Monday, 1 November 2004

Online Role Play Simulation Design - 2

This is the second of a series of posts on creating online role play simulation. The first post on how we normally run an online role play simulation is here.

In this post, I shall describe how to create an engaging and effective online role play simulation.

Role play simulation is similar to Problem-Based Learning (PBL) with some similarities and differences. In role play, we create an instructional problem and put the players in the shoes of the stakeholders and let them work out how to solve a problem. The main differences between an instruction problem in PBL and role play are:

  • In most PBL designs, the instructional problem is solved from a single viewpoint. When collaborative techniques are used, the team is still working as one solution provider. However, in role play simulation, we deliberately put different stakeholder view points into direct conflict and each stakeholder is trying to find the best possible solution for that stakeholder. In a way, there is no SINGLE one correct or acceptable solution.

  • As noted in the previous post, one of the first task the players are asked to do is the role profile. Part of the role profile is do articulate the public and private agenda from the point of view of the persona. In a way, the learners are asked to construct their own problem relevant to the situation. This is a fairly high level skill in order to form a comprehensive understanding of the situation as presented in the brief scenario and formulate a strategic game goal for the persona.

  • Most PBL problems are fixed in the sense that a solution is required for the problems posted. In role play, we acknowledge that the stakeholder stance (i.e. both the public and private agenda for the persona) may evolve as a result of the interactions among the persona in the role play (e.g. a stakeholder may choose to alliance with a previous competitor in order to achieve some immediate benefit and then revert back into competition later.

  • So how are we going about to create an engaging role play simulation?

    Defining Appropriate Learning Objectives
    Some learning objectives are better delivered by other learning designs. We need to identify those that are suitable for role play simulation. (We should avoid looking at ALL problems as nails. We should have different tools in our toolbox, more than just hammer. BTW, hammer is the best tool to drive a nail into a block of wood!)

    We always recommend our designers to write down the learning objectives we would like to achieve and we shall refer back to these as our guiding principle in making design decisions.

    Scenario Design
    We then try to articulate a circumstantial situation in which the required skills need to be used. This is going to be a recursive design in which refinement will be made as the design progresses.

    Stakeholder View Points
    Instead of going directly to visualize persona in the given scenario, it is better to start with some general stakeholder viewpoint and identify the similarities and differences among these stakeholders. You may find that some stakeholders may have similar viewpoint which we may combine or a stakeholder group may have subtle differences which we want to explore further.

    Identify Persona (Roles)
    A role may represent more than one stakeholder viewpoint. You can be a parent as well as teacher. This happens in normal life and should happen in role play simulation as well. Sometimes a role may represent both conflicting stakeholder interests too! (Obviously, such roles are more sophisticated and would be better played by your more able learners.) Sometimes, a stakeholder viewpoint may be played by several roles too. This is where flexibility may be built to accommodate different cohort sizes.

    Kick-start Episode
    As mentioned in the previous post, the roles need compelling reasons to act. Role play is also like a game. By giving compelling game goals, the player can get into the simulation much easier. We may create several kick-start episodes and have some in our sleeves in case the simulation needs more “fuel” in order to burn faster!

    Interaction Space and the Social Relationship Among the Persona
    As the name suggests, Interaction Space (iSpaces as we call them in Fablusi) are spaces where interactions occur. The social relationship will define whether a role has access to a certain iSpace or not, or to what level of rights the role may have in that iSpace. For example, if we implement an iSpace called “Women’s room”, we would expect only the female roles will have access to that space and all the male role may not know that such an iSpace has existed. In other words, not every role should be aware of every conversation that may have happened. This is also a key to give some role more power over the other roles.

    Role play simulation design should not be a linear design. All the above “steps” can occur simultaneously and repeated several times during the design cycle. As we continue to refine, we may also find ourselves re-defining the learning objectives, because we may find that design may cover some other learning objectives we have not envisage before, or we may have to drop some learning objectives as the scenario does provide sufficient exposure of the issues to the learners.

    Writing the role profile and the role summary at the beginning and near the end of the simulation are obvious tasks that we can set in the simulation. Other tasks, such as publication of news letter, presentation of a business proposal to the board of directors, undergoing an auditing process and writing up the auditing reports are tasks that we can set in the simulation to give a deadline for the persona in order to set the pace of the progression. These may also be assessable items too.

    We have a design worksheet (this is going to be replaced by a newer version reflecting the new changes in Version 2 of Fablusi) which you may like to have a look as well. The worksheet will be sent to your email when you try to get it. I'll write here when there is a newer version.

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