Online simulations: a critical element in creating engaging healthcare curricula for high schools

What does it take to provide a healthcare curriculum at high school that engages students and prepares them for work? Paulette Diener is an RN with 25 years’ experience, a HOSA Advisor, and has been teaching Health Care Science at high school for the last 12 years in the state of Georgia. Finding the SIMTICS online simulations for clinical skills at a HOSA conference was a standout moment for her in her drive to create excellent learning experiences for her students: ‘Oh, my gosh, I was so excited that there was a resource like this available!’

Technology enriches and reinforces the learning
Paulette knows that students today are comfortable with technology, and it’s how they expect to learn. ‘Educators know that you have to make learning relevant for students, and online is normal for them. They’ve grown up with it.’

Paulette sees the benefits in her classroom. ‘It’s not about replacing traditional or hands-on teaching and learning. Digital resources enrich the whole learning experience and help to reinforce it too. With web-based simulations, students can not only learn, but can go back at any time to review and practice skills, and get a better understanding of concepts they’re having difficulty with.’

Students learn at their own pace
To Paulette, one of the important advantages of online simulations is that students can take control of their own learning, which helps improve attention levels and self-motivation. ‘In the classroom they have to go along with what the teacher is doing and how the other students are progressing. It’s not individualized. Online simulations give students the flexibility to learn when they’re ready and go at their own pace.’

And although the learning is self-paced, the students are not on their own. ‘SIMTICS has its own tutoring built in. It’s guiding them all the time and tracking their progress, and I can view reports on that,’ says Paulette.

Online simulations teach all the steps in healthcare procedures
Paulette’s high school offers career pathway courses in non-invasive diagnostic imaging and allied health, including medical assisting. ‘If you’re not doing hands-on in the classroom, or lab time is limited, then online simulations are a perfect way to learn practical skills. Simulations are so much better than videos alone, which students can skim over or get distracted from. When they do an online simulation, it requires them to think. They must do all the steps, in the right sequence, so they’re learning how to do it properly.’

Paulette has seen the results. ‘I see a difference in attention and in retention of the information. And my students are better prepared when they actually do the skill.’

Simulations take away the social fear of failing
Online simulation also overcomes one of the major barriers to students’ learning in the classroom – fear.

‘Fear of failure can block students from learning, or fear of their peers rejecting them because they’ve failed. Students can’t have a good learning experience if they’re insecure. They don’t want to ask questions, or have the class go back over stuff that most of the students are getting and they’re not. Online simulations take that risk away, since when students fail in a simulation they fail in private, and they’re encouraged to try again until they succeed.’

Healthcare courses make students job-ready out of high school
‘For many, two to four years at college with mounting debt and uncertain job prospects is unappealing. Hybrid, career-focused courses at high school with online learning components, including simulations, allow people to leave school job-ready.’
Realistic online simulations, like SIMTICS, take students into the world of working professionals without the risk, and create significant benefit for both learners and teachers.

‘There’s even a place for using these simulations in middle school, to let students experience what they would be doing in different health careers. It’s a great opportunity for our young people.’

Advice to other teachers
Paulette had some final words of advice for other teachers who might be considering the use of online education resources. ‘Education must make adjustments as technology changes and new options become available. As educators, we are learning that we have to make the experience relevant for students and education technology is a wonderful way to achieve that. Online and hybrid learning will take over, it’s the future, so it makes sense to move that way now and be ready for it.’

We’d like to thank Paulette for her contribution to this article, and for her huge enthusiasm for SIMTICS!

SimTutor has a library of over 170 SIMTICS simulation-based modules for medical and allied health education. Find out more at