Roger Schank gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “learning by doing” in his book Virtual Learning: A Revolutionary Approach to Building a Highly Skilled Workforce.

About the book
Virtual Learning explains why current training practices in organizations are not working. It details how to rethink your entire training process step by step, and provides comprehensive case studies and examples of Schank’s methods for motivating employees.

Rules to live by
Along with useful methodology, Schank also addresses the thought processes your company needs to get your training department where you want it to go. A very interesting chapter, “Rules To Live By,” can help companies rethink training strategies. Take Rule #1, for example, “People Remember Best What They Feel Most.” He brings up the thought-provoking concept that people never forget things that affect their lives. He also convincingly demonstrates that people learn from failure when they are training online. In that vein, he describes how “failing with dignity” can be applied to the virtual classroom to increase learner retention.

Virtual learning techniques
Another great chapter is “Virtual Learning Techniques,” which tells how you can build realistic simulations into your training. Because not all training departments have huge budgets for computer-based training, Schank outlines ways you can create great virtual simulations without spending a fortune. One of the things I like best about the book is its extensive use of case studies, based on projects from such companies as Andersen Consulting and Bennigan’s Restaurants. Seeing what these companies have accomplished using Roger Schank’s methods is amazing!

Some other interesting topics you will find:

  • The way the mind works, the way training should be
  • How to start your own training revolution
  • How people will learn in the future

On the negative side
Although Schank proves that learning from failure increases learning retention in the virtual classroom, he repeats his point so often that it affects the tone of the entire book. This theory can be applied to computer simulations but would be difficult to apply to the instructor-led classroom. I would have found the book even more helpful if he had provided solutions for increasing learning retention in this environment as well.
Virtual Learning: A Revolutionary Approach to Building a Highly Skilled Workforce, by Roger SchankOnline Price: $19.95Hardcover; 185 PagesPublished by McGraw-Hill Publishing; 05/1997ISBN: 0786311487

Click here to purchase Virtual Learning

The verdict
Virtual Learning will give you a head’s up on tomorrow’s computer-interactive employee training methods. Schank’s techniques have had remarkable results in companies both large and small. I recommend this book if you want to see a difference in the effectiveness of your training department!
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Susanne E. Krivanek is a training coordinator/analyst for Systems & Computer Technology Corp. , Education Solutions Division, who specializes in the development of software product training and certification programs. She has a training background in brokerage software, office applications, and business entrepreneurship, and she speaks on maximizing training effectiveness.