Wednesday, 13 October 2004

First Person Experience in Training and Learning

This is an eye candy we are going to use in Fablusi corporate website when we launch version 2. The Chinese translation is the closest we can get - although the source cites it as a Chinese Proverb.

We choose this because I think it reflects the true value of online role play - the ability to give "simulated" first person experience to our players in a safe environment. I wrote about the three types of experiences in a previous post on a scale for instructivistic and constructivistic learning strategies. First person experiences are not only the anchor points on which further experience are linked. They, combined together, create a sense of completeness and comprehensiveness. These are also very powerful experiences and can be recalled relatively readily and vividly.

Some experience cannot be created for training and/or learning sake - they are just too dangerous, expensive or morally unacceptable. We cannot have a real plane crush in order to train pilots to handle such situation. We cannot create a real sexual harassment case in order to train personnel managers how to handle such situations. Do you rather sit on a plane whose pilot has only read about emergency procedure, or whose pilot has gone through hours of training in a flight simulator? The same applies to social situations.

Learning and training which use narratives involve a "suspension of belief" in order to make them work. While the story is developing, if you interrupt the flow by raising issues and questioning the validity of the story, the experience would not be as pleasant and effective as you temporarily suspense your belief and just go with the flow. Such experience, during debriefing, needs to be anchored back to the learners' existing belief system in order to really "hang" together well.

In comparison, the suspension of belief in role play is not necessarily as important - in most of our social valued based role play, we ask the players to step in the shoes of another stakeholder point of view and rationally analysis the situation and take necessarily actions in a different point of view. This is usually very illuminating and stimulating. A degree of suspension of belief is still called for because we add multiple crisis into the same simulation - dramatise the experience. This is done for two purposes: 1. to ensure that there are sufficient issues for most players to participate, and 2. to provide a shield in case the experience just touch upon some soft spots of some players. We deliberately activate the "suspense of belief" as a protection mechanism.

It is always a bit more safe if we take an instructivistic approach. For example, sexual harassment training can be done by explaining the procedures and the relevant laws/rules. We take a riskier strategy by using a role play - stimulate the players' own belief system in a simulated work place, soliciting rational consideration from the other parties. The result .... I leave it to you because we have not done controlled experiment to measure, but...

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