A simulation is an interactive application that simulates reality (an area, a situation, a problem, a machine, a software application, …). So the learner can practice skills in a risk-free environment. The learner can actively learn by doing.

There are basically 3 levels or types of simulations:

  • Parameter-based: the student can (often on one screen) set some parameters at will and immediately see the consequences.
  • Example-based: the student receives a sample situation (eg. a video) and has to make a choice. The consequences of his choice are made visible (eg. again with the help of a video). In the end he gets a summary (often textual) of  what he has learned.
  • Model-based: the student sees an abstract or a simplified representation of the actual environment. The visible effects of his actions approach reality as closely as possible.
  • Risk-free: no cost or severe consequences if the student makes a mistake, e.g. public safety, issues that may be life threatening, financial risks, …
  • Stress-free: the student has less stress because the risks are limited.
  • Suitable for teaching important, difficult, complex tasks and operations.
  • Suitable to determine the consequences of an action or decision experimentally.
  • Capability to perform abnormal or in reality less frequent (but equally important) situations.
  • Attention of students is maximal if well made and not too long.
  • Better knowledge acquisition.
  • Attractive, makes learning fun. Higher engagement, sustainable motivation. The student will experience the simulation as real (hands on) and individual (relates to his / her knowledge / experience).
  • Interesting for large numbers of students.
  • Cost effective as for ‘real’ training, a lot of money and / or effort is needed. Eg. expensive medical equipment, test subjects, …
  • Developing a simulation is incredibly time-consuming: it depends on the complexity, and the expertise which is available can vary the development time / practice time ratio from 750: 1 to 1300: 1.
  • Developing your own is difficult, having it designed is expensive.
  • Often difficult to adjust afterwards.