Academic journal article Interdisciplinary Journal of Information, Knowledge and Management

Constructive Simulation as a Collaborative Learning Tool in Education and Training of Crisis Staff

Academic journal article Interdisciplinary Journal of Information, Knowledge and Management

Constructive Simulation as a Collaborative Learning Tool in Education and Training of Crisis Staff

Article excerpt

Introduction

Modern armies have significantly changed their missions during last decades. Help in natural and man-made disasters such as floods, earthquakes, fires, nuclear and chemical accidents and pollutions gained the importance. These complex tasks involve many organizations and social groups in affected areas: governmental and non-governmental institutions, emergency services, rescue teams, voluntary groups, and people from local communities. They have different skills and knowledge and use different procedures in operations. For their education, collaborative learning in joint teams with subject matter experts in constructive simulations is recognized as beneficial. The use of different exercise methods together with a novel pedagogical approach is needed for providing the desired learning outcomes. These are the issues the research presented in this paper dealt with.

Training in a real field and in real weather conditions is costly and timely.

Resources are also available only to a limited extent. In addition, performing complex tasks requires a high level of skills and knowledge, which should be gained through practicing and repetition. However, real conditions do not allow for or make it almost impossible to repeat a simulation or its part. Therefore, educational goals are sometimes not fully met (Roman & Brown, 2008). Computer simulations improve spatial learning and perceptual skills of learners (Lindgren & Schwartz, 2009) and provide additional quality to learning process mainly based on textual and verbal interaction. Teachers have full control of a computer simulation. This means that they can start, stop, examine or restart a simulation at any time, which is not possible in a real situation (Holland, 1998). Simulation can be performed in a virtual environment, which allows for learners' high engagement. Interactivity, time constraints, and competitive nature motivate learners to use all their skills and knowledge in dealing with the concrete tasks and finding solutions for problems they are faced with.

There are different categorizations of simulation systems (Sulistio, Yeo, & Buyya, 2004). In military training and education, there is a commonly used classification based on the complexity, used methodology and level of objectives (Hodson, 2009):

* Live simulations--realistic environment, soldiers and equipment, but without live ammunition;

* Virtual simulations--development of individual and/or team skills in complex virtual environments such as aircraft, battle ship, submarine and similar combat system simulators or urban area simulators designed for learning specific case-driven culture and language skills;

* Constructive simulations--the most complex and designed for training and education of staff and commanders of joint forces (e.g., brigade, division).

Joint forces means that officers from different branches and services (such as engineers, artillery, infantry, armored, reconnaissance, medical, transport, communication, and many other types) are involved in a simulation. In other words, there are several expert teams in many different domains that have to act as a whole. They need to learn from each other and to adapt their specific working procedures according to new tasks and organization. Constructive simulations are recognized in military environments as a way in which a complex training and education can be performed in effective (enriched quality) and efficient (cost reducing) manner.

During a simulation, teams of approximately 20 to 30 people face the problems given through a scenario. By analyzing the overall situation (spatial and time context, available resources, and critical targets), they try to find (alternative) solutions, evaluate them, and make decisions. Finally, they implement their decisions, track effects, and make changes and corrections in order to improve the results. All of the activities mentioned above represent the parts of the process of collaborative learning, performed through joint efforts of team members. …

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