This paper describes the development and evaluation of a multimedia simulation for teaching research skills to business students. The article quotes from other sources, stating that traditional school and university learning is in danger of becoming isolated from mainstream real-world activity and performance. The challenge, state the authors, is for educators to align formal learning more substantially with the way learning is achieved in real-life settings, and to base instructional materials design on more recent theories of learning that reflect this shift. They postulate that one method which has the potential to achieve this is the theory of situated cognition or situated learning.
This involves creating microworlds that recreate the realism of the macroworld. I quote “Multimedia designers need to provide only enough clues to enable imagination, not technology, to create ‘realism’.” I understand this to be that the creation of partial clues can be seen as sampling reality and creating a microworld out of these samples.
The Acumen application is provided as an example of how a microworld application can be or should be created. This software is modelled on the experience of a student employed as an apprentice in a summer job. There are no instructions for using the program, and the users navigate around the program by clicking on images of people or objects. One can see the benefits of this program, in that a task can accurately model real life objects and behaviour, without the abstraction and secondary or representative reality found in standard user interfaces. This rethink and redesign of the traditional user interface is required to enable multimedia simulation that has a larger transfer capacity. Though the concept is an excellent one, the question arises as to what level of fidelity should the microworld mirror the macroworld. The issue is primarily budgetary, building very close resemblance between the micro and macroworlds has a high cost factor attached.
In summary, this is a well written, well researched article that transfers complex ideas with easily understood text and graphics, and presents a sound argument for modelling simulations that bring the practice of textbook principles into the classroom.
Standen, P., & Herrington, J. (1997). Acumen: An interactive multimedia simulation based on situated learning theory.