December 1, 2016 – Queen's Gazette – Simulating Real-World Challenges
A grant from the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) will help Queen’s University and Toronto tech firm Ametros Learning develop an intelligent, web-based simulation platform for students in law, medicine, engineering and business.
The $250,000 in funding through the OCE’s Advancing Education program will enable the Queen’s Law-Ametros partnership to develop a simulation authoring environment that any instructor can use to create intelligent, highly-interactive simulations, explains Dirk Rodenburg, Director, Undergraduate and Professional Programs at the Faculty of Law.
Utilizing IBM Watson’s cognitive computing platform, the focus is on case-based teaching through simulations of real-world challenges. This allows students to develop the problem-solving and decision-making skills needed when they enter the workforce.
“One of the major reasons for using an intelligent simulation is to bridge the gap between theory and practice, using the notion of ‘thick authenticity’ to provide the student with true role-based, real-world scenarios,” Mr. Rodenburg says. “Closing that gap has been identified as a key objective for educators within many professional schools, and we’ve seen a significant move to include techniques such as problem-based learning, standardized patients and clients, and real-time role play as ways to address the issue. But these methods are expensive and not easily scalable. The beauty of this type of platform is that you can achieve a high level of realism in a distributed, easily accessible and very cost-effective manner.”
In the Queen’s Law-Ametros Learning platform, students will interact with artificially-intelligent characters in scenarios they will typically face as professionals. However, instructors are able to maintain direct oversight of the scenario and provide feedback when needed, which is critical when students are presented with complex challenges.
“The instructor has visibility over every message between students and the AI engine,” said Dr. Robert Clapperton, Head of Development at Ametros Learning. “So an instructor can look at a message a student has sent to the system and say ‘You know what? At this point in time, that is not the right question to ask.’ The instructor can then send it back to the student with the request to rephrase the question. Or they can choose to let it pass through and have the student deal with the consequences. They can also modify any response the AI generates. The instructor serves as mentor to the student.”
The platform, which is currently used to teach communication skills, was created by Dr. Clapperton, who is also an assistant professor at Ryerson’s School of Professional Communication. The Faculty of Law has reached out to the School of Medicine, the Smith School of Business and the Faculty of Engineering to explore, incorporate and expand intelligent simulation within cross-disciplinary pedagogical strategies. Queen’s Law and Ametros Learning are also partnering with a consortium of international law schools to bring the platform to Hong Kong, the U.K. and Australia. The OCE Advancing Education grant is aimed at augmenting the existing platform so that instructional teams can create scenarios and characters independent of technical skills.
“This project fits in perfectly with our strategic commitment to innovation in teaching and learning,” said Bill Flanagan, Dean of the Faculty of Law. “We are moving quickly to bring new techniques and technologies into the faculty to support both online and blended courses, and intelligent simulation is certainly on the forefront of approaches to legal pedagogy. The ability to engage students in meaningful, authentic, real world scenarios will, we believe, have a significant and positive impact on their understanding of legal issues and practice.”
For more information on the Queen's Law-Ametros Learning simulation partnership project, visit simlaw.queenslaw.ca.