Simulations and the Future of Learning: An Innovative (and Perhaps Revolutionary) Approach to e-Learning / Edition 1

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Recent research studies are proving what many of us have quietly suspected all along— our children are actually learning new ways to learn when they spend hour after hour with their Game Boy, PlayStation, 2, Xbox, or other video game console. Just imagine what it must be like for this generation to go from complexity, immersion, and hands-on interactivity of The Sims to a classroom lecture. Now this same generation is preparing to enter the corporate workforce, the military, public service, and our higher education institutions. Are our trainers and educators prepared to meet the escalating needs and potential of this next generation?

Simulations and the Future of Learning offers trainers and educators the information and perspective they need to understand, design, build, and deploy computer simulations for this generation. Looking back on his recent first-hand experience as lead designer for an advanced leadership development simulation, author Clark Aldrich has created a detailed case study of the creation and deployment of an e-learning simulation that had the development cycle of a modern computer game. With this book Aldrich, a leader in the e-learning field, has created an intriguing roadmap for the future of learning while taking us along on an entertaining rollercoaster ride of trial and error, success and failure. Simulations and the Future of Learning outlines the design principles and critical decisions around any simulation's components— the interface, the physics and animation systems, the artificial intelligence, and sets and figures. Using this accessible resource, readers will learn how to create and evaluate successful simulations that have the following characteristics: authentic and relevant scenarios; applied pressure situations that tap user's emotion and force them to act; a sense of unrestricted options; and replayability.

Revealing the incredible flexibility and depth of this learning technology, Simulations and the Future of Learning challenges policy-makers and futurists as well as educators and trainers to rethink classroom-as-usual instruction and take steps toward a brighter future of learning.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Clark Aldrich…has written a book that will revolutionize e-learning in both education and industry." (Human Resource Development Quarterly, vol. 15, no. 2. Summer 2004)

"Clark's book is a delight." (Training Media Review, 5/10/2004)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780787969622
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 9/5/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.34 (w) x 9.33 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Meet the Author

Clark Aldrich is one of e-learning's most influential leaders. Analyst, columnist, author, speaker, entrepreneur, consultant, he recently lead the international team that created SimuLearn's Virtual Leader, a "concept car" that redefines e-learning's boundaries. Aldrich was the former research director at the Gartner Group where he was responsible for launching and building their e-learning coverage. He has was called out as an e-learning guru by Fortune and chosen as one of both Training magazine's and ASTD's visionaries of the industry.

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Read an Excerpt

Simulations and the Future of Learning

An Innovative (and Perhaps Revolutionary) Approach to e-Learning

By Clark Aldrich

John Wiley & Sons

Copyright © 2003

Clark Aldrich
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-7879-6962-1

Chapter One

In the Game

Unlike the scripted, paper-driven exercises of
the past, computer simulation has become a must.
In fact, it may be the only way to represent the
complexities of future warfare.
-Lieutenant General Eugene D. Santarelli,
Vice Commander, Pacific Air Forces, USAF,
Air Component Support to Joint Exercises

There's a joke I heard a while back. There is a small village, known
across the country for their food and their mountains-and for their
monthly lottery. The local school raffled quilts to raise money.

One of the villagers, a woman named Greta, worked tirelessly
for the poor. She made clothes and bread for the needy. She gave
away every penny she ever earned.

The thing she wanted most in the world was to win the lottery.
It started off as whim. She thought how much better she would sleep
with a nice quilt. Then it grew into an obsession. But month after
month, year after year, she never won. And she grew bitter. She still
did her work, but resentfully. Shewas often heard muttering angrily
to herself as she delivered food. Every night before going to bed,
looking at her shabby bed, she moaned up to the heavens, "I am your
humble servant. I do everything I believe you want. All I ask is one
thing. I just want to win the lottery once. Is that so much?"

One night, a booming voice came down from the heavens. "Greta!"

"Yes," she said, trembling.

