Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Simulations Provide the Best Training

"Ground Control to Major Tom..."

A recent BBC News story is reporting that the European Space Agency (ESA) is seeking volunteers for a study on the human behavior of potential Mars travelers. For 17 months these volunteers will be isolated in a simulated environment resembling a Mars journey (sans weightlessness and risk of radiation).

This relates back to my areas of interest - user-centered design and usability - in the form of training. As I speak with potential clients about their software, website and web applications, I discuss with them how end-user support in the form of help systems and training modules makes the user experience pleasurable and transfers new knowledge more effectively.

The ideal learning environment is a simulation. When you create learning conditions and training exercises that closely resemble the actual situation, retention of knowledge increases. The benefit to the software, website and web application developers or companies producing these products is lowered support costs. If end-users can find solutions to their problem and learn new things quickly and easily, that's less pressure on support staff.

You may not need to go to the same lengths as the ESA, but you can take a cue from them on how simulations can support your products. Just create a realistic, safe situation for folks to learn.

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