Virtual Internships: From MOOCs to MACROSIMs

Prof. David Williamson Shaffer,  Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of Learning Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Friday 3 October 2017

12.00-2.00pm, Room 1.21, Paterson's Land, Moray House School of Education

Video recording


Welcome to a revolution in education: classes that have thousands of students, like MOOCs, but where thousands of people at a time learn more than just how to take good notes in a lecture and pass a traditional test. Virtual internships are Massively Adaptive Complex Realistic Online Simulations with Interactive Mentoring (MACROSIMS): web-based simulations that help students learn to think like scientists, scholars, artists, and workers in the real world do. In a virtual internship, students work in teams on challenging real-world problems that require innovative solutions. They conduct research, interview clients, develop and test prototypes, and work with their peers to weigh the importance of technical, commercial, and ethical factors to propose a solution to a complex problem. Characters in the simulation interact with students as they work, giving feedback, asking probing questions, and showing students how creative problem solving works. Students learn by doing, with the resources that professionals use and a mentor who can guide their individual learning processes; teachers can customize both learning scenarios and the learning analytics that model students' performance. Virtual internships show what is possible when principles of learning science, learning analytics, and technology are brought together into an integrated learning system for the 21st century.


David Williamson Shaffer is an internationally recognized expert on teaching and assessing 21st Century skills through educational games. He is best known for the development of Virtual Internships for students in high school and college and for corporate training and assessment, as well as his work using quantitative ethnography to measure complex thinking. Dr. Shaffer is a highly sought-after speaker, teaching a course at the University of Wisconsin on making effective presentations. He is currently the Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of Learning Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Game Scientist at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research. Before coming to the University of Wisconsin, Dr. Shaffer was a teacher, teacher-trainer, curriculum developer, and game designer, including work with the Asian Development Bank and US Peace Corps in Nepal and as a 2008-2009 European Union Marie Curie Fellow. His Ph.D. is from the Media Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the author of How Computer Games Help Children Learn (New York: Palsgrave MacMIllan, 2006) and Quantitative Ethnography(Madison, WI: Cathcart Press, 2017).



Date of Event 
03 Oct 2017
Event Leader 
Professor David Williamson Shaffer
Paterson's Land, Room 1.21, Moray House School of Education
Research Area 
Data Society
Digital Cultures
Event type