Immersive Virtual Environments to Facilitate Authentic Education in Logistics and Supply Chain Management

Immersive Virtual Environments to Facilitate Authentic Education in Logistics and Supply Chain Management

Torsten Reiners (Curtin University, Australia) and Lincoln C. Wood (Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand & Curtin University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-3930-0.ch017
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This chapter will cover our current research concerning developing and trialling immersive environments as an innovative and authentic approach to teaching and learning in Logistics and Supply Chain Management, incorporating seamlessly integrated assessment and feedback. Developed educational and assessment tools will allow students to demonstrate that they have successfully applied theoretical knowledge in real contexts and developed appropriate skills before entering the workforce. Greater authenticity allows students to experience different roles and exposes them to multiple business cases over supply chains that, in reality, span the globe. The project addresses the inauthentic pedagogical approaches in current classroom and distance-learning environments, and will propose a methodology that utilises existing technologies. The simulation will combine emerging technologies to represent multiple problem dimensions into one space; enabling students to observe, engage, interact, and participate in self-guided or group-based learning scenarios; receiving instant, multi-perspective, media-rich feedback to support their learning; and enabling further iterative scenario-based training.
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Throughout the Australasian higher education sector student numbers rose rapidly during the 1990s while the study population gained greater diversity (Martin & Karmel, 2002). This increasingly diverse student body has been positive as the increasing diversity allows students to better “represent ideal social forums for promoting cultural understanding; fostering tolerance of diversity; discovering alternative ways of thinking; and developing inter-cultural skills” (Volet & Ang, 1998, p. 6). However, the increase in student numbers and diversity also creates challenges for instructors. Simultaneously, there is increasing pressure to make better use of resources while ensuring that students are well-prepared for work. This has led to many instructors having a focus on being able to “get as many students as possible to meet professionally/academically acceptable levels of performance at as high a level as we can”, given available resources (Buckridge & Guest, 2007, p. 144). A key method that has been used to solve this problem has been increasing engagement with students during the learning process, often through the incorporation of active learning techniques in classrooms. Here, ‘what happens’ is important, but there is also a critical need to consider ‘how it happens’; i.e., regarding the achievement of learning objectives (Terenzini, Cabrera, Colbeck, Bjorklund, & Parente, 2001).

Educators and course designers need to be aware that “a dual focus on both content and delivery is necessary” to ensure effective learning in supply chain classes (Wood & Reefke, 2010, p. 78). Academics and industry partners also report the need to find a common denominator in preparing students for real-world experience. One example is the usage of educational games and activities in logistics and supply chain management (L&SCM) classes. The use of these activities enable students to understand the concepts and the learning objectives more effectively when they have been given time to learn and understand the rules and how the game works. This can circumnavigate the need for specific instruction on these subjects and this form of active learning ensures “practices empower them in class and create new opportunities for interaction outside class” (Maruyama, Moreno, Gudeman, & Marin, 2000, p. 78). One of the best-known and accepted supply chain simulations is the Beer Game, used to demonstrate and analyse the bullwhip effect and the impact that this has on supply chains (Lee, Padmanabhan, & Wang, 1997; Sterman, 1989). Even though such simulations may be successful, they still frequently fail to reach high levels of authenticity as they are relatively simple computer-based simulations or operate using pens, paper, boards and tokens. While they are more interactive than learning from a textbook, the approach still lacks the connection with real-life scenarios due to the inherent abstraction of concepts embedded in the simulation.

This chapter will explore improved engagement through active learning, feedback opportunities, multiple iterations and repetition, authentic education, and immersive environments. We describe a conceptual framework for the development and implementation of a multi-iteration scenario-based training environment with emphasis on joint learning opportunities in an authentic learning environment; i.e., for authentic learning of required working skills. The potential value and need for such situations is outlined, followed by a development of several research propositions suggested by the discussions.

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