What Role do Simulations Play in Future-proofing the Workforce

June 8, 2022 | Cyber Security & CISO Insights | 5 min read

Advances in computer hardware and software have made it possible to create innovative education experiences that enhance the learning journey. For example, using simulation-based tools and software can help enrich learners with greater proficiency and give them a place to tackle real-life challenges without fearing drastic repercussions. In fact, one significant challenge in business training and development is that there's no way for a learner to demonstrate the new skills they've learned immediately.

The next generation of learning calls for something more engaging, specialized, and interactive. We have the technology now to create specific training for whatever experiences our learners might need. They can learn how to work within the particular software environment of AWS, Azure, or another platform. Training simulations engage the learner with practical situations that provide real-world experience.

That kind of earned experience makes simulations perfect for organizations concerned about mitigating risk. Organizations are always looking for some level of validation from their hires. They want to feel secure that their employees understand necessary concepts and can apply them on the job. Unfortunately, there's a lot of risk in tech spaces, and training can fall short of expectations if the content doesn't engage the learner.

You can work 24 hours a day and seven days a week to be secure, but if even one team member isn't adequately trained, you are open to risk. Moreover, there's no way to validate that your employees can accomplish their daily activities efficiently and safely within traditional development modalities.

For example, if your organization is undergoing a cloud migration, you want to keep your consumption down. If members of your migration team are inexperienced, simulations are a great way to upskill team members to ensure the task is completed without incurring a higher cost.

On the flip side, when people engage in professional development, they want to do more than acquire knowledge. They want to prove they can apply their skills. In the not-so-distant past, nearly all learning used books and paper documentation which are often not the best ways to effectively transfer skills. The simulation modality keeps people engaged and interested as it allows them to apply the skills they're learning directly. They show themselves that they can accomplish the activity.

This modality is especially effective with the newer generations of adults in the workforce who have grown up with a gaming mentality. They're earning badges and sharing achievements for learning new skills. Learners today want something more than just the satisfaction of completing the course. Leaders love this approach because it demonstrates that their team members can accomplish their ongoing tasks under real-world conditions.

In terms of engagement, it's hard to top simulations. The learner is not just consuming video after video, which can get tedious and cause the viewer to miss out on crucial insights. An effective learning tool must be easy to use; if people get frustrated and click through too many interfaces or steps, they may just quit.

Another benefit that arises from using simulations is an increase in team efficiency. So many organizations lost employees during the Great Resignation of 2021. As those organizations endeavor to bring in new people, they are often tasking incumbent employees to train new hires. While this modality ensures that the new hire learns the information they need, it's taking that incumbent employee away from their day-to-day tasks. Simulations give new employees the applied knowledge they need and give trainers time back to focus on their assigned tasks. Simulations also immerse the learner and keep them focused on the learning process.

For example, at Skillsoft, we use three levels of simulations. The first level is guided; this is where you're learning by doing. You're given detailed steps to follow, and the task is to complete those steps accurately. It's very informal and ensures the learner has the essential information they need to build on. So, for example, the learner is tasked with compiling a simple code, and if it compiles, they've completed the task.

The next level is an advanced challenge. Again, you're given the steps and provided with hints to keep you moving forward. In this challenge, the learner is given a set of tasks to accomplish, and if they are completed successfully, the learner passes.

And finally, we have the challenge labs, where you're given zero guidance and must rely on your learned skills to complete the challenge. The simulation is a fully scored scenario at this level, where the learner must make sure the system is running correctly. The simulation validates their path and measures their efficiency.

Upon completion, the user is given their score with feedback on which tasks the learner completed within best practices and which they did not. A learner has five chances to retake the simulation. This ensures that the scoring mechanism is a supportive tool for our learners. No one wants to feel like they failed, and no one should feel like a failure for not applying new knowledge precisely the correct way the first time they try it. Instead, we want learners to feel accomplished, like they learned something, even if they didn't complete the task along with the standard operating procedure.

The simulations modality has been a big success as well. In 2021 our learners spent 300,000 hours on practice activities, and we are well on track to grow that to 500,000 by the end of 2022.

While simulations do seem like a perfect process, we have run into a challenge in the data science space. Namely that a working data scientist is never starting with a blank slate; they are generally working with twenty years of back data, cleaning up a mess, as it were, as opposed to starting completely from scratch. This example illustrates why a simulation environment must provide a specific and realistic training ground to be effective.

Overall, simulations provide a novel and effective way for learners to acquire new knowledge and skills, that mitigates risk for organizations and increases personal validation among employees. Check out our Skillsoft Learning Platforms to see if our curated content is for you.