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What is simulation?

The word simulation is often used to refer to a simulator. There is an important difference.

Simulation is the act of exercising a model (a physical, graphical, mathematical or conceptual representation of a device, event or scenario) over time. If you are faking reality to learn something, you are probably using simulation.
A simulator is the name given to a device that performs a simulation, for example a haul truck simulator, or a flight simulator.

Simulations are synthetic versions of reality; they place participants in realistic business environments where they are asked to complete tasks with legitimate business goals.

Simulation captures the essentials of a workplace environment in a way that allows participants to apply new skills, try different approaches and explore the implications of decisions and actions, risk-free.

Simulation can take the form of what-if scenarios and experiments or role-plays (such as mission rehearsals) for the purpose of learning a skill or informing a decision. A simulation may be, but is not necessarily, computer assisted. The Monopoly board game is a simulation (of a real estate marketplace). A fire drill is a simulation designed to help us learn and practice what we should do in the case of a fire. In most cases, we do not use a simulator as part of this process.

It is important to recognise that simulation and simulators are not just used for training. Some organisations are finding that simulators greatly assist both training and policy development. For example, the Australian Defence Force uses simulation to test military strategies, governments are using simulation to formulate policy, and in the resources industry simulations are used to optimize production and inform scheduling.


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