Tips for teachers of simulation

This page contains some information to the teacher on how aGPSS can be used in the educational process. This is mainly a summary of the most important parts of a paper Teaching Simulation to Business Students – Summary of 30 Years’ Experience.

In order to get many students to a simulation course and to get good student ratings, it is important that the course is enjoyable, i.e. fun, and useful for future studies and work.

In order to make a simulation course fun, it is important to avoid overwhelming the students with difficult, unnecessary, technical details. Pre-course knowledge requirements should be avoided. It is important that the students after a very short time can construct simulation programs of non-trivial problems. Students should learn modeling, not only a lot of syntax, and hence it is desirable that students can model new situations with already learnt concepts and that they seldom have to learn new syntax in order to handle new problems.

It is hence advisable to start with simple models, which can be expanded gradually, assuring that students do not get lost at an early stage. It is also beneficial that the students get an understanding of how the simulation system works for the various models in the text book. For this purpose, the automatic animation system with dynamic block statistics is very useful.

We have found it suitable to demonstrate the build up of the initial models on the computer using a computer projector, with the students imitating this build up on their own laptops. In many cases the PowerPoint slides constitute a suitable complement to this process. We have also found it important to have the students at an early stage solve many of the exercises in the text book.

Since it is unlikely that students will continue to work with the specific software in the future, the goal of the course should be to create informed buyers of simulation services and to make the students open to many different simulation systems, both GUI and text based.

For the teacher, it is important to be in total command of the simulation system. This is easy since the total aGPSS system is covered in textbooks of less than 500 pages.

The best way to make the simulation course useful for future work is to end the simulation course with the students doing projects in companies. This implies that less time in the course is spent on learning simulation software and more on other aspects of the simulation process, such as input and output data, experimental runs, validation and presentation of the results. Many of the project models done in aGPSS have had continued use in the project corporations and many students have landed jobs thanks to their simulation project work. In some cases the students have constructed prototype models, which have then been expanded to quite large models by simulation professionals, using other simulation systems like ARENA, Simula and SLX.

We have found it suitable that the students work with Exercise 30 in Lesson 30 in the textbook before starting on the project work. Those who have mastered this exercise are likely to be able to do interesting simulation work in a company.