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SIMPLE: innovative learning across the professions

UKCLE funded project

Project team: Paul Maharg (Glasgow Graduate School of Law), Patricia McKellar (UKCLE), Michael Hughes and Scott Walker (Learning Technologies Development Unit, Glasgow Graduate School of Law)
Project contact: Patricia McKellar (e-mail:
Project summary: development of an open source transactional learning environment for learning in law and other professions
Completion date: July 2008 – taken forward by the SIMPLE Community
Funding: £200,000 (£100,000 from the JISC e-Learning innovation programme)

Project latest: SIMPLE wins award for innovation in e-assessment | Evaluating SIMPLE’s accessibility (JISC TechDis HEAT project)

SIMPLE, the SIMulated Professional Learning Environment, is an open source teaching, learning and assessment environment. SIMPLE supports the creation of a virtual town where students engage in authentic simulations of professional transactions. Learners are sited in a professional context, where their work is, as it will be in the workplace, distributed between tools, colleagues, resources, anticipated and unanticipated problems, and individual constructions of knowledge and experience. They are able to develop links and liaisons with each other and to practise the collegiality, networking, values and community building within and between professions that exists within actual workplaces.

The SIMPLE project built on the transactional learning environment in use for several years at Glasgow Graduate School of Law (GGSL), where students simulated legal transactions in Ardcalloch, a virtual town. The application has received several awards – in May 2009 SIMPLE was designated best simulation toolkit in the IMS 2009 Global Learning Impact Awards and in September received the innovation in e-assessment award at the Scottish e-Assessment Awards.

Following completion of the project a number of institutions have become part of SIMPLE’s ‘second wave’, and a SIMPLE community of practice is emerging – not only in the UK but internationally – see the SIMPLE Community for the latest developments.

SIMPLE has two components:

  1. SIMPLE tools – used to design and build simulations. The tools are contained within an application called the narrative event diagram or NED, which allows the author to create a simulation blueprint containing the roles, resources and structure of the simulation itself.
  2. SIMPLE platform – an online office environment within which the simulations run, including templates and resources to provide context and content (for example a map and business directory for a virtual town). The simulation blueprint is deployed within the platform in order to run the simulation.

SIMPLE can be used by most professions. During 2007-08 it was piloted in five law schools, with further pilots in departments of architecture, management science and social work. The SIMPLE launch event took place on 9-10 June 2008, and the SIMPLE project final report as well as the application itself are available from the SIMPLE Community.

SIMPLE resources

SIMPLE law case studies

Five law schools participated in the SIMPLE project, piloting SIMPLE across a range of courses during 2007-08. The case studies each give a frank account of building and running a simulation with SIMPLE, plus comments on the software and advice to new users:

Last Modified: 4 June 2010