Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Creating Hybrid Learning Experiences--Part II- Simulations-- Return to the Kobyashi Maru Scenario

In the previous post, it was suggested that one way to bring order to E-Learning would be to create irresistibly engaging learning experiences by using hybrids of the different versions of E-Learning that are often mentioned. The hybrid mentioned  in the previous post was the combination of project based learning with problem based learning but as postulated it is incomplete. In order to have a level of engagement for the learner that leads to deeper sustained learning, it should be linked to a form of learning experience that is really coming into its own in the online world and that is the simulation.

Simulations are not new. They have been used to train aircraft pilots, medical personnel and shuttle Astronauts for years. However, with the great advancement of technology as it relates to the online world, more and more disciplines are using virtual reality simulations in order to engage their members in essential learning and refinement of skill sets. It is within this type of environment, that both problem solving based learning and project based learning can be employed as a part of the previously mentioned hybrid. Besides the need to assess developing skill sets for members, other elements that come into play in order to complete individualized profiles are:

  1. Measures of individual and group emotional responses and group collaborative efforts when confronted with an unexpected event.
  2. Measures of innovative thinking in solving a problem.
  3. Measures of recovery time in the resolution of a challenging problem in which primary solutions failed.
The more realistic the immersive simulation is the more authentic the responses will be.


Return to the Kobyashi Maru Simulation--Cheating or Innovative Thinking?

 One of the keys to the use of such a hybrid learning experience is effective and focused collaboration on the problem that is presented in the simulation. This means the coordinating of the talents of each collaborator to arrive at an effective solution. In such a situation, divergent thinking is to be encouraged because solutions to challenging problems are not all arrived at by taking the same path. This is where ingenuity can lead to an innovative solution to a problem.

"Unfortunately, in many of our societies our education systems have stressed and rewarded conformity rather than individual ingenuity which has been seen as an oddity and often pushed to the side."

In the digital age where a culture of innovation is the "gold ring" that business and education organizations are striving for, individual ingenuity is something that should be nurtured and prized rather than conformity to paths that have always been followed.
Consider a lesson on ingenuity and innovation from the science fiction movie, Star Trek. In the movie, as well as in the earlier t.v. series, a problem solving scenario was presented in the form of a simulation called the "Kobyashi Maru" simulation.

The Kobyashi Maru Test

The KM is a test given to all command-track cadets in Starfleet. The test takes place in a simulated version of the USS Enterprise’s bridge. The test candidate assumes the role of captain for the duration of the simulation. The simulated scenario is as follows. The Enterprise is on patrol near the neutral zone between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. It receives a distress call from a civilian freighter named The Kobayashi Maru. The freighter, which is located within the neutral zone, has struck a gravitic mine and needs to be rescued, otherwise the crew and passengers will perish. While rescuing the ship is what every commander would like to do, the problem is that entering the neutral zone risks a confrontation with the Klingons. Sure enough, this is exactly what happens: when the Enterprise enters the neutral zone, three Klingon battle cruisers decloak and attack.

The test is programmed in such a way that, once you enter the neutral zone, there is no way to “win”. In other words, there is no way to successfully rescue the Kobayashi Maru while at the same time avoiding death at the hands of the Klingons.  Everyone is supposed to fail the test, at least superficially.

So, the question is, given the stakes set in the simulation, did Kirk in fact cheat or did he in fact demonstrate a high level of ingenuity and innovative thinking in finding a solution in a test that no one was suppose to pass? I would suggest to you that the conformity viewpoint would be that he cheated because everyone is expected to conform to rules that favour a no win scenario.

Is this the type of thinking, the conformist viewpoint that pervades our education systems, the path to solving complex real world problems both in business organizations and in education and ultimately in our societies?

The hybrid combination of project based learning, problem based learning and simulations in online environments is a recipe for irresistibly engaging learning experiences that will enable learners both in education and business to change a stagnant, dying learning culture that is out of synch with this digital age. As instructional designers, instructors, corporate trainers, learning principles leaders and life long learners we have a great opportunity to nurture the ingenuity and innovation that we have seen glimpses of in the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Tesler and others if we collaborate in the effective design of such learning experiences by using our own creativity and the tools that are readily available online. E-learning can take on a completely new an exciting dimension in a world in need of ingenious solutions to complex problems.

Next.....Other possible learning experiences that promote intense engagement.

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