index :: Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership :: USNA

Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership

Simulations and Dilemmas

Simulations and Dilemmas

Scan the Icons on this page with your smart phone

Trolly_DDGSimulations are dynamic representations that allow students to form and test mental models by experimentation, and thereby allow the user to form and test hypotheses about how the systems works. The history of modern digital simulation can be traced back to WWII. Mathematicians John Von Neumann and Stanislaw Ulam used newly developed computing techniques to model nuclear detonation for weapon design. Their experiments were very successful and simulations became very popular, finding applications in other industries. Real-time simulation and sophisticated 3D simulation environments were developed in the 1990s and incorporated into training software as computer hardware improved. Today, simulations are widely used in various industries for education.

Simulation tools can transform abstract concepts into interactive visual content, making it easier for students to understand the performance and relationship between different system parts. They can become familiar with the equipment and environment, and practice necessary skills without risking accidents to themselves, the equipment, and the environment. Students are able to reinforce theoretical knowledge with hands-on-training through simulation tools, giving a better understanding of the material.


Simulation tools can track student progress and provide standardized feedback that can aid in developing skills. They can also offer targeted skill development—students can choose which skills to improve on and receive specific training resources, and educators can also control the content. Training materials can be easily updated, developed, or modified, and training can be done regardless of time or place.

The effectiveness of a simulation largely relies on the accuracy of the simulation. While simulations can be difficult to create, these models provide important feedback to the student in real time when accurately and realistically constructed. Effectiveness also varies depending on the type of task being learned. There are key components of simulation training tools that make them effective, such as the addition of multimedia and the availability of immediate feedback. These features add to the interactivity of simulations, and helps users stay engaged in exercises. Multimedia components such as text, audio, images, animations, video make the simulation tool more immersiveTrolly_F35C.

With new improvements in technology, new opportunities to apply simulation-based education and training will emerge. The recent development and usage of virtual reality for training already has positive results, with research indicating that training done through VR is more memorable than training though text and video content. VR has been found to be best suited for cognitive skill and psychomotor skill training relating to remembering and understanding spatial and visual information, and visual scanning skills.
Overall, simulation technology has made incredible progress since its WWII origins. Its original uses have expanded out of experimentation and disrupted and transformed methods of education. Currently with applications in teaching, training, and testing across numerous industries, simulation technology will only continue to improve to become more realistic and immersive to provide users with an incredibly rich learning experience. Although technology is progressing at such a pace that predicting the future is difficult, one can be certain that educational simulation tools will play an important part of that future.
[Taken from:]



Radio Stockdale is a programming distribution network operated for the purpose of supplementing the training of midshipmen in the core principles of Leadership – Ethics, Character, and Honor. Augmented Reality has the potential to invoke emotional responses in students, and thereby provide powerful contextual learning experiences of digital information in the real world. Technologies today are much more powerful than ever before, and compact enough to deliver AR experiences in academic venues through personal computers and mobile devices. Wireless mobile devices, such as smart phones, tablets, and other electronic innovations, are increasingly ushering AR into the mobile space where applications offer a great deal of promise, especially in education and training.

The Radio Stockdale network provides a supplementary portal for students, faculty, and staff to access content. In this first iteration, we are using the Trolley Problem as a thought experiment in ethics. This series of exercises represents a classic clash between two schools of moral thought, utilitarianism and deontological ethics. Radio Stockdale can be used in class as a presentation tool to walk students through the four exercises of the Trolley Problem. Instructors may use the online "Instructors Version" to play the scenarios for the class, and then stop the presentation, and begin classroom discussion. The instructor may then restart the scenarios to present the next exercise.

The instructor may follow or precede classroom instruction by assigning individual students the task of using Radio Stockdale themselves, on their mobile devices. The students may make different choices from the class consensus. In doing so, the students can follow paths to their own conclusions, and get feedback from the Radio Stockdale application. If the instructor desires, s\he may assign a short paper as extra credit for students to write an essay about their experiences and individual decisions.

The Classic

The "Trolley Problem" consists of a series of hypothetical scenarios developed by British philosopher Philippa Foot in 1967 then later elaborated in 1985 by American philosopher Judith Jarvis Thomson. Each scenario presents an extreme environment that tests the subject's ethical reasoning.

 The Trolley Problem is a thought experiment in ethics. In our retelling of the Trolley Problem, a runaway trolley is barreling down the railway tracks. Farther ahead on the track, there are four people who are unaware of the trolley and therefore unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them! You are standing some distance off in the train yard, next to a switch. If you pull this switch, the trolley will turn to a different track. However, you notice that there is one person on that track, similarly unaware of the trolley and therefore unable to move.

So you have two options:

  1. Do nothing, and the trolley kills the four people on the main track.
  2. Pull the switch, diverting the trolley onto the side-track where it will kill one person.

The starting point for these cases is that when asked a question about which action we would take, we tend to answer without much thought. Then when asked why we answered the way we did, we often find it difficult to explain our moral reasoning. The point of the exercise is to be able to explain our own reasoning after answering four questions.

Go to the Trolley Problem                     Go to the Augmentations



go to Top