EDUCATIONAL SIMULATIONS BASED ON A REVOLUTIONARY CONCEPT
Designers of educational simulations are fascinated by the strong
motivation evoked in their users by computer games. The simulation
transports the pupil or student to a different reality just as in an
adventure game. The essential difference lies in the ultimate educational
purpose: how can the
motivation thus created be fully exploited for educational purposes? Led by
the University of Twente have developed a series of simulations
that result in optimal learning effects with pupils or students. These
simulations cover a wide range of subjects, such as manufacturing processes,
processes in the human body or ecological systems. All simulations are
characterised by a simple operation and a strong visualization that appeals
immediately to one's imagination.
Eleven programmes have appeared on a CD-ROM for Macintosh computers, all
ready made and intended as a demonstration parcel for teachers, courseware
developers or researchers. In order to hold the attention and to keep
motivation at its peak the computer and software need to be very advanced
from a technical point of view. According to designer Rik Min, only
Macintosh's most advanced equipment meets the requirements for the
presentation of high-quality educational simulations.
Biological and industrial simulations
This CD-ROM presents experimental products that have been extensively tested
in actual practice. Software and information necessary to make educational
simulations of a similar quality are also present on the CD-ROM. Students
can work with the simulations individually or in pairs. The programs can
also be used as an extra learning tool in class education. A few examples of
- the Cardiovascular system: simulation in order to study the regulation
mechanisms of blood pressure (for second or third year students of medicine)
- the Water and Salt balance: simulation program for the effects of
dehydration of the human body (e.g. loss of weight, lower urine production),
in which the student can decide to apply a drip (for second or third year
students of medicine)
- the Brine purification process at AKZO Chemicals in Hengelo: a simulation
intended for the training of operators and lab staff
- a Sun boiler: simulation intended for lessons about alternative sources of
energy (fourteen to sixteen-year-olds in Higher Secondary Education or
- 'Programmable Logical Controller': simulation in order to learn how to
program a PLC, for instance for the application in lifting mechanisms or a
die cutter (students in vocational training)
- 'Lemmings': simulation of two types of animals, arctic foxes and lemmings,
competing for food in a tundra (subject biology in Higher Secondary
education 14-16 year olds)
- 'Growth and death of cells': simulation of kinds of typical cell behaviour
in a lab situation (16-17 year olds, Higher Secondary Education)
- Fish-breeding pond: simulation of five characteristic processes in a
fish-breeding pond with carp, plankton, nitrate carp, amongst others taking
into account the effect of radiation of the sun and phosphates (14-16 year
olds Higher Secondary Education biology).
- the Dutch economy: simulation developed together with the Erasmus
University for the training of civil servants and politicians
Each program has various levels, both of instruction and the relevant
casuistry, which makes them applicable for many types of education. Apart
from simulations in Dutch, simulations in English have been included as
Every simulation program built according the 'MacTHESIS philosophy (and with the MacTHESIS design system) can be classified on our scales (the degrees of freedom). Each program has a place on one of our eight scales below. Here you see some examples classified to the degrees of freedom:
Scale 2: 'Coaching'
|abstract <--+------------------+-----------------+-----------+--------> concreet|
|REEKSEN .. TRANSISTOR .. CARDIO .. FLUIDS|
Scale 3: 'Paper material'
|coach <---+----+--------+------------------------------------+---> no coach|
|...CARDIO ... BRINE PURIFICATION ........ BILJART|
Scale 4: 'Dynamic'
|paper manual <--------+----------------------------+--------------------> no paper manual|
BRINE PURIFICATION ..... SUCROS .....................|
Scale 5: 'Intelligent'
|animation <-----+----+-+----+-+-------------------------------------> no animation|
BILJART ... GAY LUSSAC .................................|
CASCADE ... CISTR ................................
... TRANSISTOR .................
Scale 6: 'Pages'
|intelligence <---+------++--------------------------------------+------> no intelligence|
FLUIDS CARDIO ...................................... REEKSEN ......|
Scale 7: 'Color'
|multi-windowing <---+----------------------------------------------+-------> one window|
CHEMISTRY ......................................... CELLEN|
Scale 8: 'Video messages'
|colors <----+-----------+--------------------------------+----+--> black/white|
FLUIDS ... CARDIO ................... CISTR ... CELLEN|
|desktop video <-----++-----------------------------------------++-------> no-desktop video|
COAGULATION ............................ AORTA|
CARDIO ....................................... BOILER
Each simulation program, built according the MacTHESIS philosophy, can be described by 8 values on these 8 scales.
