Simulation and Technology for Active Learning

Advancing technology creates new opportunities for learning—new points of view, new mediums for inquiry, and new modes of expression. Technology is advancing in a way that it is increasingly immersive. I think that this can be a bridge for experiential learning to adapt to advancing technology.

Experiential learning, I think, is a form of simulation. High-ropes courses, for example, are built to facilitate the learning of problem-solving skills, emotional coping skills, and team-building. The completion of the course simulates challenges one may face in other scenarios in life, and facilitates learning and growth by allowing one to develop skills for coping with those situations in a safer environment.

Simulation can be used in many other ways for learning. After talking with one of my colleagues, Ezgi, I was inspired to develop a lesson plan centered on simulation to facilitate learning on research ethics.

Normally this is a dry conversation, in my opinion: “don’t plagiarize, get IRB approval, etc.” Additionally, I think that going over many of the academic policies related to research ethics does not really teach students about research ethics. In other words, there seems to be little room for reflection why we value what we value, and what our research ethics ought to be.

For my simulation on research ethics I divided my class into three groups. Group 1: The Stardew Valley Farmers (this is actually from a video game I like 😁), Group 2: Researchers from Volcano Labs, Group 3: Student Researchers from Virginia Tech

Groups 2 and 3 were assigned to research Group 1. The students from Groups 2 and 3 had to report the methods they wanted to use to research Group 1, what information they wanted to gather, and how they planned to use the information. Group 1 was then given the opportunity to respond to both groups, as well as decide whether they consent to Groups 2 and/or 3 conducting research.

Importantly, this same lesson can be conducted online in Canvas with the feature that allows students to work in groups and submit collaborative essays. Instructors can track who contributed content, as well as the progression of the edits to the content.

The simulation is meant to facilitate students’ critical thinking on the relationship between the researchers and the researched—something that is often undermined in research and writing text books even.

By considering the interests of the Stardew Valley Farmers, whose farming techniques had sustained their communities’ economy for decades, as well as how it may feel to be in the position of the researched, the students could reflect more on the bigger picture behind the ethics of research, rather than just the rules that refer to those ethics.