Authentic Online Branching Simulations: Promoting Discourse around Problems of Practice

Authentic Online Branching Simulations: Promoting Discourse around Problems of Practice

Eric Bernstein (University of Connecticut, USA), Sarah A. McMenamin (University of Southern California, USA) and Michael C. Johanek (University of Pennsylvania, USA)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0347-7.ch014
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This chapter describes the use of online branching simulations, with varying levels of production value and using a variety of different development tools, to create authentic experiences for students in online courses. Simulations are a method of increasing student engagement, providing authentic learning experiences that enhance critical thinking skills and foster meaningful collaborative interactions among students. By creating simulations that are online, they are scalable and especially effective for use in distance and online learning environments. The use of these simulations draws on research supporting the effectiveness of simulations in education and in other professional fields, leveraging Social Learning and Social Cognitive Theories and builds off of a Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) framework.
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Online simulations have been used successfully in higher education, since 2003, though they were used even earlier, in the 1990’s, for military and medical training (Beckem & Watkins, 2012). Those earlier sims were primarily focused on business, engineering, and students in the medical fields. Only in the last several years have applications of simulations in educator preparation been considered. According to Beckem and Watkins (2012), “the common element in each of these [applications] is the focus on the learner and concern for the learner’s experience to be meaningful, engaging, and transferable to the real world” (p. 62).

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