"Buy a ticket!"

If You Want to Understand Simulations,
Play a Computer Game First

If you want to understand simulations, the only way to do it is to become
familiar with today's computer games. Games are not educational
simulations, of course. But they can introduce you to many of
the structures, standards, and techniques built into simulations today.
Understanding computer games is your ticket to win the lottery.

(By the way, solitaire doesn't count. And it also doesn't count if
you only watch someone else play a computer game; it may even
count against you! You have to go through all of the experiences

You will not always be impressed with what you experience, especially
at first. Even the best games are terrible if judged by the linear
standards set by television and movies. Computer games are
typically full of blocky animation, clumsy dialogue, obvious production
flaws, and melodramatic scripts.

You will get past this.

You will see that they actually redefine scalable experiences,
adding breathtaking interactivity, and can convey extraordinary
amounts of content. There is a reason why computer games are a
$10 billion business today, and growing.

For anyone who develops educational content, or modifies it, or
purchases it, or teaches to it, or has a stake in his or her organization's
learning strategy for long-term business results, understanding
the interactivity and production values of a modern computer
game experience is critical.

If you aim too far below current games, you risk both boring
your audience and missing out on effective ways to teach new types
of skills. But if you aim too high above that mark (perfection or
bust), you will either spend huge amounts of resources without any
return at all or use that as an excuse to waddle on the sidelines.

It is easy to know whether you need to brush up your experience
with this new medium. If your computer has the W-A-S-D keys
worn down, or you wake up in the middle of the night with a new
strategy to play, feel free to skip this. You are already ready. But if
you are shocked at the violence in Grand Theft Auto(r) III based on
the clips shown on network news, or if you still think of computer
games in terms of how goofy people look when they are playing
them, you have some work to do.

The first step is to make sure your computer is up to snuff. To
play a current computer game, you will need a top-of-the-line computer
circa turn of the century, namely a Pentium III (at least
300MHz), 32MB RAM, sound card, and a 3D accelerated graphics
card or a Macintosh 2000 or later with OS 9.X or the newer OS X.
If you do not have one, see if you have a friend who does. If none of
your friends do, make new friends. Worst case, buy a new computer.
It is the future of your organization-not to mention your career-we
are talking about.

Microsoft's Midtown Madness

Start your education with one of Microsoft's Midtown Madness(r)
games, preferably Midtown Madness(r) 2. It is a highly accessible
game, with a very shallow learning curve. Choose the free-drive
mode, and pick a car.

You will find yourself on the roadways of a major city. There is
nothing you have to do. There are no time limits or goals. This is
just to play. Drive around. Drive on the road. Drive off the road.
You will smash into the cars ahead of you. Get yelled at by pedestrians.
You will lose control and sideswipe a bus. You will deliberately
accelerate when a drawbridge is going up to see if you can
jump it.

Try following the traffic rules. Try breaking the rules. You will
often get away with it if you do. This game is not politically correct.
Try driving a few different vehicles, including the smallest car and
the largest truck.

When you are ready to move on, note what parts of the Midtown
Madness experience are realistic and what parts are not. Also
notice what aspects of driving reality are captured well, for example,
the mass of the vehicle with regard to steering, speed, and
jumping. Also identify what aspects are not captured, such as fuel

You can drive seemingly anywhere in Midtown Madness, even
into shop windows. But to get in the habit of observing what makes
a game tick, also look for the boundaries of Midtown Madness as
you play. They use water, buildings, and rotaries cleverly to keep
you from going in one direction, say north, indefinitely.

While not a perfect game, Midtown Madness is a great first exposure
to computer games. It epitomizes a sense of experimentation,
playing off of our own "real-world" experience. It will be entertaining
and worth playing for about an hour.

