A growing number of colleges and universities are turning to educational simulations for mental health awareness, sexual misconduct training, and more.
By immersing participants in different scenarios, educational simulations help close gaps in teaching skills and assessing learning, provide critical training that isn’t always possible face-to-face, and help increase workforce readiness.
Educational simulations are particularly helpful when access to a given scenario isn’t easily taught–or able to be taught at all–in traditional education settings. For instance, a student can use an educational simulation to give emergency medical attention or to work with components typically too dangerous to be used in school labs.
Educational simulations also offer students, faculty, and caregivers the chance to gain valuable experience with mental health issues and situations involving trauma.
Here are four examples of how these simulations are being used on campuses today:
1. To make them aware of sexual assault and recognize warning signs. One in 8 college students has experienced nonconsensual sexual contact by physical force or inability to consent since enrolling at their school. Through Kognito’s Sexual Misconduct Prevention for Students simulation, students complete five modules that help students understand the importance of preventing sexual assault and recognize warning signs; identify strategies for intervening and how to respond effectively in situations where peers have been affected by sexual violence or misconduct; differentiate the roles of Title IX coordinator, confidential advocate, and counseling services, and know when and how to refer peers; and determine when consent has or has not been given, and practice how to ask for, give, and not give sexual consent. Students have role-play conversations with virtual humans in various scenarios so they can practice the skills they’ve learned. Virtual coaches also provide personalized feedback.
2. To help build manufacturing skills. Backed by a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation, Excelsior College has worked with Polk State College to develop simulations to teach and then assess key skills in power generation and advanced manufacturing to prepare technicians for the workplace. The NSF grant helps technicians with occupation-specific training and certification in the energy and manufacturing industries.
“Real-world experience gained through the use of 3D simulations is changing the dynamics of the learning process,” says Heather Davis, corporate training director, training strategies and workforce development at Exelon Nuclear, a division of Exelon Generation, whose employees benefit from a partnership with Excelsior College.
3. For safe laboratory and science experiments, as well as experiments without constraints. Danish company Labster develops simulated lab content for college and high school biology and chemistry courses. Physical laboratories come with risks, but virtual labs allow students to experiment without constraints. For example, a student can create a chemical reaction that blows up a beaker, or investigate a crime scene, or use sophisticated instruments like an electron microscope that are cost-prohibitive in the real world.
4. To help develop life skills and competencies. Money Experience, a Cambridge, MA-based startup, has created a financial literacy curriculum for high schools and colleges that combines in-class instruction with a virtual life simulator. Through the life simulator, students prioritize the things they care most about in life, like education, family, leisure, career, or health. Every decision the student makes in the simulator informs their future finances and their quality of life along the way. The simulator lets students make connections between financial decisions and their quality of life.
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