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EDTEC650_STELLA Artifact:
EDTEC 650 System Dynamics Flow Diagram

Related Artifacts:
Module Logic; Simulation Chart

Go to EDTEC 650 Assignments website

In EDTEC 650: Distance Education, I created a system dynamic model using STELLA from Isee Systems Company. I constructed a simple model to translate the basic concepts of attitude-treatment interaction (ATI) theory; formulated equations to the show the quantitative relationship between various variables; created graphic simulation charts; and scripted a short story to walk users through the system dynamics model I constructed.

Project Description

The main purpose of learning the system dynamics approach was to understand the complexity of a range of phenomena that did not lend themselves to simple cause-and-effect relations. Since parts of a complex system were inter-related to each other, it is often too complicated to analyze with only the human brain. The computer simulation software introduced in EDTEC 650 showed me how to think systematically and play what-if scenario easily.

Purposes of the assignment were to
  • Learn an alternative research methodology other than descriptive study;
  • Practice on how to think systematically;
  • Visualize system thinking with dynamic graphics;
  • Get familiar with the computer simulation software, STELLA.

  • My processes for creating the simulation model were:
  • Find an appropriate topic that was complex but manageable for me. I chose a paragraph that described the ATI theory and tried to explain the ideas of the paragraph using simulation software.
  • Draw a casual loop and flow diagrams to define relationships between variables of the topic.
  • Formulate the equations and assign initial value for each stock.
  • Create graph pad and run the simulation.
  • Build script for viewers’ guide.

  • The main focus of my practice on system dynamics and simulation software was not how well I could interpret ATI theory; instead, it was about how I could visualize an abstract concept.

    Demonstrating Systems Standard

    Throughout the assignment, I have demonstrated mastery of systems standard: "Understand that we live and work within systems of cause and effect in which actions may have multiple origins and consequences". The theory of system dynamics is an approach to understand the complexity of phenomena that was not formed by simple cause-and-effect relations such as teaching and learning results. While practiced using STELLA, I have analyzed ATI theory, tried to derived each cause-and-effect relations existed among its elements.

    Problems & Opportunities Encountered

    The first problem I encountered while constructing the model was to find materials that introduce the theory of system dynamics. First, it seems to me, the theory is not about or for education. After I found the resource from System Dynamics in Education Project at Sloan School of Management in MIT, I learned that system dynamics is a method of study. It deals with complex changes over time. Education is an important area of its application. In other words, system dynamics is about how to think systematically in any complex inquiry, not only for the education domain.

    The second problem I encountered while completing the assignment was to figure out how to use STELLA. STELLA online tutorial provided the first steps. However, it still took a while to fit my topic to the guidelines. A major confusion for me was how to formulate equations and assign initial value of stocks. The constants in equations were supposed to be scientific estimations, but it was difficult to find figures from previous studies. My solution was to input numbers chosen, hopefully, by reasonable guesses.

    Lessons Learned

    The project enabled me to learn that
  • a descriptive topic could be examined using system dynamics model just like Dr. Saba (1994) examined the transactional distance from Michael Moore’s;
  • the building of a flow diagram in system dynamics model is similar to constructing a concept map; and
  • if we input data gathered through Flanders Interaction Analysis for classroom observation, it would be easier to discover the pattern, the weakness, and the strength of a teacher.

  • By the end of the assignment, I think I was still a novice at system dynamics. However, I had a macro view on how to use technology to scaffold systematic thinking.