Effective Learning with Simulations

Can simulation enhance the learning experience and outcome for your students? In this post, we review the major advantages of simulation training for students and future employees in financial services. Apply these insights to make the most effective training methods available today.

The struggle is real!

If you went through the COVID pandemic as a lecturer, you have probably faced a few real struggles. Firstly, the engagement of your students with the course materials and activities has diminished significantly. Bringing them to lectures or seminars, and convincing them to spend enough time reading textbooks, watching videos, or doing assignments may seem to be the core of your efforts now. You are probably looking for ways to keep them excited, focused and awake during your lectures. Remote learning in an isolated environment may seem to be the norm now, and you may be critically questioning that. You are baffled by your students’ lack of motivation and keep asking yourself “what can I do to fix it”?

In addition, you are overwhelmed with the workload that the new way of teaching and learning has brought along. You have a pile of emails to read and respond to every day, you must manage a record high number of students, you are developing new AV materials, you have to use new channels to contact with your students, and many other activities that were added in the last couple of years to your already full plate. On the one hand, you are highly motivated to try innovative methods to enhance your teaching, and on the other hand, the extra work it may create for you discourages you from taking the necessary steps.

Students do not have a much easier time. They feel isolated, exhausted, and unheard. They are eager to obtain new knowledge and develop new skills, but they are struggling with keeping up with the pace of their courses. They are losing their excitement in hours long lectures and are constantly looking for extracurricular activities that make their learning experience deeper, more meaningful, and more fun!

There’s got to be a better way!

We know that there are solutions to alleviate these difficulties and improve the education experience for both educators and learners. The secret lies in creating a learning environment where students obtain knowledge and skills more independently from their teacher, through experiences, and together with their peers.

The students’ independence allows the teachers to play more actively the role of a coach rather than a knowledge transferer, and to focus on guiding students in navigating their own learning journey rather than dragging them along the path they have made. The experience makes learning immersive, memorable, engaging, and based on the real-life practices. It moves learning beyond the classroom, where learners make discoveries and experiment with knowledge instead of reading about others’ experiences. Working cooperatively together with their peers, students learn from and capitalize on one another’s resources and skills. This adds an interactive, social, and fun element to the learning experience.

Simulation to the rescue!

We suggest educational simulations as a powerful learning experience that deliver the three main elements of an enhanced learning and mitigate the struggles currently faced by educators and learners. Before illuminating their effectiveness, let us briefly explain what they entail.

Simulations are immersive learning experiences that replicate authenticate situations where participants engage in a series of actions to solve a problem, provide a service, or carry out a mission. The key elements that make simulations effective are its origins in the real-world practices and experiences, its controlled setting and environment which makes the experimentation safe, and its immersive nature which requires a highly focused engagement.

Nowadays, many simulations are conducted in a digital environment. They present a scenario where a problem needs to be solved or right reactions need to be made to achieve a pre-determined set of goals over a certain period using specific resources, tools, and methods. The problems or situations set forth in a simulation have open-ended solutions. Various decisions can be made in multiple rounds, and different final outcomes may be achieved. Therefore, usually no single correct path forward exists. During a simulation, participants engage in role-playing experiences with specific roles in the scenario. Sometimes, they require to collaborate with other learners who play different roles to work through the problem from different perspectives.

A simulation may be facilitated by an instructor who will guide the learners through the steps and track their progresses. There are, however, simulations that are run automatically and do not require significant involvement of the instructor. The experience of participating in a simulation is augmented by a structured reflection and evaluation of the decisions made. This happens through various activities such as discussions, journaling and reporting, and specific assignments. Such reflections allow the participants to connect the decisions made to the outcomes reached, which reinforces the learning experience.

Simulations are special!

Now back to the question of why simulations can provide effective solutions to the current challenges in higher education. The experience we gained from collaborating with multiple universities, business schools and investment banks suggests 6 main benefits of simulation in enhancing the learning experience. Here, we briefly share with you those learnings.

1. Bridging the gap between the theoretical knowledge and practical skills

Contrary to lectures where the focus is on introducing and explaining relevant theories developed by scientists, the focal point of a simulation experience is applying the theoretical knowledge to real-world scenarios and developing practical skills. The participants are challenged by intellectually demanding tasks that go well beyond the understanding and memorizing learning level and reach the synthesizing and creating level. Applicability of the solutions to the imitated real-world issue in hand is key in succeeding, which encourages the learners to put themselves in the shoes of real decision makers and think more broadly.

2. Enabling “learning by doing”

The learning experience from engaging in a simulation is fundamentally different from traditional teacher-oriented learning. The learning goals are achieved not by listening and understanding, but by a hands-on engagement in activities that require critical analyses, taking initiatives and making decisions, being accountable for and reflecting on the results, and learning from mistakes and successes. Participants involve at an intense intellectual, creative, social, or physical level. Such deep level of involvement makes the learning long lasting and replicable in the future career.

3. Understanding learning progress with real-time feedback

With training simulations, students can receive prompt feedback about their performance and success. In traditional teaching methods, students receive feedback about their learning mainly at the end of the learning period through an exam or an assignment. In simulation training, however, feedback is provided during the learning process, which allows course correction before it is too late. In addition, the collaborative nature of simulations reveals multi-layered information about the knowledge and skills of the participants to their peers. This provides an ideal opportunity to receive constructive and relevant feedback from peers.

4. Peer Learning through Cooperation and Competition

The team collaboration required in simulations allows the participants to learn with and from each other through observation, collaboration, and competition. They work closely with peers and develop essential skills for teamwork. In addition, competition is an important aspect of the business environment, where institutions and corporations constantly learn from the strengths and weaknesses of their competitors. In simulation, students engage in a competition with their peers too. This not only makes the experience more exciting for them, but also allows them to learn from the mistakes and successes of their rivals.

5. Higher Job Performance

Entry-level employees that recently graduate from a university program often lack the practical experience required to put in an excellent performance. They do not yet have useful insights about what they are expected to do and how they can be successful in their jobs and may feel overwhelmed with the load of information they receive at the start. By engaging in simulations that replicate the real-life experiencing in problem solving and decision making, trainees build the required confidence and skills necessary to perform competently on their job and produce high-quality outcomes from the beginning.

6. Successful Job Applications

Simulations improve the level of confidence for attending job interviews and provide the ability to stand out. Students can discuss the learning from their simulated real-life experience in conducting key tasks in a job they desire to get, and how this learning can lead to their success in it. We will dive into the positive effect of simulated learning on students’ employability in another post.

All in all, training through simulations plays a significant role in the present and future of education. Preparing the students for the world where any knowledge is as good as its application and allowing them to learn by experiencing real challenges and addressing them boost their learning and performance and result in higher organizational productivity.

In case you are wondering if simulation training would be the right fit for your organization, we are happy to assist and guide you through the change. Reach out to us to get started.

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