Effects of High-Fidelity Virtual Training Simulators on Learners' Self-Efficacy

Effects of High-Fidelity Virtual Training Simulators on Learners' Self-Efficacy

Heather A. Holbrook (Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, USA) and Katherine S. Cennamo (Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/ijgcms.2014040104
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Perceptions of one's ability to perform a task, or self-efficacy, is one aspect of the multifaceted nature of an individual's identity. It is generally accepted that having a high perceived self-efficacy about a certain task can lead to positive performance outcomes. Bandura (1977) has suggested that efficacy influences and expectations can come from four sources: personal performance accomplishments; vicarious experiences; verbal persuasion; and emotional arousal. Trainers and training agencies use a variety of simulations and simulators to provide learners with valuable and necessary training experiences. This mixed methods study explored the influence of one high-fidelity virtual training simulator on the learners' self-efficacy. Participants in this study were recruits enrolled in a law enforcement academy. Data were collected through pre- and post-simulation-use surveys that combined general self-efficacy questions (Schwarzer & Jerusalem, 1995) and task-specific self-efficacy questions (Bandura, 1977, 1997, 2006; Bandura, Adams, Hardy, & Howells, 1980), observations of participants using the simulator, and post simulator interviews. The most prominent theme that emerged from the data was emotional arousal due to the realism of the virtual environment. Emotional arousal seemed to impact both their perceived self-efficacy and task performance; yet, despite the variety of emotional arousal they experienced, the participants perceived their training in the high-fidelity virtual training simulator as valuable.
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Theoretical Foundation

Many empirical studies regarding simulations have labeled their simulations as “high- fidelity” (e.g. Carron et al., 2011; Dobranich & Blanchat, 2008; Havighurst, L. E. Fields, & C. L. Fields, 2010; Mahvash & Hayward, 2004; Perumalla & Sundaragopalan, 2004). Fidelity is subjective. In its subjectivity, the concept of fidelity becomes increasingly complex (see Perumalla & Sundaragopalan, 2004). Gray (2002) suggested that something with a high fidelity is “intended as a substitute for the real thing” (p. 206). Bowman and McMahan (2007) described high-fidelity simulations as having the ability “to produce a realistic experience for the user that effectively places the user in the simulated environment” (p. 37). Carron, Trueb, and Yerson (2011) explored various research studies in order to describe high fidelity as “an interactive and extremely realistic environment” (p. 149) in which training across multiple domains can take place. Carron et al. elaborated by explaining that high-fidelity simulations can encompass individuals as well as teams of people under “virtual conditions as close to a real situation as possible” (p. 149).

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