Whether you’re new to building software simulations or want a checklist to make yours better, these tips can help you avoid rework, no matter which authoring tools you use.

1. Use a scenario. Even a simple training scenario with a learner focus will increase engagement. If you are able to include a story around your scenario, all the better. For example, set up a problem the learner will solve by completing the scenario, such as “Try this out as you enter the profile information for Mr. Smith.”

To change this to a simple story, add a few details, such as “John Smith is a new employee of X organization. Help Mary complete his employee profile and avoid any errors or duplicates.Or, further increase engagement by expanding this story to make the learner empathize with Mary. For example, introduce additional details such as Mary’s anxiety, an overbearing boss, a critical co-worker, etc:

“Although Mary is a competent employee, she becomes nervous when she has to learn a new system. Today is her first day entering employee profile data with MemberPlus. Help Mary gain confidence using the new system as she enters John Smith’s information.”

2. Practice the task(s). Since your goal is to help learners become proficient with the software, run through the software task process(es) several times as you plan the simulation. The more familiar you are with the process(es), the better your simulation will be. This will help you pinpoint the details you need to emphasize, as well as those that are not quite as important. And, although your SME should help you identify pain points, you may be able to discover additional issues a novice may encounter.

3. Plan your simulation data. The information in your simulation should be realistic, but in most cases you’ll want to disguise actual information. An employee may not want their name publicized in your training, and a client may not want their actual data broadcast. Planning all the information before you record the actual screens will save you time.

As you plan the data, you can also plan to emphasize the benefits of the software or pain points the learner by encounter. For example, if the process includes choosing from a list of codes, you could include choices for correct and incorrect codes and provide appropriate feedback for each choice. If you use a story around your scenario, you can also incorporate consequences, such as Mary’s boss’ reaction to an error.

4. Plan for resources. Include job aids or other resources the learner may need on the job. If possible, include context sensitive links to these resources. This will make your simulation more closely resemble the work process.

5. Record a draft. If you record a draft simulation or video before completing all your simulation screens, you can use it as a guide. You’ll be able to make sure you don’t miss any important steps, and you’ll identify steps you can consolidate.

6. Promote interaction. Once you do identify those key training points, emphasize them in the simulation through interactions. Instead of using screen text to describe what will happen in the program, let the learner experience the process.

7. Provide an escape route. Getting stuck in a simulation is frustrating for a learner. Use hints, feedback, and “try again” options in your simulations for incorrect responses to make the navigation idiot-proof.

8. Make it visible. No one should have to squint to see software screens in a simulation. Make sure the simulation screens are both clear enough and large enough. If there are a lot of fields the learner will need to access on one screen, give an overview of shot of the entire screen first, then focus on parts of the screen. You can do this by creating a sequence of slides that show only part of the screen and then end the sequence by showing the entire screen filled in. Adding a zoom to the screen with completed information will provide an opportunity for the learners to review.

9. Avoid extraneous information. Help the learner focus on what is important. Use shapes or blur tools to block unnecessary information on each simulation screen.

10. Test and retest. It’s a given that you’ll get your SME to review the content, but multiple reviewers of a simulation can help you find problems you may not otherwise know about. You should also test your simulation several times and try to break it. It’s much better to fix a problem before the simulation is deployed.

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