A virtual coach gives customized help to the player. Unlike a Dictionary, Glossary, Wiki, or Instruction Booklet, coaches tend to have personality. They pop up at the right time, either proactively or in response to a question, and give some help.
Like all pedagogical elements, the virtual coach has to balance giving neither too little help nor too much. A good coaching system can dramatically reduce the amount of real coaching necessary to support a simulation deployment.
Some simulation Genres are easier to coach than others. Branching Stories use discreet nodes, each of which can be tagged with a very specific coach entries (i.e. for node 127b, the coach might say, "you have so far in this situation been very lenient, and now the group is trying to take advantage of you. It may be time to be a little tougher"). You can even have two or three levels of coaching for each node, aligned with the end-learner’s chosen difficulty level or past success.
The more open-ended a simulation is, the harder it is to employ such highly targeted virtual coaches. Some coaches in an Interactive Spreadsheet can be trigger based around milestones (i.e. if at [third quarter, second year], customer satisfaction is below 30%, play coach clip showing advice on how to improve customer sat). Some coaches in interactive spreadsheets can also be table based (if market share drops for more than three consecutive terms, play video highlighting problem and suggesting solutions).
Coaches also don’t have to be perfect, a nice crutch in more open-ended sims. Like life, one can have a virtual board of directors (and using a board of directors well is a critical Big Skill). Each can offer one, “pure” view, such as one advocate for advertising, another for consistency.