Short Sims by Clark Aldrich: Book Review

In his book Short Sims: A Game Changer, Clark Aldrich provides a system for creating engaging, interactive learning experiences quickly (in about 40 hours of work). Clark provides multiple examples so you can play through the Short Sims yourself to see the possibilities.

Short Sims: A Game Changer by Clark Aldrich

What are Short Sims?

Short sims are similar to branching scenarios and simulations, but with some specific characteristics.

“Short Sims are a new type of educational media–five to twelve minutes long–with few words and many decisions. They are streamlined online experiences made up of actions, goals, challenges, solutions, mistakes, and consequences.”

Clark Aldrich in Short Sims

These simulations include text and images, but usually not audio or other complex multimedia that would take longer to produce. When Clark says “many decisions,” he’s not exaggerating; some of the examples have 60-80 screens. That gives them a depth that many other scenarios lack. Instead of focusing too much on multimedia and “eye candy,” the process in the book trims simulations down to focus mostly on the decisions made. Learners can answer lots of multiple choice questions quickly and get immediate feedback.

The best way to understand Short Sims is to try one yourself. Clark has several example sims on his website, plus an explanation of Short Sims.

Competence and conviction

One of the benefits touted in the book is that Short Sims can improve both competence and conviction. While we talk about “competence” in L&D, I don’t hear many folks talking about “conviction.” A lot of the training we do really only provides “awareness”: just sharing information. Developing competence requires practicing a skill.

But even when we provide opportunities to practice skills in our training, do we really provide enough practice for people to feel confident? Learners can replay Short Sims multiple times. That’s an important aspect to helping people become confident (to improve their self-efficacy, if we want to be technical). Making choices, and then seeing the consequences of different choices during a replay, drives that “conviction” about the training.

The book also discusses using simulations to show a new way of thinking, and hopefully to shift how learners think about a topic. That’s another aspect of conviction.

Case studies and practical tips

The book includes multiple case studies of real examples, plus lots of practical tips. This isn’t a book filled with tons of theoretical or academic background. Instead, it’s a book for practitioners who will be building simulations, or managers who want to know how to support a team.

I see a lot of overlap in the Short Sims approach to what I’ve already been doing. For example, Clark talks about using bottlenecks to manage the branching complexity, a topic I have written about too. Short Sims have different “levels” divided by bottlenecks. That structure is a big part of how the scenarios can be built so much faster than a typical simulation.

While I think a team creating their first simulations would probably take longer than the 40 hours target for a 6-level sim, I think it’s realistic that these can be created quickly with the right team and some practice developing them.

Buy the book

You can buy Short Sims: A Game Changer on Amazon (that’s an affiliate link–no extra cost to you, but I make a small percentage if you buy it through me). Check out the Short Sims website for additional information.

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