Clark Aldrich Research Common Citations, 2002

In 2002, I finished building Virtual Leader, my first real educational simulation. I was also increasingly trying to understand educational simulations from a market perspective. Corporations and universities were beginning to (re)value 'educational simulation,' but the term was being applied to an overly broad category of media, none of which dovetailed with both my experience with computer games and my own work. My column in OnlineLearning was promoted to Training Magazine, for which I was grateful. I also wrote my first longer piece on educational simulations, called A Field Guide to Educational Simulations, published by the American Society of Training and Development. Also by 2002, I had ramped up my public speaking.

A Field Guide to Educational Simulations was a 23 page document that did a pretty good job at laying out my basic philosophies of simulations.

The formal education business has a huge problem. The next generation of learners, roughly those age thirty and younger, have grown up playing computer games. These once and future learners have learned how to learn through interactions with computers. They expect to be engaged on multiple levels simultaneously, in a fast-feedback, graphical, high stimulation, extremely immersive, user-centric environment.

As a result, they're utterly bored in traditional classrooms. Their ability to process lectures that last more than 30 minutes is suspect. Indeed, Harvard professors are complaining that law students begin to fidget after 45 minutes of lecture—or worse, they start playing solitaire on their laptops.

Many instructors and trainers are wondering to what degree computer games can be part of a solution to this problem. Can the lessons, techniques, and technologies of computer games be intelligently applied to create a new breed of formal learning simulations? For instance, US$20 million flight simulators already exist to instruct military and commercial pilots. Can that model be extended to desktop computers for new audiences?

Perhaps the question should be, Can training programs aimed at Generation X and beyond succeed if they ignore simulations? The answer: not very likely. Therefore, simulations are sparking excitement in the e-learning world. And yet, simulations—especially soft skill simulations—are approaching the peak of inflated expectations. Everyone's talking about simulations, but few have seen a model they like.

The piece presented this model of learning:

It also presented a model of simulation design that, while accurate and the basis for my 2009 The Complete Guide to Simulations and Serious Games, was way ahead of the state of the industry.

The genre taxonomy I presented in Learning By Doing ended up being a much more accessible place to start productive conversations than this atomic view. Finally, the document contained two of my favorite quotes on the topic (here, with my framing):
The best place to start any discussion of simulations is with a quote from Will Thalheimer in Work-Learning Research, "There are two types of simulations: Those that actually simulate something real and those that are called simulations by their developers but don’t actually simulate anything."
One fear about simulations is that people will learn how to beat them rather than learn from them. One real example comes from the computer gaming industry's highly successful Roller Coaster Tycoon. In the game, users must successfully build their own amusement park and be evaluated on average customer satisfaction. Here's an actual hint from a Website called on how to increase your park rating: "Drown all of the unhappy or angry guests. Eventually, your park rating will go up 100 to 200 points." Clearly, this is not a technique suggested by Disney.

I also continued an activity of creating dense, graphical representations, something that friends called Clark Charts. (Yes, I was highly influenced by Tufte.) PowerPoint was my authoring tool of choice for these. For example:

For reasons that remain a mystery, a manager at Gartner found this presentation style so abhorrent that he blackballed its use.

In 2002, I also was able to interview computer game legends Will Wright and Warren Spector, along with the also brilliant Jane Boston for a column called The Learning Frontier. I had to edit down the piece, but subsequently reprinted the entire transcript of the interviews in Learning By Doing and here. Gates and other foundations may be noisily thrashing around in the dark, and academic researchers and other professional grant-getters may be writing insanely expensive white papers, but the foundation for the revolution is written here. This was a highlight of the year for me, and created a reservoir of thoughts from which I continue to draw to this day.

2002 Articles Written Include:

Aldrich, C. (2002), 'Why Enterprise Solutions?', Training. 39(12), 76--.

Aldrich, C. (2002), 'The Simulation Challenge', Training. 39(11), 86--.

Aldrich, C. (2002), 'Consolidation?', Training. 39(10), 82--.

Aldrich, C. (2002), 'The State We're In', Training. 39(9), 146--.

Aldrich, C. (2002), 'Don't Look Down', Online Learning 6(July), 53.

Aldrich, C. (2002), 'A tale of two vendors: SmartForce's acquisition of Centra raises interesting questions for the other virtual classroom providers.', Online Learning 6(April 3? 4?), 24-25.

Aldrich, C. (2002), 'A Field Guide to Educational Simulations', Learning Circuits.

Aldrich, C. (2002), 'Measuring success: In a post-Masoow/Kirkpatrick world, which metrics matter?', Online Learning 6(2), 30, 32.

Aldrich, C. (2002), 'The Learning Frontier: Words of Advice from the Computer-gaming Industry.', Online Learning 6(1), 34, 36-37. (Unabridged text here)

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