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Using Situational Simulations to Build Critical Workforce Skills

  • 3 October, 2023
  • Reading Time: 7 mins

The quest for the most effective methods to enhance learning is a perpetual journey in training and development. Situational simulations have gained significant traction recently to improve training and development.

One of the earliest uses of simulation technology was during World War II when physicists and engineers used computers to model how nuclear bombs work, followed by the first flight simulator in 1910. In the late 1960s, there were full-body mannequins that doctors used to practice on. In the 1970s, computer-generated simulations became more common.

Nowadays, simulations are used in fields like healthcare, the military, police training, transportation, and more.

Here are some examples of how simulations are being used:

  • A company makes digital learning solutions that teach college students about things like not using drugs and how to prevent sexual misconduct.
  • The Michigan Tech Research Institute students made an app with simulation technology that helps scientists and engineers measure hydraulic conductivity.

How are Situational Simulations Different From Other Simulations

Situational simulations, often called scenario-based simulations, are a specific type of learning simulation that differs from other forms of simulations through their focus on replicating real-world situations and decision-making processes.

Here is how situational simulations differ from other learning simulations and identify the scenarios where they are best suited.

  • Realistic Context: Situational simulations are designed to immerse participants in lifelike scenarios that closely mimic their actual work environment. It sets them apart from other learning simulations, which may be more abstract or detached from real-world situations.
  • Decision-Centric: Situational simulations are primarily decision-centric. Participants must make choices, solve problems, and navigate various scenarios.
  • Emphasis on Critical Thinking: Situational simulations place a strong emphasis on critical thinking and problem-solving.
  • Multiple Pathways: They often offer multiple pathways or outcomes based on the decisions made by participants.

Scenarios Suited for Situational Simulations

Situational simulations are most effective in scenarios that benefit from the above-mentioned qualities. Here are some examples of situations where situational simulations are particularly well-suited:

Leadership Development

Developing influential leaders involves honing decision-making, interpersonal, and problem-solving skills.

Customer Service Training

Situational simulations can be invaluable for roles that require customer interactions, such as call center agents or retail staff.

Compliance and Ethics Training

Situational simulations can help employees navigate complex ethical dilemmas. They can make decisions and see the moral consequences of their choices.

Crisis Management

Preparing individuals, such as emergency response teams or healthcare professionals, for crises can be challenging.

Sales Training

Situational simulations enable them to hone their sales techniques, adapt to different customer personas, and refine their negotiation skills.

What Do Situational Simulations Teach That Traditional Learning Cannot

Situational simulations offer unique advantages that traditional learning methods often struggle to provide.

For example, various professions utilize situational simulations to enhance their skills.

  • Engineers utilize these simulations to address intricate design and troubleshooting challenges, refining their problem-solving abilities and optimizing processes through experimentation.
  • In business ethics training, employees confront ethical dilemmas like bribery and discrimination.
  • Military training relies heavily on situational simulations, helping soldiers adapt to unpredictable combat scenarios and make split-second decisions.

Skills Taught by Situational Simulations

  • Decision-Making Under Pressure: Situational simulations immerse learners in scenarios where they must make decisions under pressure, mirroring the challenges of real-life situations.
  • Complex Problem Solving: Participants must analyze situations, identify underlying issues, and devise strategies to address them. This skill is crucial in professions that deal with intricate challenges.
  • Adaptability and Flexibility: Situational simulations expose participants to dynamic scenarios with evolving variables. This cultivates adaptability, as learners must adjust their strategies in response to changing circumstances, a skill essential in fast-paced industries.
  • Effective Communication and Interpersonal Skills: Many situational simulations involve interactions with virtual characters or team members.
  • Error Tolerance and Learning from Failure: Situational simulations provide a safe environment for learners to make mistakes and experience the consequences.

Perceived Challenges Most Training Managers Face When Using Situational Sims?

Education leaders and training managers often encounter various challenges when considering the adoption of situational simulations in their training and development programs. These challenges can range from resource limitations to concerns about effectiveness.

Limited Resources

Developing high-quality situational simulations can be resource-intensive regarding time, budget, and expertise. Education leaders may need to be more concerned about the cost-effectiveness of this approach.


  • Leverage Authoring Tools: Use authoring tools and platforms to create simulations. These tools streamline the development process and often come with pre-built templates.
  • Collaborate with Experts: Partner with instructional designers, e-learning developers, or simulation specialists who can optimize resources and ensure the quality of simulations.
  • Start Small: Begin with a pilot program focusing on critical training areas. This minimizes initial resource investment while allowing you to assess the effectiveness of situational simulations.

Resistance to Change

Employees or learners may resist adopting new training methods, mainly if they are accustomed to traditional approaches.


