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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Simulations Games Social and Trends

I received some interesting questions (and you know I love questions) from someone doing eLearning industry market research around trends in simulations, games, social learning.  They said they would be fine with me posting my thoughts.  I’m sure they’d love to get thoughts from others as there’s likely not enough data around this stuff to be super comfortable making business decisions.

Question 1 - As the notion of “learning as an event” begins to be replaced with true “just-in-time” learning, (in the form of learning communities and availability to portals of knowledge and information) do you think off-the-shelf eLearning programs in professional skill development will continue to be one component of a learning solution? Will they grow in need, become obsolete, or remain the same?

This is a case where I look back at what I’ve written:

and now I find that I probably should back step a little.  I generally talk about what’s on the leading edge, but here, the questions are a bit different. 

Yes, we will continue to see lots of professional skill development via off-the-shelf eLearning solutions.  I do think these will need to morph to fit better with new kinds of consumption and as part of an overall blended solution.  But people continue to need core development opportunities and eLearning courseware continues to be an important part of the mix.

That said – if I’m defining my business direction (which is what’s behind these questions), I would start by looking at my post on the Business of Learning.  There’s a lot to question about content based business models in a time when there’s easy access to lots of content.  There’s always a place for truly differentiated and valuable learning experiences.  But most content is me-too – and the value proposition for that will go down.

This is further complicated by the fact that there’s expectation that learning is going to be more and more part of day-to-day knowledge work.  In my recent post, I claim Social Learning Tools Should Not be Separate from Enterprise 2.0.  You need to think about how your learning business lines up with the reality of work and tools in the near future.  Of course, one of the big problems is that the marketplace (especially learning / training leaders) are not yet ready to replace courseware expenditure with other kinds of spending quite yet.

Question 2)  As new technologies for learning grow, and the use of games, simulations and immersive learning matures, how do you think self-directed asynchronous eLearning, will compare next to these more interactive programs? Will there remain a need for eLearning libraries?

Yes, there’s still a place for eLearning libraries.  I really don’t see them going away soon.  I see the pressures I’ve described above.

In terms of games, simulations, immersive learning – I continue to believe that there are wonderful opportunities to create really compelling learning experiences using these approaches.  But, we’ve yet to see a true blockbuster.  Shouldn’t there be a Management 101 Game program that’s sold 10M copies in the US?  If there was, then it would be tough to the a less compelling offering in the same space. 

But clearly there are lots of other barriers that keep games and simulations in check.  The numbers I’ve seen over the past couple of years don’t suggest that these kinds of solutions are really gaining broad acceptance in the market.

I should caveat that I believe that given how easy video is to shoot – simple kinds of video-based simulations will happen more often.  Actually, as price/effort continues to drop for each of these kinds of solutions, we will see more of them.  But we aren’t talking about massive numbers or replacement at this point.

See also When Do Learning Games Make Business Sense?

Question 3) Who is really using what in learning? What is the use level of simulations, gaming, and avatars?

I’m hoping someone can help.  The last numbers I had are a little old now.  In 2008, I published some numbers from the eLearningGuild in Training Method Trends which shows a snapshot at that time.  The recent ASTD numbers provide some additional insight.

Anyone know where there are some numbers around this?

Anyone with different thoughts on the trends around simulations, games and social learning?


subquark said...

Learning as an event. Too bad we concentrate so much on naming our approaches. But we do need labels to be able to move conversations forward (for example, it is much faster to say the wheel fell off rather than the round object allowing my car to roll fell off).

It's hard to move forward though when we keep coming back and renaming the wheel!

The "event" ideally would be when the learner is ready as that is when they learn most easily. Something about when the student is ready . . . unless the teacher's wheel fell off.

Just a pet peeve of mine.

The leading edge of good teaching has not hanged in thousands of years. Content that is relevant to the user and an engaging teacher equals good teaching, regardless of the technology.

There are, however, very compelling experiences that can be achieved with technology that enhance learning and help it get through to more people.

As for blockbusters, old story lines work best. Take World of Warcraft, it's huge but then, making war, conquering, and so on are some of our oldest stories.

Tony Karrer said...

Doesn't it seem like there's a great Mgmt 101 simulation waiting to be done?

subquark said...

Great idea on the management simulation! A cunning consultant could put one together that would allow customization to fit different business needs.

I don't know anything about those types of simulations, my realm is in virtual worlds as a communication channel. Using them to create activity areas to spark discussions with peers and/or teachers.

Scripted simulations can work very well in virtual worlds. A photography course comes to mind in which the learner had to set up backgrounds, lighting, and a camera for different types of shots. The lights had menu driven selections for colour, intensity, spread and could also be moved in the studio. The camera had a menu driven selection for lenses, film speed, aperture and shutter. Scripts would check settings and positions and report back to the learner and SLOODLE their progress.

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The leading edge of good teaching has not hanged in thousands of years. Content that is relevant to the user and an engaging teacher equals good teaching, regardless of the technology.Using them to create activity areas to spark discussions with peers and/or teachers.

Mayweather said...


Let's find it out. For now it seems nothing one and maybe in the future.

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James @ online phd said...

Having read your articles about the below shifts
“learning as an event” --> “just-in-time” learning,
Pure Courseware --> Reference Hybrids

I am confused about how to solve the problem of scattered research ? For example pure courseware would be very effective in delivery using asynchronous techniques but how would you put to gether material similar to that with widely scattered data ?