What is simulation learning? | best universities (2023)

  • Simulation learning allows students to practice critical job skills in a controlled environment.
  • By participating in simulation learning, you will improve your technical and communication skills.
  • Simulation learning can take the form of online games and virtual or augmented reality.

One of the reasons people go to college isprepare for future jobs and careers. But it's not always feasible to learn or practice what you've learned in a real-world environment while in school.

WhilestagesThey can offer valuable on-the-job experience, are often time consuming and can be highly competitive. And what's more,many have become 100% virtualthis year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, limiting students' options for first-hand experience in their fields.

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Research shows that simulations can be as effective as other teaching methods and lead to better retention of information.

What is simulation learning? | best universities (1)

Simulation learning may be the best solution to this lack of face-to-face professional development for college students. Research shows that simulations, especially those using virtual reality, can beas effective as other methods of instructionand lead to better retention of information.

As more schools and programs develop online and blended learning options, simulations can be utilized as a way for students to practice what they are learning and be assessed remotely.

A definition of simulation learning

Simulation learning is a strategy that educators can use not only to teach course concepts, but also to provide students with opportunities to apply new skills, knowledge, and ideas in a practice environment that mirrors the real world.

Simulations allow you to develop key skills through trial and error in a safe, controlled environment before practicing in real life. This type of learning has been used for decades in industries such as aviation, healthcare and the military, and is now being applied in more fields.

Simulations usually incorporate some or all of the following features:

  • Environment:Simulations somewhat replicate an authentic situation or location, such as a cockpit, hospital room, or chemistry lab. These mimic environments can be built in physical or digital spaces.
  • Scenarios:Simulations present a problem to solve or a situation to react to in a specific context, which may include a certain period of time and/or a set of tools or resources.
  • Open:Simulations often require you to make a series of decisions. Each decision affects the progress you make in that scenario and determines what decisions you make next. There may be several potential solutions, with no correct path forward.
  • Role playing game:Simulations generally place you in a specific role within the scenario. Some require you to collaborate with students in other roles who are working on the same problem but from different perspectives.
  • Oriented Participation:Simulations are usually facilitated by an instructor who sets up the scenario and works with you or your team through the process. Most simulations can be paused as needed to review student progress.
  • Reflection:Simulations are based on structured reflection, through discussions, journals and other tasks, to evaluate the decisions made, connect them to the results they led to and reinforce what you learned from the experience.
(Video) Simulation Based Learning

What are the benefits of simulation learning?

There are many reasons to love simulation learning. In addition to reducing training and education costs, simulations make learning safer for students. Wouldn't you like a novice pilot ornurseto start your training on an airplane or with a live patient, for example. Likewise, it would not be a good idea to havegeology studentstravel to an active volcano to learn about lava flow.

(Video) Simulation-based Learning | Curtin University

Simulations can also be engaging. They introduce an interactive component to lessons designed not only to develop students' skills, but also to teach them how to apply those skills in a variety of settings.

Medical training research.finds simulations especially beneficial for developing three types of skills:

  • Technical abilities

    Each field of study includeshard skillsrelating to the experience required to perform the job. Examples include writing a computer program, being able to use specialized equipment, andunderstand a foreign language.

  • Problem Solving Skills

    Most industries involve problem solving. Successful solutions requireinterpersonal skillssuch as time management, critical thinking, prioritization, and decision making.

  • Communication skills

    Simulations often include activities that allow you to practice communicating and collaborating with teammates, replicating what will be needed in a real work environment (eg, listening, discussing, negotiating, reporting, and presenting).

    (Video) What is Simulation? - Course Overview

Mastering these three skills takes a lot of practice. Another benefit of simulations is that they allow for iteration: you can work through the scenarios multiple times to explore how different decisions affect the outcome.

The 4 main types of simulation learning

You must have experienced simulation learning activities in your life. For example, have you ever taken a first aid or CPR course that used a manikin? Or maybe you've played educational games likethe oregon trailin primary school. These are just two examples of simulation learning.

Some simulations are more realistic than others, often described in terms of low fidelity (less realistic) or high fidelity (more realistic). Many technologies can be used to build and provide access to simulated scenarios in your college classes. Here are four of the most common types of simulations you'll see.

Interactive web-based simulations

Applications have been developed across disciplines to help students understand complex concepts, enable them to manipulate on-screen components such as images and animations, and participate in online activities.

Online science labsthey often incorporate these items so students can safely conduct experiments at home. Other web-based tools such asPBS Online Forces Lab, illustrate math and physics concepts.

The faculty of the DePaul University College of Education has developed alearning disability simulatorthat allows studentspreparing to be teachersexperience what it's like to have a learning disability such as dyslexia. This simulation asks students to write an essay without using certain letters of the alphabet.

While typing, users are also interrupted sporadically to simulate some of the frustration that students with learning difficulties can feel in a classroom.

Game based simulations

Some simulations are built with game features, such as objectives, rules, and players, to encourage student participation and enhance learning. Sometimes called "serious games," these scenarios lead to educational outcomes, meaning that as you try to beat the game, you'll practice your skills and apply your knowledge to solve problems related to course topics.

