Academic journal article Community College Enterprise

Technology Review: Simulation by Any Other Name

Academic journal article Community College Enterprise

Technology Review: Simulation by Any Other Name

Article excerpt

WHETHER it is called "gaming" "case studies," "scenario-based learning or any of perhaps a dozen other names, the use of simulation in teaching, training, and learning is continuing to expand.

Simulation has a long and storied history. Some experts point to military training as far back as the Roman Empire to find the prototypes for modern simulation, where various types of technology--from barrels with sticks protruding that were twirled to help train swordsmen, to virtual patients in hands-on medical simulators that used haptics to respond to trainees' interventions--are used to provide practice without real consequences.

In the twentieth century, simulators have been used extensively in the same tradition for aviation and marine pilots. Edwin Link patented the first flight simulator (dubbed "The Pilot Maker") in 1929, and his AN-T-18 Basic Instrument Trainer was standard equipment at every US and Allied Air Training school during WWII where it trained perhaps as many as 500,000 airmen (Ennis 1981).

The computer revolution has transformed simulations and expanded their use into areas where the cost of development formerly kept their use to "pencil and paper exercises." These areas, typically the social sciences and humanities, have begun to explore the use of simulated environments for a variety of purposes. The Virtual Harlem project http://www.evluic.edu/cavern harlem/), which recreates the experience of walking the streets of Harlem in the 1920s, is an excellent example, as is the Near Beer Game Simulation (http://forio. com/simulation/nearbeer-demo/ login.htm), where fledgling entrepreneurs watch ordering and process decisions in a brewery unfold over time.

While the latter does not offer the rich, multi-media environment of the former--which allows users to interact with famous Harlem Renaissance figures and experience the music, poetry, and painting of that era--the Near Beer Game Simulation offers business students the chance to test decisions and realize consequences, two key aspects of a simulation.

According to Michael Bean (2008), staff writer for Forio Corporation, designer and distributor of business simulations, simulations have three core characteristics. A simulation:

* imitates something real, but

* is not real itself, and

* can be altered by its users.

By this definition, not all games, pencil and paper activities, or role playing rise to the level of simulation. But it is clear that a variety of activities practiced in education can be viewed as simulations. Traditionally, the high cost of developing and implementing simulations has restricted their use. …

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