Friday, August 14, 2015

GoldSim in the Academic Community

Posted by Ryan Roper

Most of you are probably aware that GoldSim is used for a wide variety of commercial applications including mine water balance, water resource management, radioactive waste management, project planning and risk and reliability analysis. There are active commercial users in over 50 countries ( In addition to these, however, we have another group of users that you may not be aware of: the academic community. There are GoldSim academic licenses at about 150 universities in over 40 different countries.

Academic users include professors and graduate students working on research projects and also students using GoldSim in their coursework (see a description of our academic and research license). As an example of the latter, at the Wharton School of Business (University of Pennsylvania), Professor Lorin Hitt (see also) has been using GoldSim in his Introduction to Operations and Information Management (OPIM 101) course for the last 8 years. This course includes a six-session module on simulation where they explore Monte Carlo, systems dynamics and discrete event simulation using GoldSim.

According to the course description, "OPIM 101 explores a variety of common quantitative modeling problems that arise frequently in business settings, and discusses how they can be formally modeled and solved with a combination of business insight and computer-based tools. The key topics covered include capacity management, service operations, inventory control, structured decision making, constrained optimization and simulation...".

Professor Hitt recently provided some interesting feedback regarding the typical student “learning curve” with GoldSim. He noted that 20 to 30% of students pick up GoldSim almost immediately while the majority (60-70%) follow a more gradual path to competence. A relatively small percentage (about 10%) struggle to pick it up. He reports that one of the most helpful resources for learning GoldSim has been the 'Jason Buys a Bike' example (go to Help|Tutorial... in GoldSim to see this example). He says that having the students first replicate existing models and then build off of those models (incorporating things they are learning over the span of 3 or 4 weeks) seems to work well.

This is great feedback and is quite timely, as we are currently greatly expanding the Tutorial into an entire (free) online course.  We hope to complete this before the end of the year.

Some interesting projects that Hitt's students have worked on include the following:

- Simulating the effects of different appointment intervals in a doctor’s office subject to random interruptions (e.g., drug reps, emergency calls)

- Simulating an amusement park to understand the impact of offering different priorities to customers in line (similar to the Universal Express program at the Universal Studios Theme Parks)

- Simulating airport screening and the impact of allowing regular customers into the TSA pre-check lines when the line in pre-check is short

Professor Hitt says that using GoldSim in his course provides "...a richer experience than teaching Monte-Carlo simulation alone, which is what a lot of business schools do." He also said that using a graphical application such as GoldSim provides " opportunity to help students understand programming practice without having to get tied up in the syntax of a programming language."

We provide GoldSim to students and instructors for free, so if you know of any academic institutions who might be able to make use of GoldSim, let them know!  We love to see students get excited about simulation and GoldSim.

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