Academic journal article College Student Affairs Journal

Simulated State University: A Computer-Assisted Experiental Exercise for Teaching Student Affairs Internship Seminars

Academic journal article College Student Affairs Journal

Simulated State University: A Computer-Assisted Experiental Exercise for Teaching Student Affairs Internship Seminars

Article excerpt

Simulated State University is an experiential learning exercise designed to integrate technology and provide a safe forum for students in a second-- year internship seminar to act as entry-level professionals. Suggestions for implementing SSU in both counseling and student affairs preparation programs are discussed.

Effective educators in graduate training programs emphasize the development and use of creative teaching methods that enhance student learning (Schwitzer, Gonzalez, & Lamb, 1995). Advances in all areas of technology have significantly aided the teaching-learning process in graduate programs. Electronic mail (e-mail), in particular, has become one of the newest and potentially useful creative teaching supplements to facilitate the presentation and learning of material in the classroom. The purpose of this paper is to describe a unique instructional intervention that utilizes e-mail, in conjunction with role simulations, to assist student affairs internship Students. These students gain experience working as staff members in higher education and in dealing with crises and other situations that cannot be scheduled or reproduced within a normal classroom environment. The simulation can easily be tailored to create realistic scenarios for students in more counseling-oriented preparation programs as well.

Engaging Students in the Learning Process

The Student Learning Imperative states:

The key to enhancing learning and personal development is not simply to teach more and better, but also to create conditions that motivate and inspire students to devote time and energy to educationally-purposeful activities, both in and outside the classroom (Blimling, 1996, p. 118).

Experiential learning opportunities that closely simulate "real-world" situations facilitate the development of the critical skills necessary for professional success. When students are actively engaged in the learning process, they not only learn content but also improve communication, interpersonal, writing, speaking, and critical- thinking skills. Perhaps, most importantly, they learn to observe and reflect on their experiences and ultimately teach themselves (Tritt,1991). Simulated experiences result in higher degrees of learning by disrupting usual patterns and forcing the learner into situations that "create contrasts, confrontations, and challenges" (Heath, 1978, p. 9). Simulated State University (SSU) was designed for students to apply classroom-based theoretical knowledge in a safe forum that approximates a typical university environment. The incorporation of technology into this exercise was intended to integrate computer instruction, as well as create a realistic communication modality that mirrors the workplace, in order to maximize student involvement and learning.

Technology in the Classroom

In the last 15 years, computer technology, particularly the Internet and electronic mail, has become an integral resource on college and university campuses. In 1994, the US Congress Office of Technology Assessment reported that 9.3 million computers were installed in the nation's colleges and universities. According to this report, computers are credited with motivating and improving students' attitudes toward learning, and aiding instruction by freeing teachers from some routine instructional tasks, enabling them to better utilize their time (Software Publishers Association, 1996).

E-mail became popular with administration and faculty as a means of communication due to its speed and ease of use. Even though college administrators were using e-mail as early as the 1970s, it was not until the late1980s that e-mail moved into the classroom and became accessible for student use. The possibilities for faculty use of e-mail in the classroom are almost endless. E-mail can be used to provide the course syllabus, administer tests, field student questions, distribute class assignments, access list servers, or even facilitate a discussion among classmates (Poling, 1994). …

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