Monash University
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Critical aspects of design for educational simulations in a medical context

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posted on 2017-03-03, 01:09 authored by Hopmans, Ruben
This thesis investigates the relationship between the design decisions of developing a medical educational simulation, the learning outcomes and student experience, in order to improve the design process for medical simulations. The research highlights the key design features of the First2Act online medical simulation that includes extensive video components and then analyses learner performance in order to identify which design decisions have the greatest impact on learning outcomes. Medical educational simulations require careful planning to achieve very specific learning outcomes. The medical industry leads the way in creating high-level simulations, and while research measures learning outcomes, it does not often include the impact of individual simulation components on those outcomes. A better understanding of the link between design elements and learning outcomes will contribute to better design guidelines in this field. This research collected a range of data from student interactions with a simulation and mapped results to learning improvements to identify which characteristics had the greatest impact on learning. Data collected included: 1: a/b multiple-choice quiz of learner knowledge, 2: interactions with interactive video-based scenarios, and 3: a survey on student experience. The multiple-choice quiz tracked the results of 367 nursing students, giving an indication of the areas where knowledge improved. Careful analysis of interaction patterns against those test results revealed that a combination of straightforward and clear learning material, the reiteration of those concepts to the student, and explicit feedback instructing students on the ideal response to the simulated scenarios’ improved the prospects of learning. The impact was greatest for poorly understood concepts. These results concluded that the design and development process should include a definitive list of learning outcomes, careful formulation of content, composing explicit feedback and designing interactions to encourage repetition. Improving the process for development of medical educational simulations not only improves learning outcomes, but also allows designers to focus often-limited resources on the simulation features that are more effective for learning. This thesis specifically looks into the design of learning simulations for the medical industry. However, the improved methodologies gained from the research have application in other industries developing e-learning simulations.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Michael Morgan

Additional supervisor 1

Matthew Butler

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Information Technology (Monash University Clayton)

Degree Type



Faculty of Information Technology