a software framework for
authoring, collaboration, and management of simulation-based education and
the web site for CELS, the Center for Engineered Learning Systems
SimPLE (Simulated Processes
in a Learning Environment)
Exercising the dynamic simulators represents a virtual experience of potentially great
value for educational purposes, providing learners with hands-on active learning
experience. These simulators provide a basis for the construction of educational modules
in which the learner "operates" the system (or equipment) through a graphical
user interface (GUI) designed to suit the student, while the GUI communicates in
software with the input/output variables of a physically-based, validated simulator. By
incorporating structures known to be effective in human-computer interactions and choosing
an effective software architecture for active feedback to the learner (e.g., error
messages as well as guidance materials), simulation-based educational tools present the
possibility of a new educational paradigm. This project is dedicated to the
construction and testing of manufacturing education and training modules for operators and
engineers in the factory as well as students in academic settings.
Tightly coupled guidance
Reference materials authored in html appear in the Guidance Window to explain
concepts, provide exercises, and offer learner-driven investigation.
When the mouse passes over highlighted terms used in the guidance materials,
the corresponding object in the Focus Window (system image) is highlighted,
thus creating a tight link between supportive guidance and system focal
point. Reverse connections are also available, providing access to
glossary and background materials on components in the system image.
Authoring of these linkages in facilitated by tools built into the SimPLE
Various features available in the SimPLE environment support learner-driven
exploration of system behavior, including ability to change system design
parameters, a lab notebook which records these automatically as well as the
learner's commentary on observations, timers for experiments, etc.
The actions of the learner in operating the system are captured by the
Learning Historian. They can be subsequently reviewed as a visual
history, replayed through the simulator, revised and annotated, and saved as a
history file. History files can be shared remotely, used for tutorials
and demonstrations, included as questions for an instructor, or exchanged with
peers in collaborative learning. The Learning Historian also provides
the basis for educational research on what is effective and how learner use
tools of information technology for education.
The software architecture of SimPLE modules supports rapid authoring of new
modules, particularly by separating the requirements for the domain
expert/author and the software designer.
The domain expert concentrates on building the
underlying simulation models using familiar, commercially available simulation
software platforms, and on developing guidance materials and instructional
scaffolding. A portfolio of authoring tools is available to facilitate
the authoring process.
The software designer bases GUI design on the
graphical suggestions of the domain expert, and implements connectivity
between the GUI and the underlying simulator as specified by the domain
Instructional module configurability
SimPLE provides authoring tools for determining what objects are visible at
what stage of the instructional scaffolding, what guidance materials are
shown, what simulation models are used, etc.
Research support: NSF, Visual Solutions
Inc., CVC Products