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Multi-User Virtual Reality Technology as a Laboratory for Learning
about Social Research: Issues and Prospects
3. Using Simulations in Research Methods Teaching
Simulations are ideally suited to teaching about complex, indeterminate processes that place within the context of an overall strategy. Simulations are essentially models that abstract from a complex reality. They allow to be made explicit the interrelationships within some system and the interplay of the elements that make up that system. Importantly, in teaching contexts simulations require students to make real-life decisions, but without real-life consequences other than those associated with learning. Moreover, simulations can be re-run, allowing students to learn from their mistakes. In teaching research methods, therefore, it seems sensible to present students with a simulated research environment and to ask them to make decisions about how to proceed in terms of their overall research goals, in relation to the various constraints presumed to operate in the situation and in the light of various contingencies that are presented to them. This done, the likely consequences in research terms of the decisions they make can be fed back to them, and the simulation re-run if necessary on the basis of different decision. Students can then be de-briefed collectively in ways that ensure that their experiences are related one to another, to the methodological literature and to substantive studies.
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