What is SIMPLE?

SIMPLE is a SIMulated Professional Learning Environment. It is a simulation environment where students can perform professional tasks and provides utilities to allow teachers to write, orchestrate, and manage their students’ simulations. It has been developed by a team at Strathclyde University, based in the Law School, with funding of £204,500 from JISC, UKCLE and BILETA. It is based on the experience gained by the Learning Technologies Development Unit of running simulations in the Law School since 2000. It has already been piloted – with considerable success – not only at various law schools but also in discipline areas such as Architecture and Management Science.

SIMPLE makes it much easier to run quite complex simulations because the software will help you manage the simulation and keep track of student work. It also helps you manage variations in documents and scenarios, thus mitigating plagiarism and increasing authenticity and diversity. In so doing, the software enables the running of complex simulated transactions and processes, while minimising staff input, and ensuring that the student experience is fully authentic within the simulation.

For example…
Students on a BA Business course study a Management Science module. The module lecturer devised a core scenario – record company client wants to look at the feasibility of running a rock festival. The software can be used to organise students by group into separate “consultancies” or firms. It will manage the flow of correspondence between each group and the simulated client. It will enable the tutor to choose pre-prepared replies to send, or intervene in a role to respond. It can create different stages to pause the simulation to allow for reflection and mentoring. The simulation can be as simple or complex as you wish.

More info? See SIMPLE Final Programme Report.

Why do I need another VLE/MLE?

The SIMPLE: platform is not a Virtual Learning Environment or a Managed Learning Enivornment. It is a simulator, whose sole purpose is to facilitate professional simulations.

I’m an academic — this is only for professional education courses, isn’t it?

No, it’s for every stage of education, from school to continuing professional development. One of the aims of the SIMPLE project was to prove that SIMPLE could be used by undergraduate academic programmes as well as professional or vocational programmes. We proved this beyond doubt. Indeed in one undergraduate LLB programme where SIMPLE was introduced into a first-year Torts module, student assessment results in both coursework and examination increased on average by 10%.

I’m staff, I’m thinking of using this. How much of my time is needed?

There is a substantial amount of work in the planning of the simulation, but once the material is written and put into the software, the workload in running the simulation is greatly reduced. This means that staff are able to use time to give feedback and guide the student experience, rather than managing the simulation. And of course in subsequent years there is little or no extra effort involved in running the simulation again, apart from updating. As you might expect, the software makes it easy for you to update items like dates, etc.

Do I have to run my module as if it’s an entire simulation?

No, the software can clearly be used for all or part of a module – and to replace or to supplement standard classroom based teaching. It’s up to you to determine how you want to use it. In the SIMPLE project one simulation ran for a week. Another ran for 12 weeks. In other words SIMPLE can be a tiny part of a curriculum, or a major educational initiative. In the Glasgow Graduate School of Law, for instance, there are plans for every subject on the Diploma in Legal Practice to have a simulation component – in effect, the method will be used pervasively throughout the curriculum. You’ll find guidelines on different curriculum models in the user handbook.

I’m a student – how can SIMPLE help me learn?

It helps you work with other students in simulations. Collaborative learning and flexible working is made easier: students can work together on scenarios without needing to ensure that they are all present at the university. Depending on how your sim is organised, you can delegate work, learn from each other, get feedback on your work. Above all, you’ll be doing practical work, and integrating theory with practice in the simulations.

And of course it’s fun. In the Personal Injury simulation at the Glasgow Graduate School of Law, students were asked about their experiences representing a client who was injured at work and claiming compensation, or representing the employer’s insurer who was defending the claim. 14 out of 15 students interviewed said they had enjoyed the experience.

I’m a professional lawyer/architect/social worker, etc – what’s in it for me?

SIMPLE can be used to model sophisticated professional simulations. We are currently developing ideas for accreditation systems using simulation that enable monitoring and mentoring functions, and which can be used in-house by professional firms or by regulatory bodies.

I’d like to explore the software – how can I do that?

Click on ‘Demo’ above, register and explore the software. There are a number of different simulations there, and you can view them from a student or a staff viewpoint. If you want to play with the SIMPLE tools, download them (click on ‘Downloads’), and use them. If you want a demo + development workshop the University of Strathclyde Law School offers two levels of workshop for a modest fee:

  1. Introduction to SIMPLEA day long workshop (normally 1000-1630) which can help staff get started with the SIMPLE tools, plan their simulations, and load the initial ‘blueprint’ to the platform.
  2. Advanced use of SIMPLEA day long workshop (normally 1000-1630) which can help staff use the advanced features of SIMPLE, including document variation, high-level sim management (eg bulk release of documents) sophisticated pedagogies, extensible plug-in architecture, support for multiple server platforms.

Why should I get involved?

If you’re a teacher, SIMPLE offers you the ability to change the way you teach and your students learn. It can help you improve student learning, and make learning attractive, challenging and fun for your students. The feedback from the SIMPLE pilots was very positive, particularly in terms of high levels of positive student feedback, and in terms of considerable improvements in assessed student performance.

If you’re a student we want to involve you, too. We want to explore the potential for use of the software in faculties and schools, and to disseminate that experience. There’s nothing to stop you downloading the tools and platform yourself and playing with the environment.

How can I get involved?

You can:

  • register on the forums and join the discussions
  • play with the demo we have posted up on this site
  • download the tools and start developing your own simulations
  • form a user-group and share ideas on the forums
  • contribute to the wiki, where you can edit text, help refine user manuals, guides, how-to’s, contribute use-case studies and much else.
  • email us at info@simplecommunity.org if you have any questions or comments. We’d very much like to hear from you.

What’s next for SIMPLE users?

This website is the kernel of a community of practice based around e-simulation. We’ll be forming a SIMPLE Foundation that will aim to have SIMPLE used in disciplines and professions around the globe. See also the News feed, and the Forums above for more information. Meanwhile we’re seeking funding to further research and development.

What sort of research on use of SIMPLE is needed?

Further research areas that educational practitioners involved in SIMPLE might want to carry out could include:

  • variation of student learning in simulations
  • nature of ‘long conversations’ (Neil Mercer…) between students and between students and facilitators
  • effect of disciplinary content on simulation design
  • variation of local professional/educational practice internationally

Where can SIMPLE go next?

We’ll be developing the SIMPLE tools so that they’re easier to use – staff using the tools in the SIMPLE project gave us feedback on this topic. We’ll also be developing the SIMPLE platform. As for where SIMPLE goes next, the following are possible directions …

  • Use of SIMPLE on mobile devices, eg phones, tablets.
  • Use of voice, eg voicemail
  • Use of standardized clients and SIMPLE

All of this, of course, will lead to further research. For instance, if SIMPLE can now run on the iPhone, how will students use it? How will it change access to the environment and flexibility of learning within it?

© 2018 SIMPLE Community.