Use of simulations to improve learning outcomes

Simulations fall under experiential learning where the learner is placed in a situation or model that imitates real-life process or system. They are applied in a variety of disciplines for practice and learning.

The important thing to understand about simulation is that it is a technique and not a technology which is used to replace or amplify real experiences with guided make-believe ones. Simulation by definition need not rely on computers, although computer simulations have gained enough popularity to become a discipline of its own. Since technology is a good asset to the field of simulation, most simulations rely greatly on it. There are many reasons why educational simulations are used. Some important ones are given below:

  • Simulations are comparatively less expensive than their real-life counterparts. For example, installing flight simulation software in a flight school is way cheaper than buying practice jet for each group of students.

  • Simulations are less risky. For example, practicing medical procedures on a patient simulator like SimMan poses no danger to human beings.

  • Simulations are guided scenarios and thus controllable. Even if it was possible to practice in a real-life scenario, the teacher and learner will have less control over it. Simulations can be paused and also controlled in many ways giving learners more time to register what they have learnt and practice in varied scenarios.

    The benefits of simulations are briefly described below:

    • Empirical knowledge: Learning cannot be complete by theoretical knowledge alone. Simulations help develop the practical knowledge of the learners as these techniques are the closest you can get to practical situations.

    • Immersive experience: Simulations are fully interactive like the real-life scenarios helping learners to get more involved in what they are learning.

    • Participation: Simulation provides hands-on practice and training for learners.

    • Motivation: Learner-involvement makes simulation more interesting and hence it acts as a motivator.

    • Personalization: Simulations are guided scenarios offering control. It has the ability to tailor to the needs of the learner.

Simulations are techniques that redefine the teacher’s traditional role. The teacher is usually seen as the active presenter of information and students as passive absorbers of the data. Simulations recognize the new role of students as active participants and teachers as active guides that support a heuristic learning environment.