Using Behavior Modeling as a Training Method

Introduction

The use of games and simulations in behavior modeling has been an ongoing process in employee training and other areas for decades now. With the entrant of computers and information technology, games and simulation are even surreal than was the case before. This is because the simulated situations represent real-life situations hence making the gamers better prepared for a real situation. As a result, the decisions and outcomes attained from the simulated situations mirror happenings that could be attained in a job or other areas of training. As a result of the success of gaming and simulation processes, they are not used in teaching processing and production skills but are also used in teaching interpersonal and management skills (Bock, 2009).

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This research paper is based on a review of the literature and will address games and simulation as training methods differently. The study, however, acknowledges that in most cases, games used in training must be simulated in order to represent a real-world case situation.

Definition of terms

System: a system as used in this study’s context is a combination of entities that accomplish a logical end by acting together.

Simulation model: a program that represents a real-life system, usually attained through a combination of system variables and external factors using technology to create a representation of the real-life system.

Literature review

This section highlights the views of authors who have addressed games and simulations from 2009 to 2010. It gives a reflection of what authors have written or found about on the same.

According to Banks (2009), the history of using games to challenge or outwit an opponent can be traced back to the Roman Empire. During the time, the Romans would create war games and imagined unknown territories which they used to hone their battle tactics. Contemporary use of games and simulations, however, are preceded by designing, development, and validation of experiments (Banks, 2009). It is only after the processes are complete and the games and simulation techniques proven to be suitable for training purposes are they adopted.

Naukrihub (2010) observes that the use of games and simulations as a training method is different from using the same for leisure since the former requires designs and structures in order to simulate or reproduce events. The primary role of behavior modeling in training as stated by the Encyclopedia of Business (2010) is building skills and techniques on the intended people. For behavior modeling to work in training, the trainers need to identify the skill deficiencies presented by the target trainees.

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The trainees must also be briefed on the theory to be applied in their training as this would help them identify and concentrate on the critical behaviors that they should pick during the training. In behavior modeling, a model is used to act as the representation of the desired behavior. It is thus the obligation of the trainer to make known to the trainees, the exact behavior they should ape from the model.

Depending on the objectives of the training, either games or simulations can be used in behavior modeling. Simulation, however, should be avoided where trainees are supposed to develop declarative knowledge since they are useful where the trainees have already obtained the initial knowledge to work in a given system. In the other case, games would be ideal in such scenarios.

Games

According to Visual Paradigm Online Training Center (2009), for games to be effective in behavior modeling and consequently training tools, they must ape the aggressive nature in the business environment. Further, the trainees must understand that the games are not just an easy way to pass time or have fun in the workplace. Rather, they must be able to draw similarities and comprehend the challenges faced at work and the challenges posed by the games. Naukrihub (2010) on the other hand states that “a training game is a spirited activity or exercise in which trainees compete with each other according to a defined set of rules.” (p.1). through simulations, computer versions of the real-life games are created.

The Encyclopedia of Business (2010) observes that games attempt to mimic the functional areas of a company or an industry. Depending on the theory the game structure is derived from, different rules, principles, and relationships are set. In most cases, however, the games are set to represent the entire organization but with the main focus being on functional responsibilities related to different positions in an organization. While training marketing executives for example, the game will reflect the interaction, challenges, principles and rules usually followed in a real marketing department.

Being an interaction medium, games provide trainees with a medium through which they can provide input, while receiving real time feedback (Smith, 2009). Depending on how immersive a game is, the trainee’s attention can be fully or partially engaged. This then determines how seriously the trainee will take the game and its representation in the work environment. Trainers however need to be wary on games that are too strenuous to the mind because in such a case, the trainee would loose interest fast. Instead, Dilts (2010) suggests that trainers should strive at using games that are engaging and not too mentally taxing in order to ensure that the interest and attention of the trainees are retained. Yet, games are not only essential in the workplace environment.

According to Kharrazi et al. (2009), the same can be used in disease management. A case in point is the use of games to model behavior in diabetic patients. The author states that since diabetes is a high risk disease that increases the chance of one getting serious injuries if not well managed, the use of games can motivate young patients, and especially those who need high energy activities, to adapt the desirable behaviors. Apart from just being a game that diabetic patients can use to pass time, the games can also act as patient empowerment tools that healthcare providers use to encourage higher compliance with set medical terms. In his analysis, Kharrazi et al. (2009) argues that serious gaming can be used as a leverage in order to help adolescents with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, to cope with the illness.

