Simulations in Education Beyond 2030
Over the coming years, the role of simulations and virtual labs in education will have expanded considerably. Based on current trends and advancements, we predict that simulations will be used to train students vying for jobs in industries and fields such as healthcare, emergency response, STEM, management, and defense.
Simulation-based learning, being inherently immersive, can entertain and engage learners. As the cost of developing these forms of learning decreases, more and more organizations will adopt simulations for special skills training.
But for simulations to generate the intended ROI, a few conditions must be factored in. Dive into these pointers below.
When are Simulations the best learning delivery mode?
1. Alignment with the Learning Objectives
We’ve seen many organizations make the mistake of developing simulations with the sole intent of engaging learners. While it is a great engagement tool, it must first meet the overall objective defined by the curriculum. In other words, your curriculum dictates if simulations are the best mode for delivering a piece of learning. Sims that don’t meet the learning needs of your classroom or employees will eventually not deliver the expected outcomes. To sum up, the “Why” in undertaking simulation development for learning must be based on the syllabus and the intended learning outcomes.
2. Scalability of Simulation Development
Developing simulations and virtual labs are cost-intensive. That said, organizations can be smart about it. Building simulations on reusable frameworks drives down the cost considerably. These frameworks can then be applied to other learning areas and customized to fit more learning programs. Using modular design principles breaks down the simulations and labs into smaller, self-contained components that can easily be reused in different contexts. Thus for STEM learning, say, a virtual lab framework can be used multiple times in different learning avenues. Make sure to identify the right set of courses to be simulated before setting out on your development journey.
3. Choosing the Best-fit Simulation
There are many types of simulations - and it helps to be aware of these beforehand so you can choose the one that adds the most value. For example, simulations that are scenario-based. These mimic real-life situations, allowing trainees to practice decision-making, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills. Adaptive simulations, on the other hand, can help you personalize learning by adjusting themselves to the learner’s patterns. Then there are collaborative and social simulations that help trainees learn in teams or social settings and even compete. Virtual labs may be your best option if the learning design warrants a fully immersive environment. This is ideal for healthcare or emergency response situations where the practice is critical and you need a safe, controlled environment to teach learners.
4. High-quality Simulation Experience
Very often, the difference between a successful and unsuccessful simulation learning program rests on its quality. Depending on the learning need, you may choose to go in for a mildly interactive simulation or high-fidelity simulation. These include realistic animations, complex interactions & 3D environments in immersive reality. In all scenarios, the user experience plays a key role. A simulation that takes too long to load, has crude overlays or seems unrealistic can deter learners. That is why it is essential to select a simulation developer or vendor that has the right experience and carries out thorough testing before launch.
5. Simulation Analysis and Data
Much of what the learner ultimately gains from a simulation comes from the feedback. That’s why the accuracy of this feedback is crucial for the success of the simulation. Ensure that the right learning theories and models are being used to guide your simulation. On the other end, it’s equally important to monitor the overall performance of the sim. Track the usage of simulations and virtual labs, gather feedback from students and educators, and use this data to improve the overall design and functionality of your simulations and labs.
6. State Adoption and Alignment with Standards
If you’re building a simulation for higher education, it’s best to understand the norms you will need to comply with. States demand adherence to their standards in order for a product to be adopted. Besides compliance, you need to make sure your simulations are equitable and provide an opportunity for all students to learn. That’s where accessibility for simulations comes into play. Interactive elements can be tricky to make accessible but it can be done. Ensure compliance with WCAG 2.1 guidelines by providing alt text for images, closed captions, and/or subtitles for videos. Conduct accessibility testing for interactive learning using automated and manual testing methods. This will ensure that the simulations and virtual labs you develop are accessible to users with disabilities.
To make simulations more inclusive, you might want to consider tying in the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) with accessibility initiatives. By considering the needs and preferences of users when creating virtual labs and simulation-based learning in education we can design more inclusive, user-friendly, efficient, and engaging content.
About the Author
Taranjeet Singh has over 20 years of work experience in digital learning, delivery, and leadership and currently serves as Director, Content Engineering Delivery at Magic EdTech. He has experience leading multi-functional teams to deliver bespoke digital solutions and products for EdTech and publishing customers in multiple geographies.