If I were hired as a CLO, one of the first things I would do is implement a Short Sims strategy (see the References at the end of this article). Here is how I would do it.

Choose appropriate requirements

First, I would sift through my “to do” queue and find three requirements from the business units that would be appropriate for Short Sims. One might be something like: Train the sales people to use the new online estimation tool. Another might be: Develop a companywide understanding of 5G networks. And a third could be: Create some role-plays for new managers to practice using team goals to focus work.

Choose ambitious instructional designers

Next, I would find three of my organization’s most ambitious instructional designers. I would have them each pick the requirement that most interested them. They would each have two weeks to create a Short Sim that met that goal (using whatever authoring tool best lined up with my needs). I would ask a fourth person to help with a bit of scheduling and other project management. Depending on my team, I might temporarily bring in an outside expert to help.

Set the project management schedule

The schedule for my team would be pretty straightforward.

  • First they would understand the learning objectives.
  • Next they would each interview a couple of subject matter experts, focusing on the two questions of “what is the right way of doing this,” and “what mistakes do people make and why?”
  • By the end of the first week, the designers would have put together a working model. The team members should share the sims with each other for ideas and cross pollination.
  • Their second week would start with smoothing out their 10-minute Short Sim, and sharing it with the experts for feedback.
  • Then they would share it with a few sample players to get final feedback and honing.

Test and adjust

I would then deploy these Short Sims, and track them to see how they were used in the initial audiences.

After absorbing the lessons learned and updating any of the sims themselves, I would have my three designers (or their replacements, if there was not a good fit) stay on a two-week cycle of course design, picking off organizational objectives. After a month or two, I would try to have each designer produce one Short Sim a week. I would shift my project manager/client ombudsman to full time. I would also begin adding two more people to the team, again starting them off initially on a two-week schedule.

Attack the backlog of training

By doing this, I would blow through my backlog of course requests. In some cases, the Short Sims would be stand alone; in other cases they would be embedded in other courses, web pages, or documents. Some of the time, a Short Sim would only cover a percentage of the initial learning goal, and more would have to be created.

My medium goal would be two-fold. First, I would want most employees to engage in at least one 10-minute Short Sim a week, and for it to become as much an expectation as a favorite podcast. Second, I would begin to use the Short Sims not just to push out competence and conviction, but increasingly to listen to and learn about the employees. For example, I might ask a question about each employee’s satisfaction, or concerns about product offerings. These could be multiple-choice or open ended. I might even ask which employees speaks Russian or know an emerging programming language, if the need came up. For example, in new employee training, I would ask the players to give suggestions from their early impressions. Short Sims could even ask players to optionally improve the Short Sim if they had a better idea. This would be an implementation of TADA (Training and Data Acquisition).

Go for bigger goals

Given my ability to turn around content in days, I could also be part of any internal emergency communication/response system. And to keep my capability fresh, I would likely rotate in different people from my organization to fill the five content-producer slots.

The long term goal of this approach is to create an entire enterprise that expected constant formal learning, and looked forward to it.

The content itself would be action oriented (“Learning to do”) much more than background (“Learning to know”). It would be microlearning, and part of the work day. By getting ahead of the demands of the organization, we would have the breathing room to deliver more strategic content.

Some of my developers would gain reputations as auteurs, perhaps for being witty, creative, or visual. Ultimately, I would hope my team became viewed as critical enablers of corporate success.

But I would have even bigger goals.

Most corporate and educational media is linear. From a leadership perspective, it is directive. The implied message is that the creator of the content is the undisputed expert, and everyone who receives the content is part of some homogeneous audience and not worthy of, nor trusted with, personal agency. I believe that these biases in the affordance of traditional media have permeated both our schools and our institutions. (Social media has provided a contrast, but more in a pandering, “no grown-ups are in charge” sort of way.)

Short Sims can be a microcosm of a more pluralistic and collaborative relationship between all involved. As this becomes the norm, the empowering influence of Short Sims may go well beyond increasing the competence and conviction of an enterprise, to redefining relationships to bring out the best in everyone.

Want to know more? (from the editor)

Clark Aldrich will present "Short Sims: A Game Changer" September 19 at The eLearning Guild's Microlearning Design Conference.