• Shouldn’t vocational action competences be acquired by actually applying them?
  • How can mistakes become the basis for improvement if there is no safe place to commit them?
  • How can mastering complex real world situations be taught in a classroom?

Within the framework of the project PharmaSim, we liaise with teachers of pharmacy assistants in order to find innovative answers to these challenges.

For students, the virtual pharmacy is a safe place to try, fail and build vocational action competencies.


I think this learning opportunity trains school knowledge and practical skills very well and you are not as stressed as when operating in real

anonymous, 1st year pharmacy assistant apprentice

For teachers and educational policy makers, it can offer invaluable insight regarding the proven needs of the learners.


This virtual activity provides many great impulses for my ordinary teaching in the classroom

anonymous, vocational school teacher

We have conducted a first pilot scenario, in which a customer introduces himself in the pharmacy asking for suggestions to treat the illness of his child. To advise the customer in the best possible way, apprentices have to gather relevant information from different resources in the environment (e.g. discussions with the customer, a learning journal or a drug compendium) and make appropriate conclusions.

User interface of the PharmaSim environment displaying its main components: (a) discussion with the customer using drop-down questions, (b) pharmacist providing hints on demand after preset time intervals, (c) drug compendium containing the most relevant medicine for the activity, (d) shelf with products relevant for the activity and their information, (e) drawer with a learning documentation describing different learning topics such as child diseases, (f) button to suggest a solution to the customer in written form


We are currently analyzing the apprentices’ interaction logs using data mining methods to better understand individual learning behavior in digital SBL environments. This could eventually promote personalized learning experiences and help more apprentices to attain the intended learning outcomes. This is crucial in order to provide learning experiences that are not only fun but also pedagogically meaningful.