Designing a Simulation Platform as an antidote to the pitfalls of e-learning

July 5, 2023
Designing a Simulation Platform as an antidote to the pitfalls of e-learning

Technology can be a great enabler. And for the most part it has been so in the context of the L&D industry. But there has been misdirection in the recent past, particularly when it comes to finding an effective model for delivering learning in a digital environment. 

If one takes a look at how corporate learning has evolved over the past two decades one can certainly notice significant shifts.

  • Learning is coming more employee-centric, and less of a management ploy
  • Incorporating employee experience is intrinsic to developing a good learning platform
  • Contextual learning is increasingly becoming more important
  • As millennials make up a major portion of the workforce, there is an increasing preference for ‘Learning in the flow of work’ keeping in line with the hectic pace of their work lives and on the go tendencies in the age of information.
  • Experiential learning has gained importance so employees are ever more prepared to handle situations in the real world 
  • Learning platforms have the scope to make mistakes and improve.

Reflecting the clutter of entertainment

The biggest mistake marketers make is believing choice is a good thing. It isn’t. Consumers don’t want more choice, but to be more confident in the choices presented.

Scott Galloway, Professor of Marketing, NYU Stern (Blog No Mercy, No Malice)

We see something similar happening in learning today.

The buzz around the netflixing of learning platforms is quite real but it is probably not the most ideal way to address the challenges of learning ecosystems

The motivations for learning and entertainment are intrinsically different. People binge on webseries. They don't binge on learning and categorically speaking they shouldn’t. 

The whole point of effective learning is that people spend some of their available time honing their skills, soft-skills or otherwise, and get back to work with these skills upgrades to improve their performance, and contribute to the shared business goals of their organization.

People simply don't have a lot of time

However what often gets overlooked in the zeal for making available a variety of resources is the ever-growing clutter of courses, and the ever-decreasing time available to employees to take up their learning in peace.

The way people learn has simply undergone a change, because the way people work has fundamentally changed. People today spend a big chunk of time aggregating, looking for relevant information, then of course there is the constant buzz of notifications.  

With so many distractions that are the basis of the information era, an average worker only has less than 25 minutes of time to actually slow down and learn in a week. Not in a day or a couple days but over an entire week! 

Now imagine employees trawling through a sea of resources trying to salvage and make the most of those 25 minutes. It’s a little unfair. Isn’t it?

Effectiveness not accessibility should be the yardstick

A research by CMI and Oxford Strategic Consulting in the UK surveyed around 1200 businesses and came up with very interesting results about why e-learning hasn't been all that effective in driving leadership or soft-skills.

  1. 97% of managers surveyed use some form of e-learning every year, but...less than 18 percent said they’d prefer online to face-to-face, experiential sessions.

    Observation: That means around 80 percent are reluctant users, and aren’t confident about its effectiveness
  1. Around 73% want the modules to be more adaptive or customized

    Observation: People prefer the option to customize their interactions which e-learning lacks. E-learning works like a fast-food chain and can’t provide the gourmet experience employees today are looking for.
  1. Around 55% people wanted the modules to become more experiential

    Observation: People value learning through experiences, something that the passive delivery of e-learning doesn't promise.

 But one has to wonder, why is it that 97percent of the people surveyed consume e-learning in one form or another.

Turns out it is not because people consider the courses to be particularly effective or helpful. But rather because they are easy to access, they don't require commuting  and people can go through them at their own pace.

  1. 82 percent of people surveyed said that they took up e-learning because of the convenience.
  2. 66 percent preferred e-learning modules because it doesn’t require them to travel.
  3. And about 68 percent took the courses because they were self-paced.

But, and here is the catch, 48% people said that content wasn’t the primary reason for using e-learning resources.

Which is a shame, because ‘Content’, the way it is designed, put together and delivered is all that matters most in learning. Any form of learning.

How People learn vs How e-learning makes them learn

E-learning the way it is now, has really become prioritized not because it is effective but because it is easily accessible, allows easy distribution and so on.

But let me ask you, what is the most effective way for people to learn? How does one learn to ride a bike? How does one learn to iron clothes? To cook food? To do all sorts of daily activities that we generally don’t think about but are adept at? 

By doing!

And when people do things, they make mistakes. And they learn from mistakes. And this process is essential to learning, essential to mastery of skills - behavioural or business. 

Josh Bersin talks about the hierarchy of ‘how learning happens’ and the corresponding techniques in his 2004 book on blended learning.

Designing CatalyX : The simulation platform as an antidote to the netflixing of learning

So, when we began conceptualizing CatalyX as a simulation platform, we made sure we balanced a lot of these expectations that people today have from learning platforms, while retaining the most essential but often overlooked element of ‘experience’, of ‘doing’.

