Custom vs Off-the-Shelf Simulations – Part 3

Let’s continue to look at some things you should keep in mind when deciding between a custom and off-shelf-simulation. Please see Part 1 if you need to remember the definitions.

Development

  • If you are using custom simulations, make sure you have strong project managers in place on your end and in the simulation company. I highly recommend several development reviews. The more reviews you have, the more likely the final product will be what you want. Make sure that you have a strong vision in the beginning and clearly communicate with your pm’s on both sides. This can be costly when you need to allocate time for key stakeholders to attend several development meetings. It can take several months for the entire development process.
  • Have a plan in place in case custom development takes longer than you originally thought. What is your back-up plan if the simulation isn’t going to be ready on time?
  • Adding colors, logo, and fonts to match your company’s exact marketing takes a lot of development time. However, does it really add to the learning of the program? Is it worthwhile to spend the extra money to have it look like your company created this simulation or is it just adding bells and whistles?
  • You get to test drive an off-the-shelf simulation right away. Your key stakeholders can try it out before buying it. This way you know exactly what you are getting. It may take a few weeks to develop custom content around the simulation.

Participant View

  • Sometimes participants are distracted by custom simulations. The simulated company closely represents their company, but it isn’t exactly the same. Participants may concentrate on the small differences in the simulation instead of the learning objectives. I’ve heard participants complain that this isn’t quite right, and they spend too much time fixating on the differences instead of the learning.
  • When using off-the-shelf simulation, participants are running a company that is completely different from their own, which gets them out of the comfort zone. It forces them to think outside their box (company and industry). They can really concentrate on the simulation and learning objectives.

Facilitators

  • With a custom simulation, the facilitator may not have been part of the development. Can they handle any on-site challenges that arise? How well do they know the ins and outs of the new custom simulation?
  • For off-the shelf simulations, you need a very strong facilitator. He/she needs to be able to pull the learning through to your specific learning objectives and relate the simulation to your company and industry. It isn’t enough to facilitate the simulation. The real learning happens when you tie the simulation learnings to what is happening back at their jobs in their company.
  • The facilitator and support staff for off-the-shelf simulations have worked with this exact same simulation many times. They really know the ins and outs of the simulations which allows them to answer questions quickly and accurately.

Both custom and off-the-shelf simulations can be amazing tools in your next learning program, just remember to carefully weigh the pros and cons of each simulation before making your decision. And once again, it is vital to find a learning company that truly partners with your organization to drive your learning goals and objectives.

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