Virtual On-The-Job Training

When assessing how technology can apply to learning there are many different approaches that can be taken.  Through the process of the Stanford d.School’s Design Thinking Process (2016), it became evident that Christina and Leigha have very different perspectives when it comes to the application of technology to learning.  

Christina works for a tech company making technology-enabled learning environments primarily for military personnel. She is responsible for designing and leading development teams in the creation of digital learning products and environments. These learning aids support or enforce learning that takes place in curriculum which is not created or controlled by her company.  

Leigha runs an accounting firm and is a finance professor at Capilano University (CapU).  At CapU, she employs digital learning tools to support the learning environment and curriculum she designs.  The learning tools are not created by Leigha and she has limited control within the functionality and restrictions of the tools. 

Design Thinking Process

While working through the Design Thinking Process (Carter, 2018), Christina and Leigha discussed the needs of their students and compared their outlooks on intellectual risk taking and engagement in online learning within their diverse professional fields.  Through this discussion, they found that if a virtual environment could replicate the reality of on-the-job training, both types of learner groups would benefit. Christina’s military students are often dealing with massive and expensive equipment, not to mention, life and death situations. Although they may have read instructions or learnt specific steps to follow within a classroom environment, they have to wait until a ship or tank and a supervisor is available to really understand how to read the situation and what the often, very severe repercussions of failure are.  Leigha is in quite a different situation, where her students are not dealing with life and death situation, but following the law. Leigha is able to guide them towards the correct method of thinking in order to follow the law and complete a task. Leigha uses digital accounting tools to aid learning and support the curriculum she has taught. The digital accounting software available has limited flexibility and control, either providing too much guidance or just referencing textbook material.  

Although the learners are from two very diverse industries, the conclusion that the creation of a digital learning environment that mimics reality for on-the-job training, would be ideal.  This idea is in alignment with Jeffrey Dalto who argued that unlike media that came before, these new immersive environments allow for areas that previously were only able to be learned on the job, be brought to the classroom (Dalto, 2018).   

Problem Statement:

Within an integrated online learning platform, how can we create real like consequences so that students experience the emotions and feelings of what failure could mean?


An online learning platform that includes:

  • The creation of a virtual environment that replicates on-the-job training for a specified task. 
  • Create a branching/non-linear path to follow.
  • Allow students to go along any path to the solution, “instructor” assistance will only be provided if they are nearing a critical and/or unrecoverable error.
  • If guidance is ignored, the student will be allowed to reach the critical and/or unrecoverable error.
  • Upon failure, the student will be delivered additional content to understand the possible repercussions of the error. 

This prototype solution is about creating a digital learning environment that provides practice of an on-the-job task that allows the learner to go off the expected/correct path, and offers gentle guidance back without providing solutions to the process.  The primary focus is learning and engagement within that learning. The opportunity to explore intellectual risk-taking shouldn’t outweigh the learning.

This prototype can be implemented for all levels of learners as it would provide guidance based on the skill level required for the specified task.  Knowles states that adult learners are self-directed and expect to face the consequences of their actions (Knowles, 1973, 80). The desire to face the consequences of your actions, depicts a real-life simulator would work to increase engagement and bring intellectual risk taking into the learning environment. “In this direction he must, if he is an educator, be able to judge what attitudes are actually conducive to continued growth and what are detrimental” (Knowles, 1973, 69).  The progress and growth, as well as the results of each attempt, should be recorded and reviewed to ensure the correct behaviours and attitudes required to be successful within these industries are present and being accurately portrayed through the learning process.

Christina and Leigha would appreciate input on:

  • Would the temptation to explore risks in a digital environment when the repercussions aren’t real need to be mitigated?
  • Is there a desire to explore the possible repercussions of a situation because it is a simulation?
  • Would providing real-life photos or interviews on how such mistakes impacted people’s lives be an effective form of mitigation?

Please provide your input before December 6th, so as to allow us the opportunity to properly address your concerns in our evaluation and feedback response. 

Thank you and we look forward to hearing from you.



Please disregard the formatting for the References listed. The Blog Posting generator does not allow formatting.

Carter, D. (2018, November). Design Thinking Process. Retrieved from

Stanford University Institute of Design. (2016). A Virtual Crash Course in Design Thinking — Stanford [Website]. Retrieved from

Dalto, J. (2018). AR, VR and 3-D can make workers better: IE. ISE ; Industrial and Systems Engineering at Work, 50(9), 42-47. Retrieved from

Knowles, M. (1973, April). The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species. Retrieved from


4 thoughts to “Virtual On-The-Job Training”

  1. Hi Christina and Leigha,

    Thank you for sharing your prototype! It was interesting to see that coming from two very distinct environments you found some very relevant similarities between your students and established a need for virtual training that mimics on-the-job environment.

