Using “Simulators” in IT Training

A trainer having trouble with an App in front of an audience

Sometimes your software doesn’t work as planned…

…and this can be a bit awkward in a live training session!

In fact, it can be bad for a number of reasons:

  • It’s a massive distraction for the group (and could cause a halt to your training)
  • It can be embarrassing for the trainer
  • It can create a bad impression of the software that sticks with the course delegates

This is why I mostly choose against using the live application and prefer to do my “walk-throughs” with what I call a “Simulator“.

What do I mean by a “Simulator”?

At the most basic level, it is a PowerPoint slide show with carefully layered screen shots that emulate the operation of the real software. 

It is played back by the trainer and used as the ultimate training aid to help explain how the software is used.

So what are the advantages of a Simulator?

  • It’s predictable. You can always train something the same way.
  • Even though you only need to press Enter to advance each slide, you can give the impression you are using the actual software by using your mouse to click on a button or click on a menu!
  • The software you’re walking people through always works so they don’t get distracted and the software looks good.
  • You don’t need connectivity to run it just PowerPoint and a big monitor/projector, (unless you are using it remotely, of course).
  • You don’t have to enter data into dialog boxes. This can be a really tedious thing to have to watch in a walk through (not to mention type in).
  • You don’t need to reset anything for the next session.
  • You can change an odd screenshot here and there so it is easy to edit.
  • Your example will always run (for a process that has an end point, you don’t have to keep creating new examples).
  • When you’re showing a screen with data on it, the data can be faked using Photoshop (you don’t have to “sanitise” the data painstakingly).
  • You can add extra things for emphasis, like animation and flashing red box highlighters.
  • Runs well remotely through Zoom or Teams.
  • If processes are long and involved (i.e. they have extra steps from other users, like sending and receiving emails), you can foreshorten them and still emulate them.

Is it easy to create a “Simulator”?

In general, yes.

You just need:

  • Access to the application
  • The ability to take full size screen shots
  • PowerPoint 

They can be quite time-consuming to make though, but this time is really useful as it helps the trainer to go through the processes involved, (i.e. it’s a bit like creating a visual script).


Simulator Example

The video below shows an example of how a Simulator is used to train people, (in this case on Microsoft OneNote)…

If you need to talk to me about creating PowerPoint Simulators for your organisation then you can contact me here.