Simulations – Bridging from Thwarted Innovation to Disruptive Technology


  • John Kenworthy


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.