Regardless of age, experience, or topic, using simulations is a mind-opening opportunity that helps develop skills and awake users to active learning. Whether you’re simulating a critical strategy in a business simulation, or you’re soaring at 30,000 feet in a flight simulator, there are common objectives and hurdles one faces.
In order to win in game-based learning simulations, learners are tasked with understanding the system, navigating it, and figuring out a strategy to succeed. In this article, we are going to provide educators with some pragmatic mechanisms and give learners food for thought in rising above the challenges and obstacles they are likely to face.
What to do first?
There are six pieces of advice that educators should give to their learners. One should seriously take this guidance at the start of a business simulation so that they are best prepared for what will come.
The guidance is:
- To assess the terms, rules and objective of the simulation, including the length or duration (rounds, time, days), the ultimate goal, the way in which the game will be observed or moderated, and whether teammates will be physically present or working remotely.
- To consider the game as a marathon and not a sprint, understanding that long term sustainable success will yield greater results than short-term gains.
- Take time to assess all of the aspects of the simulation. For a business simulation, explore marketing, reports, R&D, finance, or any other components, and try to understand their relationships to the mechanics of the game.
- Be ready to pivot at any time, because no strategy is foolproof and circumstances can change in a split-second. Adaptability will triumph over stubbornness.
- The market outlook and trend forecasting should never be underestimated in a simulation game. Keeping one eye on the changes ahead will help students to be prepared for all outcomes.
- To understand the value of collaboration and teamwork. Not everyone can be a leader and delegating to roles and responsibilities will result in a strong equilibrium.
Team collaboration and the division of labour
Collaboration is, in effect, the art of working as a team to produce a desired set of results. In the case of business simulations, that result is a victory, or, so you would think. In fact, seeing only the victory as the purpose of the collaboration is short-sighted and will more likely cause failure.
Collaboration in simulation games is about all participants knowing their roles and what they must bring to the table to support one another and allow for balance and positive synergies.
Knowing all of this, here are three things educators need to do to guide learners through the teamwork obstacle:
- Remind them that they are not in competition with each other
- Ensure that everyone feels heard and that they can communicate openly
- Confirm that people know and understand their roles and can talk through any breakdowns or gaps in knowledge
Strategic pits and peaks
We mentioned before that a team must have a willingness to pivot, and that’s because there will be unexpected events along the way that test things such as adaptability, flexibility, and critical decision making.
Remember, diamonds are formed under pressure, so paradoxically the greatest victories and opportunities to learn in a simulation game are most commonly experienced during the part where the toughest struggles or greatest hurdles appeared.
In any game, nothing is learned from coasting along in first place, in fact, it is the person or team that evolves their strategy, changes direction when an option narrows and is willing to take calculated risks that will ultimately make great gains.
Many simulation games come equipped with fantastic reporting software that can assess how a player or team performed during the game, pulling up insightful graphs, round-by-round details, and statistics on what happened.
As we know, hindsight is a wonderful thing, so when it comes to guiding learners through the simulation hurdles, we are more interested in rigorous in-game analysis. What we want learners to consider is that every move they make will have consequences, there are forks in the road and they are choosing one of them.
Knowing that each decision leads in a different direction, players have to collaborate to analyse all of the variables in order to go in the direction they want. If the direction they want is closed or looks to be more and more improbable, they need to analyse the next best options. Being familiar with the in-game statistics and reporting is vital to progress.
Educational studies and research have found that experiential learning techniques which practice the application of knowledge and train people in a targeted activity are the most effective vehicles for learning. Developed with the intention of implementing realistic scenarios in virtual environments allowing the players to multiply the learning benefits and reach new goals, simulation games engage participants by blending technology, gaming, and relevant topics.
As we suggested at the start of this article, whatever simulator selected, there are common goals and objectives. Try to maximise profit and sustainable growth may suffer as a result, just the same as if you try and fly the aeroplane at full throttle for the whole flight, it could run out of fuel.
What educators need to help learners understand is that learning itself is a hurdle, it’s a marathon, it takes strategy, dedication, resources, acceptance, leadership, teamwork, willingness to pivot and more of the things we commonly see in simulation games. Much like any one of these things cannot be fully relied upon as a strategy, we must help learners to find balance in order to find success.
Simulation games are designed to complement the learners, but they should not become dependent on them. No pilot can learn to fly from a flight simulator, just as any business student cannot pass a degree just by playing business simulation games. We must acquire technical and problem-related knowledge from our educational processes, and then find ways to apply it and solidify the learning.