(Video) Introduction to Centre for Simulation-Based Learning (CSBL) at McMaster University

Sloan School of Management do MITdeveloped a collection of online games that helpbusiness studentsGet a better understanding of how to found a startup, create a product pricing structure, and negotiate effectively.

Nonetheless,The redistricting gamecreated by the USC Annenberg Center illustrates how decisions about mapping political districts can affect system abuse, voting outcomes, and civic engagement.

On-site simulations in special facilities

Not all simulations take place through a computer screen. Many students improve their skills in an in-person simulation that takes place in a specific location designed for simulation activities. These facilities utilize different spaces and equipment for specialized computer programs and simulation devices such as those used forpilot training.

Hughey Center for Financial Services na Bentley Universityincludes a physical trading floor that provides an immersive simulation of a Wall Street-style stock trading floor. Students interact with information driven by a software-executed scenario. An online version of the trading room was also developed to support remote learning after COVID-19.

students inhealth related careersthey also frequently encounter simulation learning as they prepare to work with patients in medical facilities and offices.Penn State Nursing Simulation Laboratoryis an example of an immersive personal environment that includes everything from medical records to patient symptoms.

Augmented, virtual and mixed reality simulations

Virtual reality technologies allow students to become more immersed in a learning scenario. These simulations may require special equipment, such as avirtual reality headset. Other interactions take place online through digital platforms and smartphone apps.

Penn State College of Education recently created a mixed reality simulation for students inteaching,social work, youcounseling camps. The schoolsSIMPACT Simulationprovides practice working with special education students in a simulated elementary school classroom. All student avatars are played by actors in real time.

In mind, which is used in health education, offers a more detailed view of the functioning of the human brain and the interaction of neurons in mental disorders. This simulation combines virtual reality, games and educational lessons to explore a patient's brain at the micro level.

Prepare to participate in simulations

Before starting a simulation activity or task, make sure you understand the instructions and expectations. Will you need special equipment? Is there a time limit? As with any assignment, don't hesitate to ask your teacher for more information.

Take advantage of the opportunity to learn in different ways in your courses, including through simulations. They won't necessarily be easy tasks, but that's fine. Making mistakes, watching and listening, solving problems and reflecting on your experience are all part of the process.

(Video) Simulation center helps close the gap between classroom learning and patient care

If you don't feel challenged, it probably wasn't a very good simulation. These experiences and the perspective you gain will make you better prepared to perform the same skills in similar situations after you graduate and enter the workforce.

Featured image: Hispanolista / E+ / Getty Images


What is simulation learning? ›

Simulation learning is the process where trainees practise a procedure or routine in a simulated learning environment (SLE) before treating actual patients. These environments use different scenarios and equipment, and vary in realism.

Why is simulation important in learning? ›

Why use simulations? Simulations promote the use of critical and evaluative thinking. Because they are ambiguous or open-ended, they encourage students to contemplate the implications of a scenario. The situation feels real, and thus leads students to engage with the activity more enthusiastically and interactively.

What is an example of simulation in learning? ›

When students use a model of behavior to gain a better understanding of that behavior, they are doing a simulation. For example: When students are assigned roles as buyers and sellers of some good and asked to strike deals to exchange the good, they are learning about market behavior by simulating a market.

What is a simulation in college? ›

Simulation learning allows students to practice critical work skills in a controlled environment. By participating in simulation learning, you'll hone your communication and technical abilities. Simulation learning can take the form of online games and virtual or augmented reality.

What is simulation in simple words? ›

A simulation is a model that mimics the operation of an existing or proposed system, providing evidence for decision-making by being able to test different scenarios or process changes. This can be coupled with virtual reality technologies for a more immersive experience.

Does simulation help students academically? ›

A total of 18 studies published in Turkey between 2003 and 2012 have been determined to meet the criteria of the research. According to the results of the analysis, it was concluded that the simulation technique was generally effective and greatly increased the academic achievement of the students.

What is an example of a simulation? ›

Some examples of computer simulation modeling familiar to most of us include: weather forecasting, flight simulators used for training pilots, and car crash modeling.

How do simulation benefit us humans? ›

Simulations offer a chance to experience real life scenarios that depict true events. It is a cheaper, faster, and efficient way for practice and learning that helps people understand how they should act in real life situations.

What type of study is a simulation? ›

Simulation studies are computer experiments that involve creating data by pseudo-random sampling. A key strength of simulation studies is the ability to understand the behavior of statistical methods because some "truth" (usually some parameter/s of interest) is known from the process of generating the data.

What are the 5 steps of simulation explain? ›

Steps for Doing Simulation
  • Introduction.
  • General Procedure.
  • Step 1: Planning the Study.
  • Step 2: Defining the System.
  • Step 3: Building the Model.
  • Step 4: Conducting Experiments.
  • Step 5: Analyzing the Output.
  • Step 6: Reporting the Results.