Simulation

According to Banks (2009), simulation is model-based concept where the representations of real things are used. According to Naukrihub (2010), simulation is the creation of computer games which are modeled to ape real-life games. It is done through imitation processes or making opinions or judgments about how things might turn out in real situations. Though the use of technology seems to have embedded itself at the core of simulation in the recent past, it is noteworthy that role playing and numerical modeling are also simulation avenues that can avoid the use of technology.

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The rationale behind the use of simulation in behavioral modeling during training is that often times it is very expensive, risky or impossible to experiment with the real systems. In other cases, the complexity of the real system requires people to be trained before hand on how to handle the same, and this cannot be done on the system. Simulations are also used where some changes in the system are envisaged thus allowing workers to get used to the new introductions in the system (Salo, 2009).

The benefits of using simulation in behavior modeling are listed by Salo (2009), and includes the fact that the experimental conditions are controlled hence ensuring that complexity in a system is introduced only if the trainees have grasped and mastered the current concept. Secondly, in a simulated platform, the trainers and trainees can study and work with as many possibilities as they can, real or imagined. This means that they can compress or expand time depending on the needs presented, and also face fewer limitations compared to the real system.

The third benefit of using simulation in behavior modeling during training as stated by Salo (2009) includes the ability to compare decisions made during training with decision-support techniques enacted in real-life situations. Fourth, in simulation, the trainers are able to develop different performance indicators that are used in the observation and ranking the performance of individual trainees. The fifth benefit includes better risk management especially because trainees learn about sensitivity analysis in the system. Finally, the dynamic visualizations possible in the simulated cases are essential for educational purposes and helps the trainees understand the situation presented by the real-system better.

Games and simulations in training

The underlying components that determine the success of games and simulations in training according to Naukrihub (2010) include challenges, rules and interactivity. Since challenges are inevitable in any work environment, the games and simulations helps the trainees to develop behavior under the direction of their trainers that would translate to overcoming the same kind of challenges in real work situations.

For the games and simulation to have an impact on a job however, Visual Paradigm Online Training Center (2009) observes that behavior modeling must be included. The latter rides on the concept that people possess an innate inclination to observe others, and consequently is able to discover or learn how to handle a new undertaking. Ideally, the games and simulation techniques intended for the training are recorded in advanced and trainees made to watch the recorded version. After that, they are allowed to role play the different parts displayed in the recorded version. The objective of this role modeling in training is that the trainees would learn to reproduce desirable behaviors learnt on the game to the job.

For training that uses behavioral modeling to be successful however, Naukrihub (2010) observes that head of training in a company must define the skills that need to be attained from the exercise. Further, a theoretical framework that the trainers will use to explain the process to the trainees must be developed. To ensure that trainees grasp the needful, the trainers need to instruct them in advance of the specific points and behaviors they need to master. The games are used to model the ideal behavior that trainees should adapt and encouraged to practice the same through any simulation method. In most cases however Naukrihub (2010), notes that role playing is used as the preferred method in behavior modeling especially where an expert is used as the epitome of the preferable behavior.

Training in interpersonal skills, safety, interviewer, interviewee and sales can benefit greatly from the behavioral modeling method that uses games and simulation (Encyclopedia for Business, 2010). Accordingly, the behavioral methods enable a trainee to practice the behavior in a simulated environment. In such an environment, the trainee not only learns through experience but also gets to change his or her attitude towards challenges, while also developing his or her skills. Most importantly however is the fact that trainers must “tell, show, demonstrate and explain” all processes in games or simulation before the training commences. The four activities pointed allow the trainee to understand the different aspects in the training and also give them a grasp of the main learning points emphasized by the trainers.

Findings

Games and simulations used in modeling behavior in training are deliberately designed to test strategy. In such scenarios, little or no room is left for luck and hence the better the strategy a person applies, the higher the chances that he or she is going to emerge successful in either gaming or simulation-based competitions.

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Regarding games, this study has established that depending on the complexity of the situation that trainees are meant to handle in the real world, games are divided as abstract or simple mind games. In contrast to simulation, games are meant to challenge one’s internal logic. In most cases, games have little ties to the real-world theme they are supposed to serve.

Before commencing the use of games for behavioral modeling in training, the Encyclopedia of Business (2010) notes that trainers must describe the situation to the trainees. Further, the rules applicable in the game should be clear to all participants. Once the game commences, the trainees are expected to play the game according to the provided rules, at which stage, their independent decision-making capabilities are gauged.

