-5. What are simulations and games?

- Simulations and games are computer-based, dynamic models of complex real-life situations that let the student learn in an environment that reduces the penalties for mistakes. For example, the penalty for crashing a flight simulator on a simulated landing approach is a lot less than crashing a real airplane.

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It's very handy to use simulations and games to teach certain types

of topics:

- Say you're in a business class learning about the dynamics of the stock market. The best way to learn about how the market works is to use a "stock simulator" that lets you buy and sell stocks and see the results of your actions quickly. Business schools typically let students compete in "corporate games" where students run their own simulated company and compete with other simulated companies in a simulated economy.

- Say you're starting to learn to fly an airplane. Taking the first few lessons with a flight simulator is less expensive than renting a real plane—and easier to recover from when you crash on your first landing attempt.

- Say you're learning the basics of the UNIX operating system. Entering commands into a UNIX simulator can be an error-tolerant way to learn from the mistakes that everyone makes when they are starting out.

The key point with simulations and games is that a complex real-life experience is modeled on the computer in a somewhat simplified fashion so that the student can try it out without breaking anything serious in the real world.

Advantages

Challenges

- Students get to try out a simplified version of a real-world experience.

- Students can try many approaches, even those that are likely to fail, without breaking anything serious in the real world. (Crashing

- In some cases it's too costly to create a simulation that is robust enough to be worth the effort.

on landing in a flight simulator doesn't hurt anything real.)

At this point, I encourage you to turn to Chapter 2 and think about where simulations and games would be appropriate for each case study. Why?

-6. What is virtual interaction with real things?

- In some cases, students can access remotely some "things" that are important to the learning experience. For example, if you're learning to be a UNIX systems administrator, you can be in one city but access a UNIX computer in another city to do your practice exercises.

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In a classroom, you might be learning a topic that requires you to practice on real equipment. For example, if you're learning to be a Linux systems administrator, you'll do practice exercises on a computer that's running Windows. You won't use a simulation of Linux because you can't learn enough from a simplified simulation.

The technology exists today to let a student in Kansas City do practice Windows administration exercises over the Internet at a computer running Windows in Los Angeles. However, the virtual reality technology is just emerging to let a student in New York practice changing a tire on a real car located in Atlanta—for these types of things, the simulation approach is still the better one.

Advantages

Challenges

- Lets the student remain at a remote location but still do practice exercises on the real thing with all its complexity intact, not a simplified simulation.

- The technology is still

emerging for manipulating physical objects at a distance.

At this point, I encourage you to turn to Chapter 2 and think about where virtual interaction with real things would be appropriate for each case study. Why?

-7. What are assessments and quizzes?

- You can easily provide testing over the Internet to be delivered before the course (pretests), after the course (posttests), or after defined portions of the course.

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The traditional educational experience uses testing for a number of things:

- To let the student know what he already knows before taking a class

- To let the student know what he learned after taking the class

- To the student's managers know whether the student learned the material

Tests can be delivered over the Internet. The student can go to a Web page, fill in the test answers, and get the results of the test immediately. Results of the test can be shown to the student, stored for later reporting to management, or both. (A problem that has to be addressed for testing over the Internet is validation of identity—you want to be sure that you're really testing the right per-son—and not a ringer.)

Tests come in two basic varieties, called pretests and posttests, either of which can be done over the Internet:

Pretests (Before the Class)

- Can be used to let students "test out" of a class. If you

can show you know the material, you can get credit as if you had taken the class.

- Can be used to set the baseline of knowledge from which the student begins.

Posttests (After the Class, or After a Part of the Class)

- Can be used to show the student how much has been learned. As a self-check, the student can be told, for example, "If you didn't get 8 out of 10 answers right, you should go back through the material again."

- Can be used as a gate to further progress. If the student doesn't get 8 of 10 right for part one of the class, the student can't proceed to part two.

- Can be used to report to management which students passed the tests.

When the results of the test taken after the class are compared to the results of the test taken before the class, the student should get a sense for how much she learned.

It's important here to point out that testing delivered over the Internet has the same basic advantages and disadvantages as any kind of testing.

- Some students hate to be tested, regardless of whether it's over the Internet or in a classroom. Other students enjoy proving what they know with testing. So testing can be a turn-off or a turn-on, depending on the student.

- Some people just don't do well on tests.

- Tests give an indication of whether the material has been learned, but, in most cases, it is only an indication and not a precise measurement. Reporting of test results to management can be useful or problematic. There is sometimes a lot of fear in the students' minds when they are not clear about how management will be using the test results.

- Pretest: Students can "test

out" of courses.

- Usage of posttests by

management.

- Posttest: Students can check

themselves, and management can evaluate results.

- Student fear of how a test

is being used.

- Some people just don't test

well.

At this point, I encourage you to turn to Chapter 2 and think about where testing would be appropriate for each case study. Why?

 
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