5 limitations of using sandboxes in training strategies and skill development

Sandbox training environments are popular, but how effective are they in helping learners assess, practice and validate skills?

Sandbox environments are used in training programs because they provide learners with a “safe” place to practice skills. They are great for unstructured practice. However, training sandboxes do come with limitations that, depending on your goals, may hinder people from fully developing their skills and can have higher operating costs compared to other options.

1. Training isn't always realistic.

While sandboxes are a great way for testing and experimenting with new technology, they are limited in the level of support and structure they can provide to learners. Since they are unstructured, it’s harder for people to practice applying what they’ve learned to an on-the-job scenario and get feedback. Practice environments that mirror a production environment and have them complete objectives are better suited for learners. For example, with a virtual lab environment such as Skillable’s, you can provide hands-on practice labs that enable learners to complete scenario-based skill challenges with the same product/technology they’ll use on the job which maximizes learning and accelerates job readiness.

2. No opportunities to "fail forward" with real-time guidance.

Sandboxes do allow learners to actively explore in a non-production environment, but there’s little to no opportunity for learners to receive structured feedback on their efforts. In other words, there’s no chance to “fail forward.” Most sandboxes don’t highlight areas for improvement or how to correct mistakes which can instill a sense of fear or hesitancy in learners. Without a safe environment in which to “fail forward,” learners may be more wary of taking risks or trying new, potentially time-saving approaches.

3. Unscored and unmeasured without a lot of manual work.

A major part of skill development is skill validation. The method verifies that learners can successfully apply what they’ve learned in training. More organizations are beginning to automate skill validation via scored labs because it enables them to do this at scale. Sandbox environments do not have this capability, leaving learners—and their managers, training provider and company—guessing about learners’ actual skills.

Customer spotlight

Why did Quest choose virtual labs over sandbox environments?

Sandboxes are great options for providing a practice environment, but there isn’t a means to validate that a person is job ready other than asking knowledge check questions and taking their word for it, which is exactly how disaster strikes in any circumstance, especially multi-million-dollar implementations.

Learn more about how Quest Software uses virtual labs with scoring and automated skill validation for job readiness and decreased operating costs.

Quest Software uses virtual labs instead of simulations because of virtual labs ability to be outcome based and handle multiple branching paths.

4. Little to no personalization to the learner.

Most sandbox environments don’t meet learners where they are in their learning journey. For example, seasoned professionals don’t need as much guidance or contextual information as a beginner. Sandbox environments don’t allow for this type of personalization, instead everyone starts at a generic level. Modern labs environments, on the other hand, can start learners on a level suited for their current skill level, thus providing a more personalized learning experience which maximizes learning time while providing organization-specific skill data.

5. Costly and difficult to maintain.

The time and resources to maintain sandbox environments and any supporting training materials can be extensive. Updating the environment every time software changes is time-consuming. Depending on your release schedules, by the time changes have been made, content may have changed again which prevents learners from developing the right skills in a timely manner. Listen to a webinar with Majesco’s Chief Learning Officer about why they moved from sandboxes to virtual training lab environments.

Digital sandbox environments are one of the eight hands-on learning tools that provide people opportunities to practice with technology. But there are more scalable and easier-to-manage ways to provide hands-on learning such as virtual training labs.
With Skillable, you can create hands-on experiences that equip employees, customers and partners to develop new skills by solving real-world scenarios so they’re job ready while also generating organization-specific skill data.
Skills can be continuously assessed and validated to track proper development—something that’s not possible with sandboxes.

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