Free Engineering Technology Simulations for Learning

Engineering Technology is and always will be a growing field.  It is what sparks innovation in the manufacturing industry and drives economic success.  Eastern Iowa Community Colleges recognized this and sought a Department of Labor grant that aimed to teach engineering concepts in an innovative way.  Enter Lucid Way; an online training and elearning company in Moline, IL.

Owner at Lucid Way, Tim Hunter explained that “It’s a capstone project of everything we do as a company. Projects like this are challenging, creative, fun, and rewarding.  By helping a person or school with these hard to understand topics in engineering, we are in a lot of ways helping our own future.” Lucid Way was an integral part of designing the online instructional delivery at the college.

The project takes simple STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) subjects that are normally taught with a chalkboard or a book, and transforms them into an interactive 3D model that explains the inner workings of various engineering technology topics.  The website has over 150 simulations that can be downloaded or embedded into a learning management system, website, or be viewed on a classroom project.  Everything is free and is available under a Creative Commons license.

The Associate in Applied Science Degree at EICC is designed so that roughly the first three semesters are identical and students can take courses at any of the three colleges. In the final semester, the student has the choice of specializing in four different areas: Automation, Electro/Mechanical, Process Control or Renewable Energy.  These courses are delivered with a hybrid approach that works for both people in the workforce and full time students. The courses are offered through the online platform of the Iowa Community College Online Consortium (ICCOC), and a classroom/hands-on lab environment.  Students can enter the course at any given time throughout the year and instructors are available every day and night to help the students with their lab work. This unique approach allows students to complete the courses around their own schedules, but also get the personal face-to-face contact with instructors that is often lacking in fully online courses.

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The engineer technology website offers over 150 engineering simulations and is free to use and distribute.

Competency-Based Training: What Do you Already Know?

Competency-Based Training: What Do you Already Know?

Competency-based training models allow learners to demonstrate what they know and move on if they already know the material.  I’m sure you’ve sat in a class before thinking to yourself “I know this stuff already!” Many organizations allow you to test out of certain courses but, in most cases you have to take the whole course even if you know it.  So the idea of competency-based training models is viable – and even more-so in the current educational and training landscape.

How Competency-based Training Models Work

The short answer is, it depends.  I say this because some subjects lend themselves better to competency-based testing than others.  Of course there are some politics involved as well such as standards, articulation to colleges or certifications, butts in seats, and of course money.  Generally, though there is no subject matter that someone could not “test out” of if the test is developed correctly.  This is easier said than done.  We’ll look at some of the obvious coursework that lends itself to competency-based testing.

  • Programming (computer science)
  • Micro-computer applications (MS Office)
  • Skills based (forklift operations, overhead crane operation)
  • Electro-Mechanical (knowledge of electrical systems, mechanical operations, hydraulics)
  • etc.

You should get the idea from the list above.  The student who can demonstrate they already know the material can test out and move on without taking the class.  They are also performance based subjects and it is very easy to distinguish if the student does not know the material.  You simply give them a task to complete, a scenario, or a project and perhaps a written test to demonstrate competency.

The Test

The test has to be based on the main objectives or the certification standards that the course is trying to achieve.  In the actual classroom, the instructor should be basing everything they do on their goals and objectives of the course.  So for competency-based models, the test could be the same test that is given in the classroom.  If the student passes that test, they are demonstrating they know the material and should not need to go through the entire classroom course. If the test is not designed correctly, it renders the competency-based model unreliable.  This is why test design is crucial to “testing out.”


For companies, it reduces training costs if they hired a skilled worker who says they already know the material, and that company could validate the fact that they do.  In terms of workforce development for a college or vocational school, competency based training models get unemployed workers back into the workforce faster.




The Cognitive Domain – Brain Power

The Cognitive domain includes objectives that are related to information or knowledge. This is the domain which receives the most attention of all three domains. The cognitive domain includes objectives related to information or knowledge, naming, solving, predicting, and other intellectual aspects of learning. (Kemp, Morrison, Ross).

Benjamin Bloom categorized the cognitive domain into two sub-domains for writing objectives.

1) Simple Recall or Knowledge – Define, duplicate, list, memorize, recall, repeat, reproduce, etc.
2) Intellectual Activities – Comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

See the illustration below.

the coginitive domain


* The challenge here is to direct learners out of the lowest cognitive level of recalling information, and into the five higher intellectual levels. This is all achieved through your objectives and activities used to achieve the objective.

Global Learners – Learning Style

Global Learners

  • Students who fall into this category tend to absorb the material at random- seeing no connections until out of nowhere “getting it” and experiencing “AH-HA!” moments.
  • They may be able to solve complex problems after they have “gotten it” but tend to have difficulty explaining how they did it.


To accommodate this learning style, instructors may include a summary of what is to be learned before the lesson. Instructors may also help students make relationships between the material and the students’ life. This may help the student to grasp the information more quickly.

  1. Sequential and Global Learning Styles

Sequential Learners – Learning Style

Sequential Learners

  • Students who fall into this category prefer to learn in steps- each building upon the previous step.
  • They tend to learn better when logical stepwise paths lead to the solution.



To accommodate this learning style, instructors may incorporate step by step procedures or linear information building blocks with each block adding on to the previous block.


  1. Sequential and Global Learning Styles

Verbal Learners – Learning Style

Verbal Learners

  • Students who fall into this category tend to learn better from words- written and spoken.
  • To accommodate this learning style, instructors may incorporate more auditory activities that are usually come in the form of a PowerPoint presentation with audio, and video with audio. Learning simulations also can incorporate audio along with text.
  • It should be noted that everyone learns better when presented with both video and audio.
  1. Visual and Verbal Learning Styles