Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Communications and Arts


Education and Arts

First Advisor

Professor Mark McMahon

Second Advisor

Professor Joe Luca


Problem-based learning is an instructional strategy that emphasises active and experiential learning through problem-solving activity. Using gaming technologies to embed this approach in a three-dimensional (3D) simulation environment provides users with a dynamic, responsive, visually engaging, and cost effective learning experience. Representing real world problems in 3D simulation environments develops knowledge and skills that are applicable to their resolution.

The Simulation, User, and Problem-based Learning (SUPL) Design Framework was developed to inform the design of learning environments which develop problem-solving knowledge for real world application. This framework identifies design factors relative to the user, the problem-solving task, and the 3D simulation environment which facilitate the transfer, development, and application of problem-solving knowledge. To assess the validity of the SUPL Design Framework, the Fires in Underground Mines Evacuation Simulator (FUMES) was developed to train mining personnel in emergency evacuation procedures at the Challenger gold mine in South Australia. Two groups of participants representing experienced and novice personnel were utilised to ascertain the effectiveness of FUMES as a training platform in this regard.

Findings demonstrated that FUMES accurately represented emergency evacuation scenarios in the Challenger mine. Participants were able to utilise existing real world knowledge in FUMES to resolve emergency evacuation problem-solving tasks and develop new knowledge. The effectiveness of the SUPL Design Framework was also demonstrated, as was the need to design learning environments to meet the learning needs of users rather than merely as static simulations of real world problems. A series of generalisable design guidelines were also established from these findings which could be applied to design problem-based learning simulations in other training contexts.