Roller Coaster Tycoon(r)

Next, try RollerCoaster Tycoon(r) (or, again, the ever-so-slightly
better sequel, RollerCoaster Tycoon 2(r)). In this game, you try to
develop land into a successful theme park. You can place rides and
paths anywhere you want. You can set prices. You can manage
your staff. You have to meet the needs of hundreds of simulated

Go to any of the starting scenarios. Log in a few hours of playing,
and then spend a few minutes sizing up the experience.

The first hour with any new computer game (or, for advanced
players, a new computer game genre) is pretty confusing. You don't
know what you are doing. You make huge mistakes. Things are happening
on the screen for no obvious reason. You want to do something
simple, but you don't know how. Or you are constantly being
told why you can't do things. The interface seems twitchy and over-sensitive.
The experience seems blocky, rough, and off-putting. It is
like learning a new operating system.

Then things start to make sense. You are in the zone. In Roller-Coaster
Tycoon, you actually feel like the builder of an amusement
park. You start to worry about customers. They need change; they
need new experiences. You get excited when your research team has
produced a new ride. You start playing with admission prices. You
hire some full-time mechanics to make sure your equipment is running

After you are comfortable with the interface and the game play,
try to win some of the early scenarios. Try to build an amusement
park that brings in a certain number of customers at a certain satisfaction
level. You will probably not do it the first few iterations.

And I predict you will feel frustrated. When you do, walk away.
Do something else. Come back in a few hours and try again. Or
sleep on it. In most cases, when you try again, you will succeed.
That's good. Frustration, and then getting past it, is probably necessary
for learning.

Soon relationships become obvious. It seems inconceivable that
you didn't understand it the first time around. If you were a power
gamer, you might go to a website where people swap strategies. Use
Google to try and find one if you want.

If you build two or three parks, they will probably be more
similar than not, that is, the modifications will be relatively minor.
Now watch someone else play. He or she will build a park in ways
that you never even considered. You know you are thinking too linearly
if you keep trying to correct what the other person is doing!

You don't need to become a great Roller Coaster Tycoon player.
Just win one of the easy scenarios, and it is time to move on.

The Sims(tm)

The next game to install is The Sims(tm). Go through the mini-tutorial.
Build a house. Buy things. See what happens.

A few aspects of The Sims will strike you almost immediately.
The first is how incomplete and rudimentary the game seems. The
Sims don't talk, they mumble. The situation doesn't feel realistic
at all. A day goes by too quickly to accomplish everything you
need to. Cleaning the house is a drag. The interface feels confusing
and you have trouble figuring out what to do to make things

The second thing to notice is how much fun it is. Earning money
and improving the quality of your simulated life is extremely rewarding.
You can decorate your house the way you always wanted
to or experiment with furnishings that in real life have been ruled
out by your inherent good taste. You can buy expensive toys like a
huge plasma television. You can flirt shamelessly with your neighbor's
spouse. You can sleep late and invite friends over instead of
going to your job.

You will soon understand why The Sims is the bestselling computer
game of all time. You may even be able to reflect a bit on your
own life. Time is a precious commodity. There is never enough of it
to do everything you want. Meeting multiple goals at the same time
(such as comfort and entertainment) is necessary. Even articulating
a set number of goals and trying to meet them is more than most of
us successfully accomplish.

Beyond the Open End

Midtown Madness, RollerCoaster Tycoon, and The Sims are open-ended
games. There is no story, save the one you make up around it.

To finish your early exposure to computer games, I would recommend
you play one game that is linear (at least in a computer
game sort of way). Pick a game where you play highly defined characters.
These games are often from the genre First-Person Shooters,
because the action takes place around, and from the perspective of,
a consistent character that you control.

If you can stand the carnage, try a few hours of Max Payne(tm).
This is a highly stylized, highly emotional experience. You will get
to know the title character very well. You will know his voice, how
he moves, and his motivation. You will witness cinematic "cut-scenes"
that move the story along. You will find yourself in huge,
meticulously crafted sets that would impress George Lucas.

