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Simulation or real issue?


In this feature article, Russell Slater, a Senior Trainer for training providers Bywater looks at the pros and cons of using simulation tools on a work-related issue.

As trainers we often run courses aimed to increase the skillset of individuals in terms of “tools and techniques”. It is generally recognised to be of value to have “workshop” sessions where the delegates actually use the tools in order to gain understanding and practice.
The question is whether it is better to get delegates to use the tools on a “real” problem from their workplace or whether to use the tools on a simulation that has been developed for the purposes of the training event alone.

Overall we need to ask ourselves a question before we design the training event; “Are we trying to train delegates in the use of the tools or are we trying to facilitate a workshop to produce an outcome to a work-related issue?”

Pros and Cons of using the tools on a “real” issue


  1. Delegates get the opportunity to extract a tangible benefit rather than purely an increase in their skills
  2. There is no necessity to explain the reason for the exercise
  3. There is no need to link the learning from training event to the real world after the “workshop”


  1. It is quite probable that there is no “real” issue that affects all the delegates, therefore some will be marginalised
  2. The trainer is unlikely to be familiar with the “real” issue and therefore has less control over the learning.
  3. The real issue may require more input from more people than is/are available during the training session; the delegates will either therefore fail to produce a solution, which will reduce the credibility of the tool or the event or both, or will produce an incomplete solution which will cause difficulties in the workplace as they either a) try to implement it or b) attempt to impress others with it
  4. If the training event uses a number of tools to form a complete process it is unlikely that the same issue will be addressed for each stage of the process. Delegates therefore are more likely to focus on individual tools than on the holistic process.

Pros and Cons of using the tools on a simulated issue


  1. All delegates have common knowledge of the issue, therefore they can focus on learning the tools
  2. It is easier for the Trainer to maintain control of “external factors”
  3. There is no vested interest or politics inherent in the outcome, thus the delegates can focus on learning the tools, rather than worrying about the outcome
  4. If the training is aimed at a process consisting of a range of tools the same simulation can be used throughout, providing a consistent vehicle for learning


  1. We have to design a robust simulation to use
  2. The trainer will have to explain the simulation and the parameters for the purposes of the training
  3. The trainer will have to link the learning from the simulation back to the workplace


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