The L&D Forum

Business simulation games for learning is something that was talked about this morning in a webinar run by the Learning and Skills group led by Brightwave. Simulations in learning have been used for years in the traditional classroom environment. In recent years, their use has become more prominent in the digital learning space. It’s an important area to bear in mind when it comes to the learning mix.

What options are available for experiential digital learning?

There are a range of options available to include experiential learning in digital. The use of video continues to grow and alongside this, more people are turning their hand to interactive videos. Branching game narratives are another way of submersing learners in digital learning. These allow learners to have an element of control and personalisation by selecting options which lead to different outcomes. Business simulation games for learning are part of the digital experiential learning mix.

Why Simulations?

The quote from Sopocles is true. Giving people the opportunity to practice what they’ve learned is essential to embedding knowledge and skills. The closer this is to the real world the better. Simulations allow a story to be created with characters that learners can connect with and relate to. There is also a big gain in how simulations accelerate the learning experience, lead to a better transfer of skills and increase knowledge retention. According to a report in 2016 by Ambient Insights, a predictive analytics marketing research company, simulations are a growing field. They predict a growth in worldwide revenue from simulation-based learning by 17% to $11m by 2021. If we’re not already seeing the use of business simulation games in our organisations, there’s a need to keep our eye on them for the not too distant future.

 

What is the difference between games and simulations?

The webinar included some great discussions about the difference between games and simulations. Some said that games created the impression of fun and being optional whilst on the other hand simulations created the impression of practice. There were some views that suggested simulations tend to always have a desired learning outcomes where this was not always the case for games. There was also a suggestion that in many cases they are identical with an agreement between many that the language being used to describe the activity was important. Think about times when you have delivered training yourself or seen someone else in action. There is a distinct difference in the reaction from groups when you say ‘let’s play a game’ to ‘let’s put our skills into practice.  A quote from Elliott Masie, a producer, author and learning technology expert hit the point home well. He said, ‘You can have a game that’s not a simulation and a simulation that’s not a game, but when you get one that does both, it’s a real kick-ass situation’.

 

A simulation example

Simulations are important to us here at DPG and were particularly relevant when we created an online only version of our CIPD Level 5 Human Resources programme. Delivering a programme purely online that has traditionally been delivered using a workshop approach and is focussed on people skills is a challenge. Whilst our programme has lots of personable support through a dedicated personal facilitator, specialist facilitators in virtual classrooms as well as a community of practice to bring people together, it was incredibly important that our digital content engaged those on our programmes. We created a business district simulation where a range of characters from a variety of organisations in different sectors regularly appear and challenge learners to put their knowledge and skills into practice. If you haven’t seen this yet, take a look by clicking the image to watch a short video on what we’ve done. It might give you some ideas for your own simulations.

 

Tips for setting up simulations

The tips covered at the end of the webinar resonated with me when I consider the journey we’ve been through to develop our own business simulations here at DPG. There was talk of an agile process, building prototypes, engaging with a test audience, gathering feedback along the way and making adaptations in an iterative way. Other tips included:

  • Don’t over complicate
  • Shorter is better than longer
  • Manage competitive elements so they don’t overwhelm the learning aims
  • Design for replay so that people can have several goes if they wish

Over to you now. What experience have you got of business simulation games? I’m interested to hear about digital examples in addition to simulations you’ve experienced in the traditional classroom environment.

Is this something you’re working on in your organisation or have seen in use before? I’d love to hear your thoughts on business simulation games for learning.

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