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How Realistic is Your Learning Solution?

As a learner have you ever completed a game or a course that you know was totally different to how reality would play out? If you have ever played ‘The Sims’ you would notice that time moves a lot quicker, houses are quick to obtain and you can trap people in pools by removing the pool ladder.

Whilst ‘The Sims’ portrays how we live as humans, its alignment to reality is not perfect. Though this is justifiable, as the intent of the game is to have fun among other motivators. But what about your company learning solutions? When you create a learning solution your intent is generally to provide your learner with a skill that they can use in the real-world, post the course. Is it okay if the training is not quite aligned to the learner’s reality?

eLearning allows learners to practice skills and acquire knowledge in a safe environment so that they can perform in the real-world. Creating a solution that aligns with the learner’s reality is quite important. Here are some reasons why:

1. Your learner will feel understood

Imagine that you are studying a degree in Psychology yet every class you go to they talk about playing tennis. How would you feel? Would it feel like a waste of time? This is what can happen if your learner is provided with a learning solution that is not relevant or realistic to their situation. The Psychology and tennis example is an extreme example to make a point, the relevance and realism of a solution can be of varying degrees.

If the learner is completing a course and it feels real for them and their job, they are much more likely to perform post the course as it will mirror their work environment (Training Industry, 2015). Imagine that you are completing a course and you are doing very well in a scenario. You are communicating with a customer nicely and providing them with the information they need. You pass the course. This is great but you know that this scenario is not realistic with your experience with customers in the last month. Customers have been difficult and unhappy with the information you have provided, creating a difficult situation. The course therefore hasn’t captured your reality and you do not feel understood.

2. You will gain credibility

As a learning and development officer I have experienced situations where it has been a challenge to make a real and lasting impact in an organisation. There is often a learning need attached to a group or team and a project team employed to create a solution. A trap that many can fall into is not understanding the needs or experience of the target audience. Whilst we have knowledge of learning and development concepts we don’t always know what it is like being in their shoes. I have worked in large organisations and I have experienced first-hand the breadth and depth of services that I as a learning and development officer had minimal knowledge of. I therefore believe it is so important to deliver content that is correct and realistic to your learner’s situation. Imagine a professional weight lifter telling you how to do your job. They may be great at weight lifting, though do they really understand and know what you do in your role?

So, what can you do to ensure that your learning solution is realistic and useful as a learning designer or learning practitioner?

1. Talk to the subject matter experts

The best way to understand the ins and outs of a learning solution is by talking to the people in the work environment (The eLearning Coach, 2009). The person actually undertaking the task.

If you are creating a learning solution for dealing with difficult customers you can ask the workers what they are faced with daily. For example, you may be thinking that dealing with difficult customers is the problem though when you speak to the workers it is actually a fault in the system. The customers becoming difficult may be a result of the process being unfair or not working. You can therefore completely change the intent of your learning solution.

If you are unable to speak to the workers face to face, you could:

- Distribute a survey to provide you with the information.

- Research the industry that they are in and imagine what it would be like in their shoes.

2. Mimic the employee’s environment

When you are creating your learning solution it is important to incorporate all parts of the learner’s environment. Workers may tell you that they are constantly distracted by phones and fellow employees. Therefore, when you are creating the learning solution you can incorporate phones ringing and the learner being approached by co-workers. This will therefore create a more realistic experience for the learner and make them feel understood. If you remove all distractions/realistic aspects of the work environment than the employees may:

- Disengage and think that you are unaware or not interested in their actual situation.

- Do great in the module, though when they are faced with the same problem in real-life, the distractions may not be expected and therefore impact their performance.

You could also include audio in your learning solution that mirrors the learner’s work environment. For example, if your learners are traffic controllers you could record the motor of cars as they pass by, car horns and even birds tweeting in the distance. The possibilities for mirroring your learner’s environment are endless!

With all of this in mind, where do we draw the line? It doesn’t seem logical or effective to make a learner sit through a 12-hour module to perfectly mirror a 12-hour nursing shift. We are a curious bunch here at Belvista Studios…How do you get a realistic sense of the work environment for your learning solutions? Please comment below. 

A little bit about the author... 

"I am Hannah and I am passionate about how we can create effective and fun learning experiences. I believe that if you create enjoyment and social connection through learning, learning outcomes can sky rocket! The world is changing and becoming more and more digital by the day. We need to harness this and see what's possible!".


Malamed, C. (2009). Improve Workplace Learning with a Dose of Reality. Retrieved from

Simmons, K. (2015). Incorporating Real World Experiences in eLearning. Retrieved from

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