In a game that is modeled to provide insight into financial decision-making for example, the decision made by individual trainees can result either in profit making or bankruptcy. If the game is modeled to reflect a team scenario, then decisions by team members are combined to form the final result. The good thing about games as a training method is the fact that they can be repeated until the trainees learn to make decisions that will reflect positively on the system.

Encyclopedia of Business (2010) also observes that where trainees should learn how to handle competition, specific games that have a competitive element can be used. In such games however, trainees should be cautioned to focus on attaining the skills needed for implementation in their jobs, rather on the short-term need of overcoming their game opponents.

Simulation on the other hand is intended to spur processes and decisions that are inherent to the real-world situation. The mechanics adopted in the simulation processes therefore reflect the consequences that a trainee would encounter in a real-world situation following some decisions and actions. According to Banks, when the real systems are impossible or difficult to engage, then the easy way to handle training where behavioral modeling is required is through the use of simulation. In cases where engaging the system may pose some danger to the trainees, it is also good to use simulations (Zacharius et al. 2009).

The same case applies to instances where trainees are not allowed to experiment with the real system or where the system may actually not be available. In the technologically advanced world, simulations are able to able the real-world scenarios, whereby the trainees are given a chance to explore the virtual world using forced-back elements, freedom sensors and even gloves.

For simulation to be effective as a behavior modeling concept in training, Salo (2009) notes that several steps need to be followed in the construction of the simulation process. Before deciding on the simulation model that best fit the training, the person formulating the model needs to identify the problem that the simulation process is supposed to solve. Based on this, he then plans the course that the study will follow. The next step involves data collection and defining the simulation model, after which the model is analyzed for validity. If not, the model formulator would have to go back to the data collection and model definition stage.

If the model passes the validity test, then the next step would be to construct a simulated program, which should then be verified as ideal for use in the training. Before it is released for use by the trainees however, it needs a pilot run to check its validity. If the program fails, the formulator would have to go back to the data collection and model definition stage once again. If it is passes the validity test after the pilot, design experiment, production runs and output data analysis would have to be conducted. The final stage would be to use it in training and documenting any challenges faced in the process. Later, the trainers can judge whether the simulation did well or not.

Conclusion

Since behavioral modeling in training is driven by identified objectives, sometimes it becomes hard to explain what normal behavior should be especially when training people who do not fully grasp the concept of translating the skills acquired during gaming and simulation exercise. In addition, the games and simulations have limits that do not necessarily reflect limits presented in the real system. Also, it becomes hard to identify the major risks that one is going to face in real life situations when games and simulations are being used as behavior modeling tools in training. It is also noteworthy that since the games and simulations are a simpler version of the real system, judgments by the trainers are usually defensible and cautious hence casting doubt on the efficiency of the two tools as behavior modeling tools.

Overall, games and simulations can both be used in behavioral modeling in training. As observed here in however, the basic infrastructure necessary for the success of each needs to be laid before hand. For example, the trainers need to pick the weak points in the trainees and focus on the same while designing the model to use during training. Before using the same in training, the model should be tested for viability in order to ensure that the training objectives will be met using the model.

References

Banks, C. M. (2009). Principles of Modeling and simulation. A Multi-disciplinary Approach. Web.

Bock, C. (2009). Three kinds if Behavior model. Journal of Object-Oriented Programming, 12 (4), 1-12. Web.

Dilts, R. (2010). Modeling with NPL. Article of the Month. Web.

Encyclopedia of Business. (2010). Training Delivery Methods. 2nd edition. Web.

Kharrazi, H., Faiola, A., & Defazio, J. (2009). Human-Computer Interaction. Interacting in Various Application Domains. Springer publishers: Berlin / Heidelberg. Web.

Naukrihub. (2010). Games and simulations. Web.

Salo, A. (2009). Behavioral Elements in Simulation Models. Systems analysis laboratory, Helsinki University of Technology, pp. 1-17. Web.

Smith, R. (2009). Fundamental Principles of Modeling and Simulation. Computer Game Developer’s Conference, San Jose, California. Web.

Visual Paradigm Online Training Center (2009). Behavioral modeling. Web.

Zacharius, G., MacMillan, J., & Van Hemel, S. (2009). Behavioral Modeling and Simulation. Washington DC: National Academies Press. Web.

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