Tuesday, 29 November 2005

Adoption of Role Play Simulation

by Jo McKensie, Shirley Alexander, Carly Harper and Susan Anderson.

On page 93 to 105 (page number of the text in the pdf), there is a quite detailed description of how Dr Vincent Andrew's original design of role play simulation for Teaching Middle East Politics were adopted by some universities both in Australia and USA. However, there are some factual inaccuracies.

I understand that in 1994, Dr. Vincent Andrew has already been running the Middle East Political simulations for many years (started in late 1980s). The original model of Dr Vincent's approach can further be traced back to the simulation, SIMSOC, which was developed by William Gamson at the University of Michigan in the 1970's [reference] which also uses a pen and pencil with human runners to conduct social simulations. The CAUL funding should not be considered as the "seed" or start of the innovation.

The update of role play simulation by US Army (their War College to be correct) was not due to the effort of Dr Vincent, nor the activities within Australia or USA universities. Before the formation of Fablusi P/L with Roni Linser, I have been actively promoting Fablusi (trademarked and was owned by Digital Learning Systems P/L) for many years. Roni Linser was the first Fablusi customer! (Fablusi was developed as an online role play simulation generator, instead of specific simulations, because I did not want to put in the roles, scenarios etc. for Roni and I wanted him to do his part!) When USAWC wanted to start the strategic experiential education group, I have email exchanges with the then project leader which helped to convince him to use text-based role play instead of modelling their strategic learning experience using massively parallel multi players online worlds. Today, USAWC is one of Fablusi's major customer.

The initial commitment and effort to create role play simulation has been greatly reduced with the Fablusi software. As noted in the report, Roni claimed to be able to create a simulation in a couple of hours. The Fablusi Lite, to be released later next year, will further reduce that time to minutes.

One of the reasons of huge time commitment by academics to run simulation may be accounted for by the engaging nature of the role play simulation. They are having fun moderating the simulations themselves, and like the students taking part in playing the roles, time just passed unnoticed.

There is real concern of the lack of proper assessment model for role play simulation from a traditional "educational measurement" angle. However, the overwhelming survey responses from the students have been very positive. The complex range of learning that have been facilitated by the role play simulation may be the reason for the lack of an assessment model. Role play simulation is NOT about memorisation of facts. It is about understanding and acquisition of high level skills which most educational measurement instruments do not measure properly.

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