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If a performance support system only provides raw content (e.g., cases) and does not also answers such questions, it is likely to leave some users confused about how to apply the content that it does provide. Accordingly, performance support tools should not only provide raw content, they should also allow their users to ask a range of types of questions about that content.

Simulation-Based Training

People learn by doing. For instance, to become a good investor, one must do a lot of investing. But investing is a risky business. So it is best to practice in a safe, controlled environment, one that allows effective coaching to be delivered as it is required. Simulation-based training environments can allow people to learn by doing without the risk of catastrophic failure.

More generally, it is often easiest to explain what a domain is about to prospective members of a community by letting them try completing a task in the domain. Similarly, it is often easiest to help existing members learn new skills by allowing them to have a go at them. Since performing tasks in the real world is often expensive and does not permit adequate coaching, giving members simulated experiences is a sensible approach.

However, good simulations require good content. A simulation builder must identify which tasks are important to simulate, what case material may be used as grist for the simulation, what errors users are likely to make, and what coaching is appropriate to deliver when those errors occur. Importantly, this is the same type of content that an effective organizational material should provide.

The Nii's Role

The NII can, in theory, help those with similar interests work together, even though they may be separated by barriers of space and time. This potential, if realized, promises to revamp how we as individuals learn throughout our lifetimes and how we as a society grow our capabilities. However, to realize this potential, we must move beyond general goals to a specification of the types of applications we desire the NII to support. Only then can we create the particular research agendas needed to develop these applications.


NIIAC. 1995. Common Ground: Fundamental Principles for the National Information Infrastructure. First Report of the National Information Infrastructure Advisory Council. March.

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