    I like that your solution replicates real-life scenarios, including “critical” and “unrecoverable error” and the student is allowed to experience “the consequences of their actions”.

    For me personally, the possibility to experience training in the virtual environment could provide positive reinforcement and increase my confidence before engaging in real-life situations! I think the fact that your prototype provides an opportunity to experience real-life scenarios in a virtual and safe environment, can be very effective in engaging students and invite them to take risks.

    I am curious, however, how can it be applied across other contexts/disciplines? For example, the “unrecoverable error” in military training would mean something completely different from the “unrecoverable error” in accounting. I am aware of virtual reality training in the medical field, but I am curious if it could be adapted in a broader range of contexts and how.

    Also, with respect to your last question, I think there might be a fine line between encouraging students by providing them with the opportunity to take risks and creating an environment where they might be guided by fear of mistake. For this reason, I don’t think real-life photos or interviews would be an effective form of mitigation, but I think it also depends on how they are presented. I am also curious if you are going to implement gamification aspects in your prototype.

    Thank you again for sharing!


    1. Hi Martha,
      Thank you for your thoughtful feedback.
      To answer your questions when envisioning our prototype we discussed some of the limitations current digital learning environments provided in both our fields and found that often the feedback provided falls into two categories; either the environment is not helpful at all, even when the learner is hopelessly lost, or the feedback is so prescriptive that the environment gives them the solution to the task. Our hope is to create that middle ground as instructors/supervisors can do on the job.
      As to how it can be applied cross-disciple our idea was to create a tool that allowed instructors to not only create the steps of a procedure but to create known missteps allowing students to get off track with gentle nudges back to course, when/if required. This could be a federal tax form that when the finance student tried to submit would ask leading questions to guide them to a section they failed to account for. This could also be a virtual electrical trainer for a Navy vessel they let the student cause a blackout on their ship, then acts like their commanding officer guiding them to bring power back online.
      To your last inquiry about gamification, there would be game elements, such as avatars, narrative context, situational feedback and possibly levels integrated however the lexicon of what does and does not qualify as gamification is still hotly debated.
      Thank You,
      Christina and Leigha

  2. Hi Christina and Leigha,
    What a really neat platform idea! As someone who gravitates towards experiential learning, I can see this as an excellent tool to foster that. Your platform has the potential to be adapted across a variety of industries and professions that deal with high risk situations. The feature that stands out to me the most, is when learners have the ability to go explore potential solutions and only having the “instructor” issue prompts when they are approaching critical and/or unrecoverable error. I strongly feel that this design element of your platform encourages learners to incorporate bold and creative approaches within a safe space, while simultaneously helping them increase their confidence levels and managing their emotions in high stress situations.

    Personally, I don’t know if I would be as purposeful in trying to explore possible repercussions that my actions could lead to, unless that was a highlighted expectation/goal of using the platform. Maybe this is where the bold risk taking can be fostered before users use the virtual simulations?

    I think adding real-life photos or providing interviews can add to understanding the ramifications in a holistic way. Tackling questions like, what were the warning signs/red flags? What could have been done differently? How should things be done differently in the future? These are all questions that often don’t really get asked or shared publicly. So, if users have the opportunity to start these conversations earlier on in their training, that can hopefully encourage open and honest dialogue.
    I have just a few questions for you both. When would you anticipate being utilized by your users? Is this a tool that you can use throughout your instruction? Will there be opportunities for collaboration between users before/during/after using the platform?

    Thank you for providing a detailed breakdown of your platform. This is a great idea!

  3. Thanks Eunice for your comments. We appreciate the feedback.
    We are glad to hear that you like the platform and would find the use of the real-life aspects to be helpful and aid with learning.
    When you say, “When would you anticipate being utilized by your users?”, we took that in the terms of as the instructor nudging students back to course. This would definitely be dependent on the type of learning environment, skill level of the course, and the instructor. We want the instructor to have some control over their platform and when they want to start to interfere with the path that a student is on. The idea is, is that this nudge and interaction from the instructor will occur throughout the learning. With the hands-on style of learning, feedback and collaboration are imperative to the success of the platform.

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