The Challenge of Investigating the Value of E-Simulations in Blended Learning Environments: A Case for Design-Based Research

The Challenge of Investigating the Value of E-Simulations in Blended Learning Environments: A Case for Design-Based Research

Stephen Segrave (Deakin University, Australia) and Mary Rice (Educational Consultant, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-189-4.ch021
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This chapter focuses on digital role-play simulations, which are increasingly being used in higher education via the Web to provide engaging, more authentic learning experiences for students. With careful attention to design, development, and implementation processes they can be particularly valuable for increasing the professional capabilities that graduates require in the workplace. Evaluation of an e-simulation can be difficult, particularly when it is just one component of a blended learning environment. Using Deakin University’s e-simulations program as a case study, this chapter outlines the phases and elements of the program, its evaluation approach, evaluation challenges experienced, and lessons learnt. The chapter argues that, in spite of the challenges of investigating e-simulations in blended learning environments, design-based research offers the most value to stakeholders. The chapter concludes by outlining future commitments in the DeakinSims program to maintain a focus on design-based research.
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Theoretical Considerations

Constructivist Principles

DeakinSims has been underpinned by constructivist principles, which assume that individual knowledge is subjective and constructed by learners as they experience the world. Constructivists believe there are multiple perspectives about phenomena in the world and learners are engaged in a process of “meaning making”, which comes about when there is “a dissonance between what is known and what is observed in the world” (Jonassen, Peck & Wilson, 1999, p. 5). Biggs (2003) refers to the concept of “constructive alignment”, which brings together a constructivist view of learning, and an “aligned design for teaching” (p. 27), wherein students do the work and the teacher acts as a broker between the student and the activities that constitute the learning environment. Garrison and Anderson (2003, p. 13) present a “transactional view” of learning wherein students first construct their personal meaning then refine and confirm their understanding within a community of collaborative learners. These authors argue students learn better when they accept responsibility for their learning and have an appropriate level of control over what and how they learn.

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