Building a social simulation engine, pt. 1

So this topic has come up off an on at work for nearly a year now. We need a good reusable player to create engaging social simulations for training employees on customer interaction. People have looked around and the best off the shelf solution seems to be Nexlearn’s SimWriter. I’ve taken a quick look at it and it does seem like it has a lot of features, but has the same problem most other “learning development” tools have – the look/feel of the output leaves a lot to be desired. And from what I’ve heard it’s a pretty expensive product.

I spent way too much time thinking about this today, and have some free time, so … I’ll build one and document the process on this blog. Not an overly complex one, and I’m not going to be posting all of the source but it’ll be a nice thought experiment.

So what are my requirements?

  • Produce 3 levels of simulation: 1) Linear/low, 2) Branching and 3) “Dynamic State”/complex based on previous branches or other data.
  • Minimum of 3 characters: antagonist (customer), protagonist (you) and a coach/mentor/guide
  • Learner character choice – pick the protagonist who you identify with (age, race, sex, etc.)
  • Scoring – possibly represented as antagonist “mood”
  • History states – go back and review/change past choices
  • Possible branching to other tasks – system/mechanical sim?
  • Basic flow: Introduction, protagonist selection, conversation tree, resolution, summary
  • Tie learning objectives/goals to places in the scenario to measure success/failure.
  • Photos of the characters in different states
  • Audio?
  • Video?
  • Fully Flash based (rich media, etc.)
  • Easy to edit by moderately technical people (XML driven)
  • Possible SCORM tracking: score, answers, performance, time

Not a small list! Not quite sure how long it’ll take me and it will definitely be a phased solution. And I don’t know if  it’ll every be used for anything in production, but it’ll be a nice little way to keep busy in the evenings.

So, let’s get started …

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