JeLSIM: Java eLearning Simulations


 
JeLSIM Services: Content Development
Whilst the tools we produce are freely available, we understand that the skills or time to produce educationally valid simulations may not always be present within small teams. using our Using our inside knowledge of the tools and the educational use of simulations, we can help with all aspects of the design and development process: from model specification and coding, through to interface design and delivery.

The Simulation Development Process
We see the delivery of interactive learning content with simulations as a linear (sometimes iterative) process which has the following steps:

  1. Specify Simulation
    Bringing together all the requirements for a simulation or set of simulations is the key step in the process. It is vitally important to consider all possible uses for a simulation - different educational contexts (demonstration, lab replacement, revision assessment etc.), different educational levels (beginner to expert) and to build support for all these objectives into the requirements specification to be given to the programmer. This process is dealt with in more detail below.
  2. Write Model
    The simulation model is written in java. For most simulations, the model will not be particularly complex (JeLSIM takes care of all the GUI programming, and the simulation model mainly defines the simulation algorithm and the inputs and outputs required by the simulation). Exceptionally, a simulation may require a custom visualisation object (for instance to allow visualisation of the orbit of a planet around the sun in 3-dimensions) and for this, greater programming skill may be required.
  3. Create interfaces
    Interface authoring is best done by a teacher but could be carried out by a designer working in tandem with the teacher.
  4. Save to WebThe end of the process of creating a simulation is to 'Save to web'. JeLSIM provides one-click deployment of simulations to the web, with all the relevant files and directory structures created. In addition, SCORM and IMS Content Packages can be created to archive the applets generated.
  5. Deliver eLearning
    Simulations should not exist in isolation, and good content will place the simulations in context with introductory materials, supporting materials and opportunity for reflection provided by post-simulation resources.
Planning
Planning and specifying the simulation model, as highlighted above, is the key stage in the process. Usually the need for a simulation is identified by a teacher who may see their students struggling with a particular concept, or who feels that the course requires more active learning. Once a need has been identified, a simulation team can be assembled. The team might include:
During an initial planning meeting we would expect to elicit user requirements through the use of a User Requirements Document

Briefly, the User Requirements Document asks the following questions:
  1. What process / system does the simulation model?
  2. How is this subject currently taught?
  3. Do the students have specific problems or misconceptions?
  4. How would you expect the simulation to improve upon current teaching of the subject?
  5. How will the simulation be used in class?
  6. How will the success of the simulation be tested?
  7. What are the main inputs, and input methods?
  8. What are the main outputs of the simulation?
  9. Sketch of the simulation.
  10. What Introductory Content is required?
  11. What Supporting Material is required?
  12. What Analytical Material is required?
  13. How could the model you have specified be extended to support different educational aims?
Once these requirements have been captured, the user requirements are given to the programmer who can create a model. This is then supplied to the teacher or designer with sample interfaces which can then be customised to fit specific educational requirements.

Customisation
The key advantage of the JeLSIM tools is that a single simulation model can give rise to any number of visualisations, each suited to a particular educational objective. The programmer provides the simulation model to the teacher or designer who then loads the model into the JeLSIM tools and starts to create interfaces. In addition to the model, sample interfaces and documentation can be supplied.

How Much?
Advising on and creating simulation models and interfaces would be charged at our normal consultancy rates. As we see the value of providing content to the community more generally, we are sometimes able to reduce costs if the model is put into the public domain. There may also be the opportunity to raise some money from external agencies if the work is of research value.