  • Communicate Benefits: Communicate the advantages of situational simulations, such as improved skill retention, real-world application, and engagement.
  • Provide Training: Offer training sessions or resources to help instructors and learners become comfortable with the new approach.
  • Showcase Success Stories: Share success stories from organizations or departments that have already integrated situational simulations into their training.

Alignment with Learning Objectives

Ensuring that situational simulations align with specific learning objectives and organizational goals can be challenging.


  • Define Clear Objectives: Establish clear and measurable learning objectives before creating simulations. What skills or knowledge should participants gain?
  • Involve Stakeholders: Collaborate with subject matter experts, trainers, and key stakeholders to ensure that simulations directly address training needs.
  • Regular Assessment: Continuously assess the effectiveness of simulations in achieving learning objectives and make adjustments as needed.

Technical Constraints

Some organizations may need more technical infrastructure or expertise to implement situational simulations.


  • Cloud-Based Solutions: Consider cloud-based simulation platforms that require minimal IT support and infrastructure.
  • Training IT Staff: Invest in training your IT team to manage and support the technical aspects of simulation implementation.
  • Outsource Hosting: Explore options for outsourcing simulation hosting and technical support to specialized providers.

Measurement of Effectiveness

Assessing the impact and effectiveness of situational simulations can be challenging without the right metrics.


  • Use Analytics: Implement analytics and tracking within simulations to collect data on participant performance.
  • Feedback Surveys: Gather feedback from learners and instructors to gauge the perceived effectiveness and areas for improvement.
  • Comparative Analysis: Compare the performance of participants who underwent situational simulation training with those who received traditional training methods.

Assistive Technologies to Create Situational Simulations and Latest Trends to Follow

Assistive technologies play a pivotal role in enhancing the effectiveness and realism of situational simulations. They create immersive and engaging learning experiences, making it easier for participants to grasp complex concepts and apply their knowledge in real-world scenarios.

Here’s an overview of some critical assistive technologies in situational simulations and insights into the latest trends:

3D Modeling

3D models enhance realism by offering learners a lifelike visual experience, allowing interaction and exploration. They excel at recreating complex environments, such as architectural designs or machinery, providing in-depth learning opportunities.

Latest Trends:

  • Real-time Rendering: Advancements in real-time rendering technology allow for more detailed and responsive 3D simulations.
  • Web-Based 3D: Cloud-based 3D modeling tools are emerging, making it easier to create and access 3D content online.

Virtual Reality (VR)

Virtual reality (VR) immerses participants in computer-generated environments, typically through headsets or VR goggles, and is leveraged in situational simulations for highly immersive and interactive learning experiences.

Latest Trends:

  • Wireless VR: Advancements in wireless VR technology have made it more accessible and comfortable for users.
  • Eye-Tracking and Hand-Tracking: VR headsets with built-in eye-tracking and hand-tracking capabilities provide more natural and intuitive interactions.

Augmented Reality (AR)

Augmented reality (AR) seamlessly integrates digital data into the physical world, typically through devices like smartphones, tablets, or AR glasses. This technology enriches real-world settings by adding contextual information and interactive features.

Latest Trends:

  • AR in Healthcare: AR is used in medical training to visualize complex anatomical structures and surgical procedures.
  • AR Cloud: The development of AR cloud platforms enables persistent and shared augmented reality experiences.

Mixed Reality (MR)

Mixed reality (MR) integrates virtual and augmented reality components, enabling digital objects to interact with the real world. It finds growing utility in situational simulations for crafting deeply interactive and dynamic learning experiences. The advantages of MR include its seamless fusion of digital and physical elements, offering learners an immersive learning experience.

Latest Trends:

  • MR Headsets: The development of MR headsets, such as Microsoft’s HoloLens, is expanding the possibilities for mixed reality in training and education.
  • Spatial Computing: Advancements in spatial computing technologies are enhancing the realism and interactivity of MR simulations.

Final Thoughts

When adopting situational simulations as an alternative to traditional teaching, it’s natural to feel apprehensive. However, becoming informed about potential challenges and asking vendors the right questions boosts confidence.

Before you start your journey, you must:

  • Understand the advantages of real-world application, engagement, and decision-making skills.
  • Be aware of resource demands, resistance to change, technical requirements, and measurement difficulties.
  • Ask about development, hardware, real-world examples, and support.
  • Through understanding, anticipating challenges, and informed questioning, gain confidence in adopting situational simulations for enhanced learning.

Situational simulations are not just a tool but a gateway to unlocking learners’ full potential, preparing them for success in the complex, dynamic world that awaits.

Want to create an EdTech platform capable of seamlessly integrating situational simulations? Let’s talk! Magic EdTech offers out-of-the-box EdTech solutions that can get your platform off the ground in no time.

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