In the mid 1990’s I served as a Training Development Officer working with tactical aviation (helicopters that support the Army). We had just purchased 100 helicopters plus a full motion combat simulator and my office was next to the simulator, which I watched as it was installed, tested, and used. My work also involved writing papers to justify the use of other simulators, such as cockpit procedure trainers and maintenance trainers. One of the papers I wrote examined how we needed to develop an integrated approach to specifying what type of simulation, or emulation, was most suitable for the training task. For example, teaching start-up and shut-down sequences does not require a full-motion simulator, as the actual task occurs while the aircraft is on the ground. It does require switches, gauges, and dials that act like the real things though. I suggested creating a decision support tool that looked at both physical and functional fidelity, and integrating this into the training system documentation. Without such a documented process, decisions to purchase +$25 million simulators would continue to made on a best-guess basis.
Almost 10 years after writing this internal military discussion paper, I was hired by a defence contractor to look at how training could be analyzed to determine the optimal maintenance training for helicopter technicians. Upon asking for the military documentation on training analysis I found that there was still nothing that addressed simulation. The military was working in the internet age with training documentation from the industrial age. I wrote another paper for my client that I assumed was delivered to the military, and that was the end of my part of the project. The question, How do we specify the optimal level of simulation fidelity? had still not been answered.
Several years later, I met with representatives of the same contractor at a military training and simulation conference. One of the themes was how the military needed to make better uses of simulation and emulation for training. I confirmed that my paper and its recommendations were not being used by the military and also that the company had no more knowledge of it internally. Nothing had changed. It was not just that my paper had not been used, the documentation on how to analyze tasks for training still did not include any discussion of simulation. Training simulation analysis and design was continuing to be done on an ad hoc basis, usually as an afterthought to a major equipment purchase.
The key lesson in my mind, is that good training analysis and design, in the larger scheme of things, does not matter. Large organizations do not care about it. The training world can come up with better instructional design or new inter-operative standards and the folks who make the real decisions will continue to ignore them. If you want to change the world, or just your organization, stay out of the training department.