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4 Challenges to Recreating Experience in Virtual Sim

Transforming expertise into a virtual simulation for training purposes is challenging. The end goal is to create scenarios for trainees that replicate the experiences experts find most instructive. To get to this point, however, is often not straightforward.

Below are four important things to keep in mind when creating virtual simulations and a few tips I find useful in simulation design.

  1. Subject matter experts (SMEs) are extremely busy and convincing them to spend their valuable time providing knowledge can be difficult. Once they do decide to invest time, SMEs tend to stray from the intended point and keeping them focused on relevant stories can be difficult. This can also waste valuable time. For example, they may stray into talking about accidents that occurred and the injury of the person involved, when the training is really about the mistakes and circumstances that caused the accident. To keep a SMEs attention and insure that they will remain engaged in the effort, they need to experience the results. These results have to be incorporated in a timely fashion, not six to eight months later but within a few days or weeks.

  2. Experts often find it hard to explain their experiences and why they are important. Getting those experiences out of their heads and into an immersive training simulation is the goal. What makes it more challenging is that while an experience (as told in a story) is linear, the circumstances that led to that experience are often not. In nearly all domains where expertise is required, the actions or statements of the expert have consequences. In the original experience, these consequences affected what happened next, so it is not good enough to simply play through the expert’s experience for the trainee without enabling them to take similar actions. This would not present them with the choices and decision making that made the experience valuable in the first place. The decisions are a key part of the experience. Instead, one has to recreate the environment and allow the trainee to make decisions. These can lead to many different experiences in which to learn.

  3. Rapid iteration is required to create realistic and correct experiences in training simulations. Achieving the correct level of realism requires an iterative process. For example, a designer might create a simulation, show it to the expert for feedback, and repeat a series of times. The importance of being able to do this rapidly within hours, not weeks, cannot be overstated. The virtual simulation will likely not be correct the first time. In addition, conditions will change and the simulation will need to adapt. Solid technical architecture and rapid prototyping capabilities are essential.

  4. For knowledge transfer to be effective from SME to trainee, the trainee must be able to reflect on their decisions.The training system should provide the trainee with feedback when bad decisions are made and positive reinforcement for correct choices. Also, some situations are too difficult for a novice to handle. In order to learn, the trainee must be able to relate the lesson in the virtual simulation to their own, existing knowledge.

Although there are challenges to creating virtual simulations, these are challenges that can be addressed. The tools to create virtual simulations are improving, making it easier and easier for non-technical instructors to develop virtual simulations. In addition, as organizations see the benefits of virtual simulation in training programs, experts will become more engaged. It is worth it to address these challenges as evidenced by numerous examples.

  • US Navy projects over $100M savings per year from virtual simulation

  • Simulation has been shown to increase efficiency by 70%

  • Simulation has been demonstrated to increase job confidence by 63%

How do you overcome these 4 challenges in order to take advantage of virtual simulation?

Thanks for reading. Please share with colleagues who might find value. This post was authored by Discovery Machine, creators of RESITE for Healthcare. RESITE enables healthcare professionals to quickly and easily create realistic training scenarios for their healthcare trainees—complete with digital doctors, nurses, patients, medical equipment, beds, rooms—everything found in a hospital setting. RESITE places trainees into an immersive 3D environment that helps them learn faster and see the cause/effect relationship of their decisions and hands-on interaction in real time. With over 16 years in the industry Discovery Machine delivers powerful, proven technology with a friendly, accessible front-end that translates to successful training programs empowered with intelligent interaction.


Nakayama, S., Ge Jin, D.Se. (2012). Improving Students’ Learning Outcomes in Saftey Education through Interdepartmental Collaboration. Proceedings of the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation, and Education Conference.

Going Virtual to Prepare for a New Era of Defense. (2014). Retrieved August 26, 2015, from

Onboarding and Knowledge Transfer. (2012). Raytheon Professional Services LLC and Training Industry, Inc. Retrieved from In Training. (accessed July 2015).

Fautua, D., Schatz, S., Reitz, E., & Bockelman, P. (2014). Institutionalizing Blended Learning into Joint Training: A Case Study and 10 Recommendations. Proceedings of the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation, and Education Conference.

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