How effective are simulations? ›

simulations and games are more effective at transferring learning to students than case studies. younger managers who have used computer games since early childhood enjoy simulations and games more than case studies; they also learned more from simulations and games.

What makes a simulation effective? ›

To sum up: in affective simulation an emotional input is centrally signaled to the action system to trigger an emotional response involving the parietal execution of a similar motor program. Although such emotional responses have a function, they have no purpose, they are not actions.

What are advantages and disadvantages of simulation? ›

A model or simulation is only as good as the rules used to create it. It is very difficult to create an entirely realistic model or simulation because the rules are based on research and past events. The main disadvantage of simulations is that they aren't the real thing.

What are the characteristics of simulation based learning? ›

The characteristics of student engagement in the simulation-based learning environment were summarised into three types: reflective engagement, performance engagement and interactive engagement.

What are the 4 steps of a simulation? ›

The Four Phases of Simulation
  • Pre-modeling.
  • Model Building.
  • Model Runs.
  • Experimentation.
  • Final Thoughts.
Jan 4, 2022

What is the objective of simulation? ›

1) Acquaint the participants with the decision-making process in situations of uncertainty and in the presence of confused and inaccurate information. 2) Encourage participants to make a critical analysis of information received concerning the disaster.

What is the main difference between simulation and education? ›

Simulation training keeps tactile and kinesthetic learners engaged while lectures tend to favour the audio-visual learners. Feedback is an important mechanism for learning, and it's one of the key differences between simulation training and classroom lectures.

What is simulation method of teaching? ›

Educational simulation is a teaching method that tests participants' knowledge and skill levels by placing them in scenarios where they must actively solve problems. The instructor defines the parameters to create a safe environment for hands-on learning experiences.

What are the types of simulated teaching in education? ›

These include: live simulation, virtual simulations, and constructive simulations.

What are the benefits of using simulation and games in the classroom? ›

6 Benefits Of Simulations And Games
  • Active engagement. Unlike traditional lectures or hands-on training, games push the learner to get actively involved in the learning process.
  • Adaptability. Lectures do not offer “try, fail, learn” experiences. ...
  • Self-paced. ...
  • Feedback. ...
  • Standardization. ...
  • Cost-effective.
Aug 17, 2015

How simulated teaching helps in real classroom? ›

Simulated teaching is a design to replicate real situation as closely as desired, where students assume the roles of teacher. As the simulation proceeds, students respond to changes within the situation by studying the consequences of their decisions and subsequent actions.

What is the effectiveness of simulation training? ›

It can enable learners to practice in a safe, no-risk training environment; enhance skill performance; build teamwork, leadership, and effective communication; refine critical thinking and resource management; promote clinical reasoning; and reinforce clinical judgment and decision-making skills (NURSING, n.d.).

What are the three advantages of simulation? ›

  • Simulation allows you to explore 'what if' questions and scenarios without having to experiment on the system itself.
  • It helps you to identify bottlenecks in material, information and product flows.
  • It helps you to gain insight into which variables are most important to system performance.

What is the objective of simulation training? ›

Simulation trainings are used as a tool to teach trainees about the skills needed in the real world. It provides a lifelike point-of-care learning experience, and has been widely applied in fields such as aviation, the military, and healthcare.

What is the main element of simulated teaching? ›

Three elements are necessary for effective simulations; preparation, active student participation, and post-simulation debrief. Preparation: Although instructional simulations can be very effective in encouraging student's engagement, many simulations require intensive pre-simulation lesson preparation.

What are the benefits of a simulated response? ›

A Simulation Exercise (SimEx) simulates an emergency situation to which a described or simulated response is made. The purpose of a simulation exercise is to validate and enhance preparedness and response plans, procedures and systems for all hazards and capabilities.

How does simulation improve learning? ›

Simulation-based education is the pedagogical approach of providing students with the opportunity to practice learned skills in real-life situations. Educational simulation is a teaching method that tests participants' knowledge and skill levels by placing them in scenarios where they must actively solve problems.

How do you succeed in simulation? ›

Ten Secrets of Successful Simulations
  1. Don't Confuse Replication with Simulation. ...
  2. Choose the Right Subject to Simulate. ...
  3. Develop a Design Plan. ...
  4. Design the Simulation so Participants Take Responsibility for Their Actions. ...
  5. Use Symbols and Metaphors to Deal with Emotionally Charged Ideas. ...
  6. Don't Play Games with Trainees.
Sep 19, 2022


1. Why Is Simulation Important? |Simulations | Multibody Dynamics | Mechatronic Design | LUT University
2. The University of Florida Center for Experiential Learning and Simulation
(UF Health)
3. Duquesne University Learning & Simulation Center Virtual Tour
(Duquesne University School of Nursing)
4. SOLIDWORKS Flow Simulation: Solar and Thermal Radiation - Webinar
5. Learning through simulation at the School of Nursing
(University of the Free State)
6. What is simulation? Why is it used for decision-making?
(SIMUL8 Corporation)


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