VIRTUAL SIMULATIONS AS A TEACHING METHOD: BENEFITS AND LIMITS
National School of Political Studies and Public Administration (ROMANIA)
About this paper:
Conference name: 3rd International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 9-11 March, 2009
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract:The work aims to explore a new method that resulted from the development of the teaching methods in the virtual space, the virtual simulations. In the expansion of the virtual space, there was an adaption of the teaching methods that were used in the real environment to the online communication. The learning groups have had new features, and the interaction student – teacher has changed its coordinates. In this situation, it is necessary the study of the methods developed through experience, of their benefits and limits, through comparison with the teaching methods in the real space.
The starting point
Virtual simulations are an adaption of the simulations in the real space, they are not yet largely used because they suppose the simultaneous presence and the interaction in the virtual space of a large number of students (and therefore a specific technology that allows interaction). At the beginning, the interaction in the virtual space was not syncronic (for instance forums and blogs, websites of institutions and organizations).
The material of study
The method was experienced and used fron the authors at classes at two online master programmes. The students participated at courses through an interractive website that allowed the simultaneous interaction of the students. The beginning model, in 2004, assumed the developing of a role play with minimum of preparation, based on the spontaneous intervention of the students. The experience outlined the need of preparation, thus in 2005 there were preferred the online simulations. The virtual simulations supposed the preparation of „roles”, „scenario” and „coordination” during a week. The simulations were registrated on the website as a material for the content analysis.
Methodological aspects for comparison
There will be developed two aspects for the comparison: first, the simulations in the real environment (organized in some regular master programs) in order to underline the features of the method in the virtual space. Another direction aims to compare the virtual group with the real group; the virtual groups have certain features as it concerns the cohesion and the performance. At last, a last aspect concerns the satisfaction of the spectators and the benefits of method in the teaching plan.
The evaluation of the virtual simulation as a method of teaching.
The reactions of the participants may be interpreted through the content analysis of the discussions in the final part of the online simulations, beginning with 2005. At the informal evaluation there were invited the participants and the spectators, all students in the master program. The evaluations were positive and enthusiastic, few critiques were made, as the lack of clarity of tasks or the coordination problems. The participants underlined the positive role of the simulations in enhancing the cohesion and the identity of the virtual group, evaluated as being too weak in the beginning. The spectators underlined the real climate and the capacity of illustrating the concepts from the theories. The organizers considered that an important aim of the method was the training of the communication competences in virtual environments, more and more present in the organizational practice. In conclusion, the advantages are important, and the method has some real benefits in the instruction of students.
Keywords: virtual, simulation, teaching method.