Simulation Learning

What is simulation?

Simulation education is a bridge between classroom learning and real-life experience. Simulation can also be described as an educational strategy that places learners in a life-like environment where they can employ the skills they’ve been learning in class in real time, and provides the opportunity to critically reflect on their experience afterwards. Simulation promotes skills acquisition, aids development of clinical judgment, and teaches students about complex situations with lifelike examples. Simulation provides an invaluable safety net for learning, allowing students to acquire and develop critical-thinking and decision-making skills without exposing clients to unnecessary risk.

Simulation is based on a variety of educational theories such as Social Learning and Social Development Theory, Situated Learning Theory, Adult Learning Theory, and Experiential Learning Theory to name a few. Simulation education allows for both “low stakes” learning for improvement, and “high stakes” testing to determine competency.

The Olson Centre for Health Simulation adheres to standards of best practice in simulation and inter-professional competencies.

Advantages of simulation learning

A range of easily accessible learning opportunities:

Learning in human services skills is often developed in an apprenticeship or practicum placement model. However placements can be difficult to secure, and it can be difficult to ensure the quality of the placement experience and the quantity of hands on learning experiences within the placement; it is hoped that learners encounter enough situations to ensure that they become competent, but they may end up simply observing or doing basic tasks that don’t develop competency in more complex skills. This is ultimately a haphazard way to learn, and puts learners and clients at a disadvantage.

Simulation offers scheduled, valuable learning experiences that are difficult to obtain in real life. Learners address hands-on and thinking skills, including knowledge-in-action, procedures, decision-making, and effective communication. Critical teamwork behaviors such as managing high workload, trapping errors, and coordinating under stress can be taught and practiced. Because any situation can be portrayed at will, these learning opportunities can be scheduled at convenient times and locations and repeated as often as necessary for optimal learning.

The freedom to make mistakes and to learn from them:

Working in a simulated environment allows learners to make mistakes without the need for intervention by supervisors to stop client harm. By seeing the outcome of their mistakes, learners gain powerful insight into the consequences of their actions and the need to “get it right”.

The learning experience can be customized:

Simulation can accommodate a range of learners from novices to experts. Beginners can gain confidence and “muscle memory” for tasks that then allow them to focus on the more demanding parts of care. Experts can better master the continuously growing array of skills without putting the clients at undue risk.

For beginning learners, simulation allows learners the opportunity to be exposed to a wide variety of different experiences with many different populations that they may not be able to obtain through their focused practicum placements.

Detailed feedback and evaluation:

Real events and the pace of actual human service operations do not always allow for the best review and learning about why things took place, or how to improve performance. Controlled simulations can be immediately followed by videotape-supported debriefings or after-action reviews that richly detail what happened. These performance maps and logs provide a solid and necessary feedback mechanism to learners and help instructors target necessary improvements.

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How does simulation work?

Simulation offers an endless variety of options, and can be tailored to meet the specific needs of the learners and the course objectives. Our staff will consult with you about your needs and collaborate with you to tailor a plan to meet your specific course objectives and provide an optimal learning experience for your students.

Here are some examples of what we can do:

  • discipline-specific simulations: our staff can collaborate with you to create simulations for many different disciplines and progam areas.
  • population-specific simulations: we collaborate with content experts to create simulation scenarios for specific client populations. For example, we can create scenarios involving seniors, immigrant populations, mental health, addictions, disabilities, and more.
  • practicum interview prep simulations: are your students preparing to secure practicum placements? We can help them prepare for their interviews.
  • crisis simulation: dealing with a crisis situation takes practice and skill. We can create crisis simulations that help students develop confidence in their crisis intervention skills in a safe, low-stakes environment.
  • teamwork: simulations that involve multiple students to learn teamwork in practice
  • skills practice: bring students in to practice the skills they’ve learned in class, such as exploring ways to set up an office and debriefing the impact of design on the therapeutic relationship

Disclaimer: in the event that videotaping of scenarios is used, students will be asked to sign a release form in accordance with FOIP.