During the pandemic, I have seen increasing interest in educational simulations. It makes sense. As students moved online, instructors needed new ways to assess the skills they were learning. At the same time, teachers were scrambling to shift their lesson plans and instructional delivery to support remote learning on top of their normal work, so they needed tools that were “auto-assessable.”
Educational simulations did seem like they were created to meet the needs of the moment when the whole country was suddenly thrust into remote learning, but they are excellent tools for assessing complex arrays of inter-related skills in in-person courses, too–and can even be powerful and deep learning experiences on their own.
Here are a few things to keep in mind to make sure you—and your students—are getting the most out of educational simulations.
1. Build individual skills into larger tasks.
In the search for an automatically assessible tool to measure student learning, the traditional fallback has been multiple-choice tests. On the surface, many simulations may not look much different. They often include many of the same item types, such as selecting from a list of possible answers, selecting all that apply, matching items, drag-and-drop, categorization, and more. These kinds of structured answers are what allow simulations to be auto-assessable.
The magic is in structuring them properly, ensuring different items relate to one another in meaningful ways, and providing the appropriate context and information for students to work within.
In a multiple-choice assessment in a marketing class, for example, a student might get 10 questions about various bits of information they’ve learned throughout the course. They’re not going to apply any skills. They’re just going to regurgitate some information they’ve crammed for the exam.
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