The Advantage of Simulators

Even when it's practical to place students in real-life situations so that they can learn by doing, it's not always preferable. Simulations offer two key advantages over real life. The first is that real life tends to keep marching on by. Simulations allow students to play with time in ways the real world does not permit. Often, the real world moves so quickly that students do not have time to think things over as much as they would like. However, in a simulation, if a student wishes to sit and ponder his course of action, he can freeze the simulation, and perhaps even ask an expert some questions. If a student is unclear as to why things turned out the way they did, we can allow him to loop back in time and review the course of events. If events are moving too quickly, the student can slow them down. Students can even decide to back time up so that can try a different approach.

Simulations also provide teachers with better access to students. Simulations can be instrumented so that teachers can monitor students, waiting until students get into a jam that indicates that they are ready to hear something the teacher wants to convey. In computer-based simulations, the teachers themselves can be automated, thereby making one teacher's knowledge available as needed to many individual students. In the full implementation of this idea, the entire corporate memory of an organization, or all the experts in a various field, can come to the fore, ready to tell their stories, in response to a situation that has occurred in practice within a simulation.

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