The SIMPLE Project

Project Summary

Aims

The SIMPLE project in general terms aimed to prove that simulations can effectively enhance learning across a range of disciplines, professions and institutions. It also set out to investigate the drivers and blockers to large-scale implementation of innovative technologies such as simulation within HE and FE.

Overall approach

With a total grant of £200,000 from JISC and the UK Centre for Legal Education (UKCLE) and £4,500 from BILETA, our overall approach was to design, specify, build and then use simulation software with a range of participating HE departments and schools. We then evaluated this process as well as the use of the application by staff and students, and the resultant effect upon educational processes. Our educational design was constructivist in nature, and from this general approach we developed a specific approach to professional learning we call transactional learning, which has influenced our approach to learning design.

Findings

Simulation environments can be agents of substantial change and powerful learning environments across a wide range of HE undergraduate and postgraduate courses. They are potentially disruptive heuristics and staff need supportive environments in which to share good practice and experiment. Students need to be aware of the expectations made of them in these new environments. Collaboration between staff, institutions and students is essential to the growth of simulation activities.

Achievements

Achievements are as follows:
• We designed, specified, built and implemented open-source software within a very tight schedule. The software, now the code-base for an application that will be at the core of the SIMPLE Foundation, is supported by technical and user documentation – see http://simplecommunity.org.
• The core team developed a unique instance of a simulation learning design tool, namely the Narrative Event Diagram (NED).
• Staff in participating institutions were supported in developing and running their sim projects, and all projects were evaluated in detail.
• We ran more than twice the number of projects initially envisaged (14 in total), and we ran them over a variety of institutions and disciplines.
• We improved the range of teaching and learning experiences across 12 out of 14 projects.
• We contributed to the research and scholarly literature on simulation learning.
• We have created a core of users and developers keen to take forward simulation across a range of disciplines and professions.

Conclusions

The project proved that simulation is a powerful heuristic, capable of enhancing student learning and supporting transformative shifts in education. To implement it, staff need to be committed to changing some of their fundamental practices. They need design support, in order to create effective simulations, and this includes integration of outcomes and methodologies of teaching and learning. They also need practice in designing innovative forms of learning, in building resources for simulation and in re-thinking feedback and assessment practices. Management at departmental, faculty and probably institutional level need to give thought to different employment practices within cadres of staff in order to support such forms of learning, resource-building and assessment. In addition simulation practice can facilitate forms of collaborative activity between institutions and disciplines, and internationally.

Participating Departments & Schools

University of Strathclyde

University of Stirling

University of Glamorgan

University of West England

University of Warwick

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