Northwest Technical College is among the first in the Minnesota State system to use virtual technology for field experience opportunities. NTC is one of three institutions in the system to pilot an internet-based classroom simulation program for future early childhood educators.
Through a $10,000 Minnesota State Educational Innovations grant, these colleges invested in simSchool, a web-based virtual classroom environment populated with simStudents who have artificial emotional intelligence.
With the grant, the institutions will work closely to expand the use of the platform across the system and assess its impact.
“NTC has only four field experience placements for students in the early childhood education program and only one who is accepting students right now,” Heather Sutherland, Early Childhood Education instructor, said.
“simSchool can help our students practice what they are learning and while nothing will ever take the place of, or replicate, hands-on learning in an early childhood environment, simSchool is a great alternative for our students.”
The program allows users to customize their simStudents with a range of mental and physical abilities, and the program can report overall progress and growth among the simStudents.
The program can also reportedly measure interactions based on the SimStudent’s characteristics, including gender, race and abilities.
“This really helps college students understand implicit bias and how their subconscious mind affects their interactions with children,” Sutherland said.
“Located in a more rural part of Northern Minnesota, I really like that simSchool gives my students an opportunity to experience and interact with such a diverse group of children, even if it is in a simulated setting.”