We leveraged storytelling

All good content, and particularly any good content that people remember relies on good storytelling. So we began there and made story scenarios an intrinsic part of simulations.

User’s have in-simulations personas that correspond to their real world roles. They are able to relate better and it generates curiosity about the decisions they need to make along the way.

Real-life scenarios

Simulations mimic actual situations at work where employees interact with real life office personas- peers, leaders, direct reports, partners.

Probably the most necessary part of any learning exercise is to make it contextual, so people can relate their experience within the simulation with their experiences in the real world. It helps them evaluate the choices and presumptions in a safe virtual environment, without judgement.

It gives them the ownership they crave to resolve mental blocks in their mind about familiar situations they face at work.

Feedback pit-stops

Employees make crucial pit-stops after each scenario for holistic feedback. It evaluates the decisions they took based on a number of parameters related to role in specific scenarios. 

And it gives them an overview of their decisions, not simply as right or wrong. But in terms of the spectrum of what is ideal and what is practical, by taking their own personalities and attitudes into consideration.

The feedback is personalized by taking into account the choices they made and the feedback is suggestive, so users can take the initiative to balance their choices in terms of what is most productive as they course across scenarios that get more complex.

Expert videos

We understand how important videos are for today's generation. It is the single most preferred mode of content consumption today.

So we brought in subject matter experts to make videos that expand on the experience, that learners don't need to watch one after another, as if they are binge watching. But videos that are conceptualized to be complementary in nature and bring clarity on competency frameworks used in simulation scenarios.

Time is of the essence

We understand that time or lack of it is perhaps one of the biggest challenges to implement learning.

People today get excited about a lot of content they come across online. We are quick to add to our collections, downloading tutorials, books, research and what not. But it is true that all of us have folders and subscriptions we never go back to. Unless of course, we get a notification to clean up memory and trash stuff that we collected.

The issue is people just don’t foresee the lack of time. And without time, it is very hard to discipline, to organize to make sure that one will go back to the resources that promise you a lifetime of availability/subscription. 

People just aren't conditioned to value things that are always around. 

So we made sure that all experiential simulations on CatalyX range from just 30-60 mins. So people get in and out, not waste a whole of time, and most importantly get back to work with crisp takeaways.

Solving for accessibility

CatalyX provides a 24/7 window for a range of simulations addressing multiple everyday essential competencies like - Ownership, Team management, Effective Communication, Delegation, Feedback, Customer Centricity,Collaboration, Self-mastery, Time Management and Finance for non-finance - and all in one place.

Not only that we ensured that that CatalyX allows for a seamless and quick integration to native LXP platforms, if the need arose.

Data to understand learner behaviours

We understand how important data is to know the big picture. How knowing learner patterns, frequency of learner interactions, their progress across modules  within a learning platform can provide useful insights to leaders to tweak and develop their learning strategy.

CatalyX comes with comprehensive dashboards with real-time data on significant markers about learner progress, interest and behaviours. 

Refined UI and aesthetics

An issue that is persistent perhaps for all digital platforms is the interest and engagement that a refined UI and aesthetic appearance can bring to the table.

The same is true for learning platforms as well. We realized that merely having good concise content isn't enough, it is equally important to give users a seamless, intuitive UI experience and aesthetics that match the gamified approach of the individual simulation modules.

They say that the best design is invisible. This has guided our approach to build CatalyX.

We were in-fact recently recognised as one of the top emerging LXP vendors by Training Industry for their 2020 watchlist. 

Built in functionality to nudge consumption

Given how miserable the consumption rates for e-learning courses are, any viable alternative has to focus on a built in mechanism to monitor learner progress. 

Because it is never about just taking the horse to the water, one has to make sure that it drinks a fair amount too.

As we talked about earlier the CatalyX dashboard comes with a comprehensive dashboard to let managers understand the progress their employees make across the modules. 

Leveraging this knowledge on this dashboard, one can schedule notifications to the user base based on their progress and engagement.

CatalyX thus comes in with a built in feature to ensure there is a dynamic feedback loop between how people undertake various simulation modules and how they can be prodded along to make the best use of the modules.


It is certainly true that e-learning libraries have played an important role in learning so far.

It is also apparent that there are obvious shortcomings in terms of effectiveness, time-constraints, experience, learning by doing when it comes to primarily reliance on e-learning.

CatalyX as a platform has been conceived to envision how we can effectively address these shortcomings and transition into a phase where effectiveness, efficiency and experience are the primary drivers and not accessibility or abundance.

Watch the latest Enparadigm webinar on the topic:

Happiness:The Non-Linear Multiplier to Workplace Productivity

And how you can implement it at work

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