Simulations - Bridging from thwarted innovation to disruptive technology


Gartner Research dubbed simulation the new "killer
application" in e-learning (Lundy et al., 2002) but even
assuming the best estimates for the adoption of simulations,
they represent a tiny proportion of the annual spend in
training and education. Considerable research has been done
to evaluate the effectiveness of simulations and, by and
large, the results suggest that simulations are effective but
there are doubts about even the most fundamental claims of
the efficacy of simulations (Feinstein and Cannon, 2002)
partly because there isn’t a clear, acceptable methodology,
partly because there is no real agreement on definitions, and
partly because there is little agreement on what should be
evaluated. Burns et al. (1990) consider the multi-fold
problem with evaluating experiential pedagogies stating that
there is firstly a need to compare the efficacy to ‘traditional’
approaches, and there is a need to compare alternative
experiential pedagogies competing to achieve the same
learning. Not surprisingly, they note a paucity of solid
empirical evidence regarding the relative effectiveness of
experiential techniques. Other authors (e.g. Pierfy, 1977)
note two particular problems with respect to evaluating
simulations or experiential techniques: the first being the
conceptual problems pertaining to definitions, domain
boundaries and the theoretical basis which underpin and
frame pedagogical research. The second fundamental
problem is that there remain significant methodological
difficulties including experimental design, constraints
within the organisations and institutions, time
considerations and ethical questions associated with any
comparative study.
This paper does not intend to argue in favor of one
approach, method or definition over another but to consider
why simulations have not yet emerged as training and
education’s “killer application” and how it may be possible
to bridge from being a thwarted innovation (Zemsky &
Massy, 2004) to a disruptive technology (Christensen,
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