A REVOLUTIONARY CONCEPT FOR LEARNING AND WORKING ENVIRONMENTS
Computer simulation as a learning tool is different from all other forms of
education such as textbooks, blackboard, video or oral teaching. A practical
comes closest in comparison. With the computer, the screen is the narrow
gateway through which one can reach the simulated reality in which the job
has to be carried out. The limitations of the screen require the maximum of
computer technical ability in order to achieve an optimal learning effect,
according to Rik Min. He bases himself on a 'parallel instruction theory'
which he has developed for simulations: People are best motivated for
instruction when they have control over all necessary information, more or
less at one and the same time and in different ways.
A definite sequence is not desirable: one should be able to decide for oneself
when instruction is needed. Learning all by yourself in an attic room,
surrounded by one's papers on the table and on the floor is an ideal
situation. Another example is reading the newspaper. This medium is so
successful because it offers information in various ways, everything can be
absorbed in a matter of seconds and the reader is free to choose which news
item he will read first and at what speed. Classical education is similar:
you hear the teacher speak, you see information that is written down on the
blackboard, you can read about the subject in your textbook that also gives
visual support by means of a picture or a diagram. The ideal computer
simulation has all these characteristics: all relevant information must be
offered on the screen both parallel and easily surveyable.'
CRITICISMS OF MS-DOS
According to Min the 'parallel instruction theory' explains many educational
effects. For instance why designers are always inclined to put far too much
information on a screen; why learning processes behind a desk are
accompanied by eye movements and other movements from left to right,
seemingly chaotic for a teacher but in accordance with a certain learning
behaviour; why some students are unable to learn certain things and can do
others very well, and so on. As an engineer within educational science, Min
is very critical of the Intel concept of MS-DOS: 'The Intel concept is far
too much a concept from and for information scientists and it does not take
the learning attitude of children and adults into account. With MS-DOS it is
practically impossible to develop software that meets the requirements of
parallel instruction. It is therefor unsuitable for the building of good
simulation environments. The only equipment with which one can do so is
According to Min the Macintosh/Motorola concept is unbeatable: 'It is
essential for a designer of simulations that the screen is an integrated
part of the entire machine. That is the secret of the game computers. A
great deal of thinking has gone into the processor, the operating system and
the Macintosh interface. If the same volume of man-years and money had been
devoted to the development of this concept instead of the Intel concept of
MS-DOS, computer sciences would have developed much further.'
The system MacTHESIS has been developed (also available on CD-ROM) for the
design of educational simulations on Macintosh. Interested parties can
follow courses through the University of Twente in order to learn how to master the design of simulations with MacTHESIS.
Rik Min (1995), Simulation Technology and Parallelism in Learning Environments; Methods, Concepts, Models and Systems. Uitgeverij: Academisch Boekencentrum,
ABC, in De Lier (1995). ISBN 900-5478-036-3.
Schaick Zillesen, P.G. van, F.B.M. Min, M.R. Gmelich Meijling and B. Reimerink (1995),
Computer support of operator training based on an instruction theory about parallelism. Kluwer Academic Publishers (Eds: M. Mulder, W. Nijhof en R. Brinkerhof). ISBN 0-7923-9599-9. p.209-226.
Gritter, H., W. Koopal and F.B.M. Min (1994), A New Appraoch to Computer Simulations; Interact, European Platform for Interactive Learning, Vol. 1, no. 2, ISSN 0929-4465.
Rik Min (1994), Parallelism in open learning and working environments. Britsh Journal of Educational Technology, Vol. 25, No. 2, pp. 108-112. ISSN 0007-1013.
Rik Min (1994), Parallelism bij coachen van gebruiker in open leeromgevingen. In: Simulatie: een State of the Art. Proceedings van Conferentie over Simulatie 1993 te Utrecht; SISWO publicatie 384, Organisatie SISWO (TIM), Amsterdam; Editors: C. van Dijkum en D. de Tombe, ISBN 90-6706-129-8.
Rik Min (1992), Parallel Instruction, a theory for Educational Computer Simulation. Interactive Learning Intern., Vol. 8, no. 3, 177-183.