Traditional classroom teaching has for generations been an effective method for teaching theory. Teaching methods usually include the instructor lecturing to the class, with the possibility of use of an overhead projector, chalkboard, or sometimes a movie or video to amplify training objectives. In the traditional setting, the instructor in direct control and may or may not invite questions and discussion.
With the addition of simulation to the course curriculum, the instructor can fill the gap between theory and application (MacElrevey, 1995). The instructor can create an interactive environment where instructor and students actively participate in a demonstration applying theory to the real-world (see additional discussion in Chapter 3).
The physical (including engineering and technical) environment in which transfer of learning occurs consists of hardware, software, and the resulting displays and physical settings or conditions simulated. The physical environment and capabilities vary substantially among marine simulators. Unlike the highly structured environment of commercial air carrier simulators, with its well-defined classifications, technical specifications, and standards, the marine industry is just now developing a standard terminology for describing simulators. Industry-wide technical specifications or performance standards have yet to be adopted.
The simulator classification system proposed for adoption by the International Marine Organization (IMO) (see Box 2-1) is used in this report for consistency with current international developments. Under this system, simulators fall into four major categories—full-mission, multi-task, limited-task, and special-task simulators (also referred to as desktop or PC simulators).
Currently, there is no plan to include technical specifications for simulators in the IMO's efforts to revise the international marine Standards for Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping (STCW) guidelines. The STCW guidelines are expected, however, to include simulator performance standards to guide the effective and uniform use of simulators for marine professional development and certification. These performance standards are expected to prescribe minimum criteria that must be met: for example, field-of-view requirements for different types of functions and tasks such as watchkeeping and shiphandling (IMO News, 1994; Muirhead, 1994).
Within the marine industry, the International Marine Simulator Forum, an organization of simulator facility operators and other interested parties, and the International Maritime Lecturers Association, an international professional organization of marine educators and trainers, have been working to develop technical standards for simulators that would complement and support the STCW guidelines.