Prac hacks: five ways simulated learning will prepare you for prac

Prac teacher in classroom

If you’re about to start studying at uni, at this point in time a practical placement may seem like a lifetime away.

But in the not-so-distant future, you’ll need to think about how the skills you learn at university can set you up for a successful prac experience and ultimately help you land your dream job – and simulated learning can help you get there.

If you’ve never heard of simulated learning, you’re not alone. Think of it as a workplace environment that mimics everything you would usually do in a day to day job, but with no life-changing consequences. For example, if you’re a law student you can practice a fake trial in a simulated moot court. Or if you’re studying teaching, you can teach a class of children who are avatars, controlled by actors that work behind the scenes to simulate a realistic classroom. Simulated learning has also been used to prepare pilots, engineers, medical staff and even defence forces.

No matter what you plan to study, there are so many ways that simulating learning can be adapted to bridge the gap between studying in a classroom and stepping out on a prac placement.

How can simulated learning add to your degree?

1) Learn to take risks

Prac placements are one of the best ways to gain industry experience and insight – but dealing with real clients comes with real-life consequences. Prac students are often reluctant to take risks knowing any mistakes they make could affect their relationship with their employer, grades or future employability.

Simulated learning provides a safe space where students can take risks and learn from their mistakes in a comfortable, non-threatening environment. As there are no ‘real’ implications to clients such as a misdiagnosis or lost lawsuit, students are more likely to try different techniques with confidence and go on to apply these lessons to real-life scenarios.

2) Experience difficult scenarios and confrontation in a safe environment

Difficult conversations and confrontation are an inevitable part of every job. And whether it’s something you can do with ease, or try to avoid at all costs, such situations will seem less intimidating once you’ve had similar experiences and have a rough idea of what to expect.

This is particularly useful for international students or students who will be looking abroad for work after uni, as it will help prepare for a range of scenarios and help limit the stress that comes with living and working in a different country. 

Until now, practicing difficult scenarios outside of the workplace has been almost impossible. Whether it be attending to a child with special needs or delivering confronting news to a sick patient, students can now gain experience and confidence in these areas before entering the workforce.

3) Practice, practice, practice

In the real world you normally only get one shot at handling a situation. But what if you had the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them in the exact same scenario? How would this shape your skillset?

Simulated learning allows for a practice and review model of learning, giving you the chance to record and review your performance and practice something until you’re comfortable with what you’re doing.

This unique way of learning allows you to critique yourself in a way that until now, has not been possible. Skills such as time management, planning, learning and assessing can now be reviewed prior to a prac placement.

4) Discover your strengths and weaknesses

It’s sometimes hard to know exactly what you’re good at (and not so good at), before you’ve had the chance to put your skills into practice. Simulated learning provides you with the chance to discover your strengths and weaknesses before you start a prac placement, so you can identify any areas you need to brush up on before you get assessed.

Simulated learning also allows for professional feedback from your teacher, and the opportunity to develop an individual plan based on your needs to ensure you are continuously improving. You can even look back on video footage of your first simulated learning experience and see how your skills have developed over time.

5) Customise your learning

When it comes to learning, you may find some approaches and ideas easier to grasp than others. You might want to spend a longer amount of time practicing a certain approach you just can’t seem to get right, which isn’t so simple in a working environment with real clients or patients.

Simulated learning lets you customise the way you learn so that you can focus on areas you need practice. With the help of your teacher, you can identify how your simulated learning experience should run and what needs to be included to ensure you are continually being challenged and are growing your skillset.

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