Problem-based learning is an instructional strategy that emphasises the accumulation and development of knowledge via an active and experiential based approach to solving problems. This pedagogical framework can be instantiated using gaming technology to provide learners with the ability to control their learning experience within a dynamic, responsive, and visually rich three-dimensional virtual environment. In this regard, a conceptual framework referred to as the Simulation, User, and Problem-based Learning (SUPL) approach has been developed in order to inform the design of 3D simulation environments based on gaming technology within a problem-based learning pedagogy. The SUPL approach identifies a series of design factors relative to the user, the problem-solving task, and the 3D simulation environment that guide the learning process and facilitate the transfer of knowledge. This paper will present a simulation environment design according to this conceptual framework for a problem-solving task within the context of an underground mine emergency evacuation. The problem-solving task will be designed to satisfy learning objectives that relate to the development of knowledge and skills for emergency evacuation of the Dominion Mining’s Challenger mining operation located in South Australia.
2. Problem-Based Learning Within A 3D Simulation Environment
Problem-based learning is an approach to learning that is situated in problem-solving experience and consistent with experiential-based learning (Hmelo-Silver, 2004). Two fundamental postulates drive problem-based learning; that learning through problem solving is more effective in the creation of bodies of knowledge usable in the future, and that problem-solving skills are more important than memory skills (Barrows & Tamblyn, 1980). Problem-based learning uses problems as the stimulus and focus for student activity and differs from other instructional methods in that it begins with problems rather than with the exposition of disciplinary knowledge (Boud & Feletti, 1997). Problem-solving forms the primary process through which learning takes place. This is influenced by both factors internal to the problem solver, in terms of their existing knowledge, skills, and experience, and external in terms of the variable characteristics and representation of the problem (Jonassen, 2000; Lee, 2004; Newell & Simon, 1972; Smith, 1988; Zhang, 1991).