Communicability in Educational Simulations

Communicability in Educational Simulations

Emma Nicol (University of Strathclyde, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-763-3.ch001
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Simulation and game-based learning are powerful modes of learning that are used in many fields including subjects as diverse as medicine and aviation. While institutes of further and higher education are making increasing use of VLEs to deliver teaching and learning, there are currently few examples of simulated environments for learning. The SIMPLE (Simulated Professional Learning Environment) and Cyberdam environments are two of the few dedicated simulation environments. This chapter will look at both of these environments and the results of user evaluations to determine what makes a simulation environment successful and what aspects of a simulation environment would have to be evaluated in order to establish its communicability.
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What We Mean By Simulation

In recent years the term simulation has become associated with a wide range of different types of instructional exercises and experiences. It is important to distinguish between symbolic simulations and experiental simulations (Jonassen, 2003). Symbolic simulations are those simulations that ‘depict the characteristics of a particular population, system or process through symbols; and the user performs experiments with variables that are a part of the program’s population’ (Encyclopedia of Educational Technology, 2009). Symbolic simulations are often employed in fields such as economics, management, and the sciences (Windschitl & Andre, 1998). The use of flight and other simulations in the teaching of engineering sciences for example has been commonplace for many decades, and Monte Carlo type simulations are often to be found on the curriculum of management degree courses. Experiential simulations by contrast are generally based on case studies or scenarios and include role-play and activity in an environment that reconstructs aspects of real life (Maharg, 2006a). The use of experiential simulations is most common in social science subjects and in professional learning. Increasingly, the distinctions between the two types of simulation are lessening in part because of the recent advances in the technology that can be used to support them (Barton & Maharg, 2006).

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