Saturday, November 14, 2015

On simulations

One of the presentations this week in EDDE 803 was from a fellow classmate that talked a bit about simulations.  In the ensuing discussion I was reminded of a course I took as part of my MBA which used simulations.  I thought that this would be a worthwhile post for here (as well as class) - at the very least it's one chronicle of my learning journey prior to the EdD.

Queue flashback visuals and music
When I was doing my MBA, one of my courses was a supply chain management course (fun with math and probability). One of the course activities was for us to break up into groups of 4 (so we had 4-5 groups in the course) and we were manager of a widget making factory. We needed to pick production size, route to retail, and predict demand (given certain finite factors) in different stores. The goals was (of course) to maximize profit. The game sort of looked like SimCity - sort of-, so for some of us it was also a bit of nostalgia (having grown up with that game). The game is pictured to the right and can be found here.

I think at the heart of things this was a really interesting, and potentially potent, activity, and it had potential to be awesome except for the stipulation that the most profitable team would get an A, the second most profitable a B+, the third most profitable a B, and so on. This was actually quite demotivational and it lead to errors made due to panic and fear that we would be last in the class. This means that some calculations may have been sloppy - leading to choosing the least optimal path, and it lead to some team-members hijacking the game settings instead of reaching consensus - the "I know better approach".

In retrospect, thinking about game-based principles - specifically the ability to allow players to fail and restart without penalty, and keeping in mind that not everyone likes competition, I think this activity would have been better if designed differently. Having such high stakes doesn't allow for creative solutions to be conceived. Raising the stress level might simulate 'reality' but I also think it makes for a poor learning environment when you are a novice.

In the end, the instructor didn't give grades lower than a B on the assignment (if I recall correctly), but I still think it was a missed opportunity for something more extraordinary.
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