulation, why these steps were taken, and how the learner feels about the outcome of his or her actions.

As a final note, in the healthcare industry, while simulations are one of the most valuable eLearning tools at your disposal, they do require the expertise of a highly skilled professional for their development. It’s important for trainers in the healthcare industry to utilize extremely knowledgeable and experienced resources, to ensure these simulations are as true-to-life and effective as possible.

Photo credit: Flickr/CTBTO