Mark is an air traffic controller, responsible for training and qualifying aspiring air traffic controllers. As the instructional supervisor he is responsible for the development of all terminal air traffic control instructors. He is routinely involved in both the development of training material and content delivery in the classroom, simulation and live phases of training.

Laren is a nurse, and the Lead Instructor of the Medical Office Assistant program at a post-secondary institution in the city where she lives. She develops and delivers curriculum for adult learners who wish to pursue an administrative career in health care office or hospital settings.  

As a team, Mark and Laren participated in a design thinking process to compare learning needs in their diverse industries with the goal of identifying a common problem(s) for which they could develop an instructional solution. Through this design thinking process (which consisted of focused interviews with each other), they found a common problem which related to professional attributes. Their interviews revealed that while their industries were obviously diverse, there were specific attributes that would be mutually required from learners in both of their fields, given the stressful and high-stakes environments they were preparing their learners for. Table 1 lists which attributes the team identified as being critical to their respective professions, and depicts which attributes the team agreed were common to both industries.                               

Table 1


Considering those common attributes together with the context of their design challenge (that they were challenged to find ways to engage learners in an online setting), Mark and Laren were able to define their problem and articulate their subsequent prototype solution as follows:


In an integrated online program, how can we assess/qualify (ensure a learner has) the necessary attributes and decision making abilities required to work effectively in a consistently and markedly stressful environment?


A capstone assignment which will include:

  •  A scenario and environment delivered via virtual reality,  which will present a critical decision that must be made by the learner directly within the simulated environment.
  • The simulation will be presented in a deliberately distracting and stressful environment
  • The decision presented will be high stakes and unsolvable
  • Assessment will measure to what degree an individual is able to exhibit the necessary attributes (and not to what degree they are able to correctly solve the problem)
  • A rubric to measure behaviors exhibited and responses within the simulation

The prototype solution in it’s current state relies on assumptions common to andragogy and constructivism; that learners are motivated when their learning has clear relevance to other aspects of their life (Knowles, 1975), and that learning is created once it is contextualized in real world scenarios, not before (Ertmer & Newby, 2013). The simulation environment described above would place the learner in a real-world scenario, that could be applied directly to either industry. 

Mark and Laren acknowledge that their prototype in it’s current state would not be an introductory-level assignment, but rather a capstone affirmation of skill; and one that a learner has been adequately prepared for and equipped to achieve. 

Your input would be valued…

  • How would you preemptively prepare a learner to be successful in this type of evaluation?
  • What types of elements would you include in a VR scenario when the goal is for the learner to demonstrate attributes and behaviors as opposed to perfectly perform a skill?
  • Do you have any expertise to share from your own experiences in developing VR solutions?

We look forward to hearing your perspective.


Ertmer, P., & Newby, T. (2013). Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly26(2), 43-71

Knowles, M. S. (1975). The modern practice of adult education: Andragogy versus pedagogy. New York: Association Press