Simulation to application: The use of computer Simulations to improve real-world application of learning

Wendi M. Kappers, Stephanie L. Cutler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Simulations have been used in training and education for years to aid students in gaining the skills needed to complete a task in a low risk environment. However, students can have trouble connecting the skills used in the simulated working environments to skills that are needed to be applied in the real-world environment, referred to as adaptive transfer. The simulations referred to in this study are simulated environments that mirror student skill application, not a simulation of an event that is meant to aid students in the development of concept knowledge around the demonstrated event. This study examines students' ability to transfer skills learned during a simulation activity to that of a real-world application setting. The study is situated within an introductory engineering computing course in which students are required to work within MyITLab to gain familiarity with using Microsoft Office Software, specifically Microsoft Excel. In this setting, students are expected to use high fidelity simulations, complete online course work based upon these simulations, and then complete a comprehensive exam to demonstrate skills learned with the real-world application. Guided by Kolb's experiential learning theory [1], end of course surveys were implemented to investigate student self-efficacy, the adaptive transfer process, and students' perceived ability to successfully use this software for real world productivity outside of the classroom environment. Survey questions focused upon the student experience when working with simulation software and how using the software enabled them to use Microsoft Excel effectively. Survey results were correlated with course grades from preparation simulation activities and the final application exam. The implementation of simulated activities within the course was found to reflectively engage students with the content of the activity and provide students with a true experimental environment in order to create a real-world project. By gaining a better understanding of how students transfer knowledge from the simulated activity environment to the application environment, while capturing individual learning preferences, instructors will be able to better aid students to more effectively transition skills between different types of environments and create a more holistic learning environment that converts theoretical understanding into practical application.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)64-74
Number of pages11
JournalComputers in Education Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Computer Science
  • Education


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