If you want something lighter, try Star Trek Voyager(tm): Elite
Forces. You will play an extended episode derived from the science-fiction
television show. You will interact with computer versions
(so-called avatars) of the main characters from the show. There are
plot twists. You will take breaks between the action to get the background
story. You will be surrounded by a well-defined supporting
cast (newly created for the game) and overhear their conversations.
If you don't protect them in a firefight, they will die.

If you can tolerate an experience that is dark, violent, and brooding,
try Deus Ex(tm). This may be a perfect computer game. It both
gives you a highly structured story and the ability to play it on your
terms. If you want to evolve your character into a sneaky James
Bond type, you can. If you want to evolve your character into a
Terminator-like creature, you can. You can make a thousand decisions
along the way to make your onscreen character reflect how
you want to play the game. You can choose stealth over brute force.
You can scavenge or you can buy. You have to prioritize which tools
to bring along and which to leave behind. On top of that, most of
the challenges can be solved in different ways as well. Deus Ex gives
you a nearly open-ended environment that encourages you to be
creative and rewards your deviousness.

Into the Simulation Age

Spending $100 on games and putting in five to ten (to twenty)
hours to increase your own awareness of how they work and why is
absolutely necessary to understand this book and understand educational
simulations broadly. It will be hard. And it will be exhilarating.
You have to be a student, and a pathological learner. Buy
guides if you want, but do not use them instead of experiencing the
game yourself.

There once were newspaper people who criticized television for
being too superficial. There were railroad executives who disparaged
airplanes as being too expensive. They rejected electronic journalism
and air transportation because they were comfortable with their
world. Playing a couple of computer games is not sufficient, of
course, to get you out of your comfort zone and immediately involved
in creating or championing simulations for your organization's
e-learning arsenal. But it is the lottery ticket that you must
buy if you want a chance to contribute in the future.


Excerpted from Simulations and the Future of Learning
by Clark Aldrich
Copyright © 2003 by Clark Aldrich.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents



1. Do You Want Fries with that e-Learning?

Part One: The Simulation Way.

2. In the Game.

3. The Primary Colors of Content.

4. The e-Learning Arms Race.

5. The Myth of Subject-Matter Experts.

6. The Search for Content.

7. What Would a Leadership Situation Look Like?

8. Uncovering the Essence of Leadership.

9. The Lure of Linear Content.

Part Two: Modeling Reality.

10. Rules for a Post-Textbook World: Simulation Design Principles.

11. The Beginning of Open-Ended Content: Sets and Figures.

12. What Do People Do All Day? The Animation System.

13. The Ultimate Hurdle: The Dialogue System.

14. Modeling a Little World: The Physics System.

15. Modeling the Inhabitants: The AI System.

Part Three: Philosophical and Technical Realities.

16. A New Look at Work: The Interface System.

17. The Scariest Word of All: Gameplay.

18. Why Use Grades, Anyway? Metrics, Scores, and Simulations.

19. Virtual Leader vs. the World.

Part Four: The Way Ahead.

20. Seventeen Simulation Issues.

21. A Manifest Destiny: Simulations and the Training Industry.

Epilogue: Looking Back at Schools.


Appendix One: Raw Leadership Content.

Appendix Two: Organized Leadership Content.


About the Author.

Pfeiffer Publications Guide.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2004

    A Good Read!

    This is a challenging book, mainly because author Clark Aldrich never seemed to quite make up his mind what kind of book he is actually trying to write. He has so much to teach about simulations that he tries to cover the whole waterfront. He moves from lofty pronouncements about the nature of education to the minutiae of designing one particular simulation, to generalizations about the similarities between fast food and training, to specific analyses of computer games. Any one of these themes could have provided the unifying thread for an excellent book. As it is, this reads a bit like the notes for more than one book yet to be written. But the notes are interesting and extremely well informed, and we found the in-depth detail about the construction of the author¿s own simulation quite revealing. If you aren¿t familiar with the growing use of simulations, this is a good place to start learning. You¿re going to need to know.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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