Virtual Corporate Learning Success: Pivoting to Online Simulations for Employee Training


Virtual Corporate Learning Success: Pivoting to Online Simulations for Employee Training

How one global pharmaceutical company moved employee training online with the SABRE Marketing Simulation 

Covid-19 has turned the world on its collective head, as seemingly all areas of life and business continue to adjust to long term lockdowns and social distancing protocols. Over the course of the past five months, millions of workers worldwide have suddenly become remote. For most companies today, the ins-and-outs of everyday business take place in zoom calls, instead of conference rooms or around the break room. 

And it’s not just day-to-day business operations that have moved online. Ongoing strategic learning and development initiatives are also now forced to go virtual, creating a challenge for corporate training programs. But some companies have found ways to take advantage of the current climate and experiment with new training delivery methods, rather than wait for “normal” to return. Our recent client, a global pharmaceutical company, did just that: Using our SABRE Business Simulation and “Prof Behind the Glass” technology, we helped them successfully pivot an on-site executive training program to an online delivery format. To learn how we did this, read the case study and review of the key success factors below. 

Mini Case Study

“If it’s not a world record it should be…..forty participants…. twenty-two time zones…twenty-one countries….two professors ….one SABRE business simulation and one sheet of glass.”

The client, a global pharmaceutical company, in response to COVID-19, mandatory lockdowns and travel restrictions, required an engaging, online learning solution to replace a planned on-site executive training workshop.

HFX Tech Partner, Cam Tipping, together with Professor James Henderson from IMD business school conducted a SABRE Competitive Market Driven Strategies Program for a globally dispersed group of 40 executives.  Cam, based in BC, Canada, and James in Lausanne, Switzerland, used a combination of Zoom and a new technology called “Prof Behind the Glass” to deliver the program.  

The participants met in a large plenary meeting online and were taught the principles of market strategy development.  Then the group was broken into teams of five participants to compete as companies in the SABRE business simulation.  Since participants were scattered across the globe, they were organized by time zone.   With Cam on Pacific time and James on Central European time, all teams – regardless of time zone – always had an instructor they could connect with.

For the plenary sessions, Cam used a new patented technology called “Prof Behind the Glass”.   Standing behind a large sheet of glass lit by LED lights, the instructor appears to be writing in thin air. In reality, the neon markers used on the glass are picked up by the LED lights, glowing visibly against a dark background. Presenting from “Behind the Glass”, Cam says is “as natural as being in a real classroom, yet in many ways better because you don’t have to turn around to write on a whiteboard or flipchart.   You remain facing your class as you teach – it’s a wonderful set up”.

Although the group missed the social interaction that comes from an on-site training program, the rewards of this training format were several:  For the students, no long flights to Switzerland, and being able to connect with so many people while staying safe all while learning valuable strategic planning and management skills; for the company, savings on transport and accommodation, dramatically reduced overhead while delivering practically identical learning outcomes.


Key Success Factors

In order for this type of online training to succeed, there are a couple of factors that we consider essential. At HFX Training, we are dedicated to ensuring that these so-called ‘key success factors’ (KSFs) are characteristic of all of our solutions. 

KSF 1: Business Simulations

While it is possible to train learners of management disciplines using classic chalk and talk, lecture-based training, we know that gamified, simulation-based learning is a much more effective way, not only of teaching concepts and skills, but also of driving learner engagement. This is why HFX Training is dedicated to using business simulations to teach management concepts. 

KSF 2: Cloud-based Games

At the heart of successful online simulation-based training are sophisticated, cloud-based simulation games. Cloud-based games mean that learners can access the game from anywhere and via any device. By being able to access the game interface directly in this way, all members of a team, even when geographically dispersed, get to more deeply engage with the game-play. Older games, frequently hosted on a local drive, simply don’t offer this capability. 

KSF 3: Expert Instructional Support 

Simulation-games can be fun when played in isolation, but they are best used in the context of an instructed course, to help bring curriculum concepts to life. As such, it is essential that the games come with expert instructional support. With HFX Training, this support is offered – depending on the instructional context – via:

  • Digital courseware (such as teaching videos, exercises, case studies and worksheets)

Our digital courseware is created or co-created in partnership with the simulation game designers. Together, we pool decades of pedagogical experience and expertise across multiple management disciplines to create high-quality courseware that brings subjects to life. 

  • Remote ‘help desk’ 

Staffed by the HFX team, the help desk has deep experience with all of the games that we offer and can help both local instructors and students alike to navigate our games with skill and success.

  • Live instruction (as was the case with this particular client)

HFX can provide its own instructors in order to deliver the training live, either on-site or remotely. These instructors are either the game designers themselves (as was the case with SABRE – Cam is the game designer), or instructors who have gone through several levels of instructor training on the specific game or games that will be used to support the program goals. In addition, all of our instructors have years of experience leading classes and are confident and articulate presenters of what can be complex material. All in all, this instructional expertise is essential in driving a successful training program. 

KSF 4: Leverage the latest communications technology

The final key success factor is this – effectively leveraging communications technology to benefit the User Experience (UX) and keep participants engaged, even from afar. Some key tools that we use at HFX include:

  • Course Delivery Platform

Our course delivery platform acts as HFX’s Learning Management System (LMS). Here students can seamlessly login (purchase where necessary) to the relevant simulation curriculum, and interact with the courseware in a structured manner. 

  • Video conferencing software

Video conferencing is at the heart of all remote work, and training is no exception. Both students and instructors have access to a plethora of free and paid video conferencing services that facilitate teacher-student and student-student interactions. At HFX we use zoom to enable live instructional support where necessary.

  • Presentation technology

With the growing sophistication of presentation technology, there is no excuse for simple bullet point slides – students expect teaching materials that are stylish, easy on the eye, and professionally scripted and delivered. At HFX, we work hard to keep our instructional materials cutting edge. We are also excited to present “Prof Behind the Glass”, the brainchild of Cam Tipping. ‘Prof Behind the Glass’ is particularly suited to live online instruction – giving both students and instructors the sense that they are in the class together. If you are interested in learning more, please contact us today!

Prof Behind the Glass
Cam using patented ‘Prof Behind the Glass’ presentation technology


When it comes to corporate training, it’s safe to say that online learning is the new normal- at least for the immediate foreseeable future. Business simulations, when done right, can provide a perfect online learning solution that supports existing learning outcomes and keeps teams engaged, even from afar. If you would like to learn more about the SABRE Simulation Game or any of our corporate learning solutions, contact the HFX Training Team today. Keep reading below for more information on our SABRE Business Simulation.


Used by Wharton and IMD amongst others, SABRE is the world’s premier marketing strategy game. Based on highly sophisticated consumer dynamics modelling, teams compete for market share by intelligently working to satisfy evolving consumer demand for products. Perfect for any Marketing Strategy capstone.

  • Product Portfolio Management
  • New Product Launches
  • BCG Matrix
  • Experience Curves