Simulation Education in Non-simulation Courses

Simulation is a widely used technique with application in an amazing array of situations . Specific tools which facilitate the simulation process are used in engineering, business, healthcare and other fields to solve problems, illuminate nebulous situations, and help decision-makers envision consequences of various actions. Many excellent university-level simulation courses exist and are required in various degree programs in areas such as industrial engineering, computer science, operations research, business, and operations management. However, not all students that can benefit from simulation are exposed to it in classroom settings. To this point, it is surprising that most business schools and quite a few engineering schools do not give their students any substantial amount of teaching in simulation. In the opinion of many experts, simulation is far away from being as broadly used and taught, as it should rightfully be.

In recent years, the use of simulations in the classrooms, as opposed to the teaching of simulation techniques has grown. While this idea has been in practice for some time, recent technology improvements and new pedagogical approaches have encouraged educators to utilize simulation in the classroom as a mainstay of learning. In fact, classroom simulation use can be found in many disciplines including healthcare and nursing, emergency response, aviation, business, and many more. This use has become more popular in light of constructivist learning pedagogies which encourage teachers to use tools such as simulation to provide richer and more meaningful learning experiences.

While many students are exposed to simulations in the classroom, we believe it remains important that simulation development techniques be understood and utilized. Using a simulation or a pre-developed simulator is far different than creating one. Far more students can benefit from simulation use than currently take classes in that area. We agree and covertly have worked to encourage students to use simulation as a quantitative tool to facilitate decision-making or problem solving within the context of their discipline. We provide 2 examples in this paper.

The first example, from a course generally described in this paper as Cloud Computing, uses simulation techniques to develop a web service emulation response database within a cloud computing environment for software testing. A simulation creates a script for testing that can be reused or easily modified by students to improve software testing. Simulation becomes a tool used in a practical way to enable their larger efforts in software development, and it leverages tools already familiar in their educational experiences (e.g. Use Case Diagrams). The second example comes from a course generally described as Big Data. In this example, simulation techniques provide an approach to generate data sets for learning data analytics techniques and understanding the stochastic nature of model outputs. The idea is to build relationships into the data and then hone skills that ensure the expected outcomes can be visualized within a controlled environment.

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