The Difference Between Software Simulation and Video Demo

Summary: Both could show very similar things, but there are fine differences between the two. Why shouldn’t you use software simulation and rather go with the video demo? We’re thinking for you.

Life is ever changing with its conditions, and sometimes you are unable to have the environment that you need. This, at least, is valid in the context of learning. As it has been argued before, eLearning is extremely practical in terms of saving time and providing on-demand learning opportunities.

If the goal of eLearning includes learning skills in specific settings, simulation-based learning would be the way to go. We’ll try to determine which option could be the best for you: software simulation or video demo.

What Is Simulation-Based Learning?

Simulation-based learning, as the term says, involves simulated activities and environments to help train specific skills and acquire adequate knowledge. Many companies utilize learning simulations, whether in in-person learning or remote. (Hurrell)

There is a positive safety component to simulation-based learning, as well: even high-risk environments can be simulated, so that the risk of endangering anyone’s life is eliminated. Learners can still see the consequences of their actions, but they are not materialized. Consequently, companies can save money by sparing precious resources or machinery.

Here’s why we think simulation-based learning deserves a go, with a little help from Susan Hurrel from Neovation:

  • Its imitations are engaging: simulation-based learning is based on a replica of a real-world situation. They can be highly engaging and interactive, helping learners maintain motivation and develop skills that can be applied directly in the workplace.
  • There’s an innate flexibility: simulations can be designed to accommodate learners allowing them to learn at their own pace
  • Simulations are cost-effective: in the long run, with simulation-based learning (as with any eLearning, really) you need to invest only one time in the development process and you can use it repeatedly.
  • Simulations are safe: simulation can provide a safe environment for learners to practice and experiment with new skills without real endangerment.
  • You can measure effectiveness: with simulations you can collect data on learning performances to make informed decisions.

The entire production process of simulation-based learning can be demanding, no lies about that. Nevertheless, utilizing technology to create a real-life feel can make a huge impact on the learner (e.g. 360 technology), so it’s up to you to decide what level of engagement and impression you want to have.

There are some alternatives of course. Let’s learn about video demos and their advantages.

What Is a Video Demo?

Video demos are concise and short videos that demonstrate the key functions of a product, service, or software. They can be effectively used in eLearning to educate and showcase the features of a product or service in an engaging way. Moreover, they can be an excellent marketing tool: such explainer videos can attract customers to your product.

A technical explanation of a video demo would be something like this: video demos are created by recording all the movements in the simulation as if pointing a camera at the monitor and capturing everything that happens on the screen. The resulting video needs to be edited and shortened for clarity. To help your audience understand the main points, it is recommended to include a narrative voiceover.

For a demo video of a decent quality, it is crucial to have the following components: a good brief description, narrative voiceover, and a good-quality screen capture. Moreover, depending on your needs and preferences, you may use additional graphic elements or animations to emphasize the points you want your audience to remember.

Video Demo Pros

The main advantage of creating a video demo is the fact that they are simple to make and cost-effective. Usually, companies need simple overview videos without complex interactive elements, rather than sophisticated demonstration videos. (Folio)

This format is familiar and accessible to most of the learners, and they can be viewed on the most common video platforms and devices. The ability to provide detailed transcripts, closed captions, and visually adapt to conform to accessibility recommendations makes video demos an attractive inclusive solution for wide audiences.

Video Demo Cons

The cons of video demos are their lack of interactivity, and that’s about it. Usually the audience watching the video is passive. Although there is the ability to speed up or skip some parts if the interface allows it, we cannot say that there is any real control over the content flow and speed. That being said, be aware that people cannot try out some new software features, for example. (Folio)

When to Use Video Demos?

If your budget is limited, a video demo is a more affordable option to showcase your service. If you need to provide simple main features and functionalities of your software simulation and you only require a passive look at your simulation, a basic video demo is sufficient. (Folio)

What Is a Software Simulation?

Software simulation is a quick and engaging method of educating learners on how to use a product, service, or software. It demonstrates the product’s key functions and operations. There is a level of interactivity (which is ultimately determined by the author), enabling learners to click around and try out some features as part of the simulation. (Ispring)

In software simulations, screenshots are recorded for every mouse click, which means that if you click 1000 times, you will get 1000 screenshots. To collect all the screenshots in one simulation, specialized programs can be used, making it easier to edit them, as opposed to pure video editing.

Additionally, you can export software simulations as interactive simulations for your eLearning, in which users can demonstrate their skills just like in the real-world software simulation. (“Adobe Captivate Software Simulations and Video Demos”)

What Can Software Simulation Be Used for?

Just like we mentioned in the introductory sections about simulation-based learning, simulations are safe: it can provide a safe environment for learners to practice and experiment with new skills without real endangerment. The Articulate Community Team will highlight that “there’s no ‘messing up’ your software simulations: learners can’t switch off an important process or accidentally post a private document.

They’re able to build confidence working in the tool so that when it’s time to use it IRL, they know just what to do.”

A successful software simulation should provide context and explain how something is used. It can give the learners more control as they build their level of expertise and confidence. From the technical side of the view, Cross in her article “The five levels of software simulation for e-learning” mentions that we can use realistic dummy data, relevant examples, and scenarios.

Following Cross’ division, we’re mentioning her 5 types of software simulation:

1.Screen Capture
This simulation displays screens captured from the real software, following a set script. The learners move between the screen using the next and back button, so they can review the content more easily. It’s a great option for simple system operations.

2.Point and Click
Learners can click on different parts of the screen, an information may appear in the form of a pop up or as a result of a simple action such as dropping down menu from a toolbar.

3.Data Input
As we move down the list, we gain more interactivity. With data inputs (learners enter some data), you can play with real-life scenarios, and condition learners to move forward only if they provide correct input.

4.Multiple Input Paths
This option is a level-up from the basic data input. As Cross says, “they are more complicated and time-consuming to develop and test as there are a greater number of potential routes, and therefore feedback, that needs to be provided to the learner“. (Cross)

5.Full simulation
If you’re creating a full simulation, then everything should be as close to real life as possible. Here all functions of a software are enabled and learners have freedom to explore it at any time, perhaps to reinforce daily routines or remind themselves of some less familiar functions.

We’ve found a free example of a software simulation for you, done in Articulate Storyline software.

What Are The Best Simulation-Software Programs?

It’s hard to run away from trends in the Instructional Design community. But, as we present the list originally from Helen Colman, keep in mind that each designer will have a different favorite. The most important is that the end product satisfies the principles of good instructional design and customer preferences. Suggested simulation-software programs (Colman):

Another note for you: this content is not sponsored, we’re only richer in knowledge by providing it :).

Conclusion: What’s the Main Difference Between Video Demo and Software Simulation?

The primary difference between a video demo and a software simulation lies in their format and the level of interactivity. A video demo is a pre-recorded video that shows a simulation without interactions, while a software simulation is a sequence of screenshots that can be interactive to help learners practice their new skills.

If you need to provide a simple overview of your product’s main features and functionalities, and you only require a passive look at your simulation, a basic video demo is sufficient.

But if you need a more engaging learning experience, with more context of how something is used, then you should opt for a software simulation. The learners have more control as they build their level of expertise and confidence.

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