A new report developed for the U.S. Department of Education by RTI International provides educators, state administrators, and policy makers with information on the benefits of simulated work-based learning and considerations for implementing programs.

“Simulated work-based learning is a powerful education tool,” said Rebecca Moyer, a report author and education analyst at RTI. “It has the promise to better prepare students for the jobs they want through real-world experience.”

The Department of Education published the report on Thursday.

Such programs cultivates “students’ employability skills, academic knowledge, and technical abilities through an immersive, career-themed experience that replicates workplace tools, processes, and environments. By combining in-person instruction with simulated workplaces, simulation tools, or school-based enterprises, simulated work-based learning provides students a real, controlled environment to gain hands-on work experience right on campus,” the report says.

The report by RTI, which is headquartered in RTP and is one of the world’s largest nonprofit research organizations, is based on information and interviews with simulated work-based learning program staff at nine project sites in Alabama, Kansas, Montana, North Carolina, and West Virginia.

Program benefits

Here are program benefits as identified in the report:

“Program staff were generally enthusiastic about the educational contribution of simulated WBL,” the report notes.

“Interviews with staff in the nine sites produced qualitative data on the benefits of simulation for the following:”

Students—Educators believed that students were more engaged when offered hands-on, simulated instruction. Irrespective of the model, educators shared that simulated WBL familiarizes students with processes or situations they are likely to encounter on the job, builds their confidence, and better prepares them for the transition to work.

Employers—Employers reported that simulated learning helped enhance students’ career awareness and job preparation. Ongoing employer involvement built into many programs also helped create a dynamic environment, in which programs adapted more quickly to evolving workforce needs and conditions.

Instructional providers—Simulations allowed schools and institutions to offer workplace experiences to more students than they could otherwise serve. Simulations were identified as especially helpful in geographically isolated regions where there were limited opportunities to place students at work sites.

States—Simulated WBL is seen as a tool for promoting economic development, particularly in instances where adoption occurred at the statewide level. For example, one administrator shared how staff were marketing the simulated WBL used in CTE programs to attract industry to the state, because its emphasis on employability skill development helped guarantee a ready and skilled workforce.

Do homework

The report also contains recommendations for institutions looking to establish simulated worked-based programs:

  • Do research to inform program design
  • Engage industry leaders throughout the process
  • Build buy-in from key education stakeholders
  • Plan and budget for the long-term

More coverage

Read the full report at http://s3.amazonaws.com/NCICTE/pdf/SWBL_Report.pdf