Academic journal article Interdisciplinary Journal of Information, Knowledge and Management

Innovative Teaching Using Simulation and Virtual Environments

Academic journal article Interdisciplinary Journal of Information, Knowledge and Management

Innovative Teaching Using Simulation and Virtual Environments

Article excerpt

Introduction

Modern service systems are complex, multi-actor systems of a distributed nature. For teaching and studying how interactions, decisions, and collaboration of different parties are managed when designing and deploying complex systems, simulations and game-based learning approaches are gaining popularity (Corsi et al., 2006; Saunders, Rutkowski, van Genuchten, Vogel, & Molina Orrega, 2011). Several research studies have reported on the shortcomings of traditional lecture-oriented and case-study-based pedagogical or training approaches (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000; Coldwell, Craig, & Goold, 2011; Hake, 1998; Maerki, 2008). The absence of technical components from education and training is being considered a major contributing factor to the lack of preparedness or skills that are deemed extremely important for a vast majority of professionals who need to make complex decisions in highly-paced, dynamic work environments. The National Science Foundation (NSF) and other government agencies have recently reported on the abysmally low ranking of U.S. undergraduates in terms of technical skills (Mayo, 2009; National Science Board, 2012). Such deficiencies may be partially overcome by integrating a combination of simulation modeling and game-based learning approaches, utilizing the availability of ubiquitous computing tools and technologies, into modern-day teaching and training curricula. As Mayo (2009) and Zyda (2007) suggest, such integration tends to lead to an effective learning paradigm, enriched brain chemistry, and significant improvement in the learning outcomes and cognition.

The educational use of immersive games and simulation models of situations and problems similar to those found in the real world leads to trainer-less and unsupervised learning (Zyda, 2007). Further, it prepares an individual for making decisions in extreme and complex social and networked environments or situations such as defense applications and disaster management. In other words, modeling and simulation can serve as useful tools for teaching decision making skills both in single- and multi-actor environments. Also, several evolving disciplines such as service sciences are presently in their infancy stages but emerging at a tremendous pace. Such interdisciplinary areas that have their roots in disciplines such as operations management, computer science, and information systems can benefit tremendously from simulations and game-based approaches. At present, simulation modeling and game-based approaches are widely adopted only for studying and teaching concepts and applications that are otherwise difficult to explain. However, their adoption into mainstream college education and training still lags.

This paper reports on the findings related to the above stated issues that have been documented by a group of collaborating co-authors teaching at different universities. The group was focused on innovative approaches that have been inspired by simulations (Seppanen & Kumar, 2002), game-based approaches (Royle, 2008; Yang, Smith, & Graham, 2008), and virtual environments such as Second Life, Innov8, Active Worlds, and Proterra (Foster, 2008; Marcus & Ray, 2006). These tools and approaches can be especially successful in and convenient for teaching Operations Management, Management Information Systems, and service sciences, as well as systems engineering in general. Essentially, this paper explores and demonstrates the application of interactive tools, namely, simulation modeling, game-based approaches, and virtual environments, in teaching. Another goal is to highlight the need for and value of these tools in complex, networked, multi-actor decision-making processes.

Being a collaborative endeavor, this paper intends to launch a discussion on the use of virtual environments or tools to support the learning process. In doing so, each co-author contributed his/her experience with a particular environment and/or tool. …

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