For quite some time, the drawing board, books and classroom teaching sessions were the primary methods for imparting knowledge to students in schools and colleges. However, the advent of technology, especially machine learning and artificial intelligence, is paving the way for education to be more interactive, realistic and immersive. This is especially true in the case of higher education, where simple verbal explanations or lectures might not be enough to convey the intended message.
Particularly, in fields like science, technology, engineering, and healthcare, besides theoretical knowledge, familiarizing students with real-life scenarios through simulation can ensure better understanding, greater retention and evoke more interest. In fact, simulation-based learning can encourage students to relate better with their subject matter, care about their real-life actions and outcomes, develop sharp analytical skills and perform better in tests as well as on their jobs.
Now, it’s time to deep-dive into the benefits of using simulation in higher education, and how educational institutions can incorporate simulations in their courses.
What is simulation?
Simulation is a specially designed animated model that looks like a live environment in which learners can experience different real-life situations. This is an effort to improve the alignment of coursework and field experiences. A simulation program can be based on hypothetical situations to study how a system works. These kinds of programs allow the learners to modify the variables in the provided virtual scenario in order to study the effect of the variables on the processes. Basically, simulation allows the learners to master their skills or tasks without facing any risks.
Benefits of using simulation in higher education
Different print-based representations like formulas, words, graphs, and audio-visual representations like videos, enable the intellectual progress of humanity. While reading, writing, or watching educational videos, students get to enrich their theoretical knowledge base. On the other hand, simulations allow learners to enrich their practical knowledge with the realistic implementation of studies in a controlled environment. It helps students with both conceptual and empirical studies. There are multiple reasons that make the use of simulation beneficial in higher education, such as:
1. Computational Learning
Being a computational learning medium, simulations allow students to interact with real-world problems or learning scenarios, implement their theoretical knowledge, and observe the outcome without any real loss. Instead of explaining the real-life processes through words, simulations provide a virtual model of a system that students can explore.
2. Responsive Education System
Most students, when they venture into the professional world, they tend to find that their bookish knowledge is not enough to deal with real-life problems. They have to gather working experience to master the required skills. Unlike classroom learning, simulations allow learners to experience real-life systems or business scenarios where they can respond to realistic problems and implement their knowledge for a suitable outcome.
For science, students can practice their chemistry or physics experiments in the virtual lab in a perfectly safe and secure manner. In case of chemistry experiments, where any mistake can be risky in a regular lab, a virtual lab only makes the learners aware of the hazardous effect without causing any actual injury to them or any financial loss to the institution.
3. Connecting to the Real World
Unlike traditional education systems, simulations allow learners to refine their skills in strategic thinking, teamwork and leadership, system operations, problem-solving, decision making, and so on, in a safe environment. They can enjoy exploring practical situations without bearing any real loss. This is one of the biggest benefits of using simulation in higher education.
Simulation training programs allow learners to implement their skills and knowledge in a computer-generated situation, which mimics a real-life scenario with variant changing facilities. Therefore, they can enjoy the advantages of a practical working experience and identify solutions that they can utilize in their professional lives.
Simulation-based education is conducted by using simulation software, tools, and serious games to enrich the teaching and learning processes. Thanks to many advances in both computer hardware and software, simulations incorporate innovative methodologies that make them more interesting to the next-gen students. Being tech-savvy, Gen Z students enjoy learning through simulation-based education tools to enhance their learning experience.
As they are digital in nature, most simulation tools can be accessed through different devices, including computers, laptops, mobiles, and tablets. So, the learners will have access to their virtual learning material from anywhere and anytime; they just need a device and network connectivity to attend their classes.
One of the major benefits of using simulation in higher education is that it is cost-efficient. In case of simulation training, the institution has to invest one-time in setting up the infrastructure; there are no recurring expenses in terms of equipment and materials, unlike a regular lab.
How can educational institutions incorporate simulations in their lessons
Simulation-based learning allows educational institutions to provide a hands-on learning experience to students. For the implementation of effective simulation, three elements are necessary, such as preparation, active student participation, and post-simulation debrief.
Though instructional simulations can be very effective for learning, it needs pre-simulation lesson preparation. For successful implementation, there are some important criteria, such as:
- Simulations should be focused on the course goals
- Facilitators need to be knowledgeable about the supporting material for the simulation
- Facilitators need to be well-trained about the functionality of the program and must participate in the simulation before assigning the simulation to students
2. Active Student Participation:
A simulation education or training will be successful when students are actively engaged. To get the best outcome, students should be explained the outcome of their participation in the program, the key takeaway, and so on.
3. Post-Simulation Debrief:
Every session should be followed by a post-simulation discussion with students to explain the deeper learning of the session. The instructor should provide proper information to the students about what they learned from the simulation.
There are multiple ways to incorporate stimulation is an educational system, such as:
1. Use of Simulation Tools:
The use of simulation tools in the education system is not really new; more than 50 years back, the analog computer was invented for the simulation of mathematical functions after all. And there are multiple simulation tools available in the market today, which are suitable for physics experiments and instrument modeling.
Simulation tools for the healthcare department are designed to serve as an alternative to real patients to attain different clinical skills through ‘hands-on’ practice. It allows trainees to make procedural mistakes and learn from their experiences without the fear of causing any sort of harm to real patients.
2. Screen-based Simulations:
With proper programming, computer-supported interfaces and software are the most suitable way to implement simulation in different courses. These screen-based simulations allow the learners to interact with the system and hone their knowledge.
3. Implementation of Virtual Interfaces:
By combining certain kinds of hardware with relevant software, educational institutions can create their course-specific virtual reality with the appropriate working environment. Whether it is a virtual lab for science experiments or virtual aircraft for trainee pilots, it can have a significantly positive effect on learning and achievement.
By ensuring proper utilization of simulation in higher education, various courses or teaching modules can be improved and made more acceptable to the new generation of students. It is not only a powerful and important tool for the learners, but the institutions as well. As a cost-efficient and tech-driven learning system that mimics real-world scenarios and allows students to learn through mistakes and trials, simulation is here to stay.
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