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The Five Superpowers of the Learning Age

Anders Gronstedt is speaking about The Five Superpowers of the Learning Age at E-Learning Symposium 2011. 

  1. Tell a story: Hollywood-style, character-rich, story-centered learning simulations are redefining learning-by-doing.
  2. Play a game: Game concepts such as points, levels, time pressure, and cut scenes make learning engaging.
  3. Make it social: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and similar company internal social networks are embedding learning in every-day work processes and connecting people with each other.
  4. Make it immersive: A new generation browser-based, high fidelity 3-D virtual simulations are energizing learning.
  5. Make it mobile: Podcasting and mobile and location based apps are changing the paradigm from employees coming to the class room to the class room coming to the employees.

An example of an immersive experience is the  3-D immersive Emergency Shelter Simulation developed by the CUNY School of Professional Studies and the City of New York Office of Emergency Management (video below).   

New York City Hurricane Shelter Simulation Training from Anders Gronstedt on Vimeo.

The four-hour-long learning simulation takes place in a virtual emergency shelter modeled on a real school building in Brooklyn. The learner is playing the role of an Emergency Shelter Manager—opening, running, and closing the shelter. This 3-D virtual rehearsal and training simulation helps City employees practice their shelter management skills and apply problem-solving skills in a realistic environment. They can take the self-paced simulation on their own or in a small team of three to five players. “Our feedback suggests that the cooperative experience of playing and being scored as a small group is more effective than a single-player experience,” says Andrew Boyarsky, Project Director at the School of Professional Studies, CUNY Graduate Center, who spearheaded the program.

The simulation starts with a newscast announcing that “Hurricane Leo” is forecasted to hit the New York City area in a few days and Emergency Shelters are being activated. The learner has just arrived at the shelter from the Evacuation Center. They practice setting up the facility for shelter clients when they arrive, designate key shelter areas, assign staff, and ensure that areas are set up and supplied properly so the shelter is ready to open to the public. When the shelter clients arrive, learners are challenged to solve a number of thorny problems. How do they resolve conflicts? How do they communicate with clients who don’t speak English? The AI recognizes key words and determines the next response by the character. The complete simulation includes 40-50 such non-player characters driven by the AI system. Individual scores are captured in the PIVOTE web-based authoring system developed by Daden, Ltd., Birmingham, England.


As the clock ticks down to zero hour, learners prepare for the arrival of the storm. After the storm, they conduct a walk-through to check that the building is safe, and address post storm concerns of the shelter clients and the needs of the facility. For some issues they will find solutions in a Field Guide while others will require some thought using their own managerial skills and experience. Learners need to think on their feet, just like in the real world. “People learn in context, while earning points, solving problems and receiving feedback,” says Anders Gronstedt, President of the Gronstedt Group, the co-developer of the simulation.
Test groups of students are giving the simulation rave reviews. Particularly heartening is the feedback from City employees who participated in live exercise in the same school building that the simulation was modeled on, who all said that the simulation was very similar to the real-life exercise.

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