Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Thinking Person's Sims for Business and Education

Podcast., a developer of simulations and serious games for business and education, offers a role-playing experience that puts less emphasis on graphics and effects and more on theory and educational support. For example, Sockeyes, a game in which the player assumes the role of the general manager of a Canadian hockey team, forces the player to make decisions, as it also forces the player to live with ambiguity and multiple outcomes, where the unstated but very real behind-the-scenes goal is to develop a survival strategy for whatever decision or outcome one might experience. As maddening as "there are no right or wrong answers" sounds, such lack of closure or certainty models the way things tend to be in the real world.

Sockeyes does not offer "extreme" animation, but uses an effective level of flash animation which is hosted on ExperiencePoint's servers, which makes it possible for the player to avoid bulky downloads.

There is a very modest amount of voiceover (in a cute Canadian accent), which contributes to the sim's quirky appeal. Further, the possible outcomes are sketched out, but the are largely left to the player's imagination. Sockeyes presents a set of scenarios, asks the player to make a decision, and, instead of seeing the sim unfold graphically before one's eyes, one is presented with text. The focus is not on the outcome, but on the factors that will influence and shape the decision-making process.

With an emphasis on process, rather than outcome, ExperiencePoint simulations challenge the players to become aware of their own thoughts, and the reasons or rationales for the decisions. In this sense, the process seems to have more in common with cognitive therapy and/or meta-cognitive analysis than Sim City. ExperiencePoint offers simulations in change management, health care management, corporate responsibility, project leadership, case studies.

One can check out Sockeyes here:

Health care, change management, and case study simulations by ExperiencePoint are very robust, and have more sophisticated graphics and animations.

Experience Point has made a few holiday-themed simulations available. They are quite entertaining, and yet they help the players develop very transferable skills.

Negotiation at the North Pole. Welcome to the North Pole! It's after the holidays and Santa, Paul the Elf, and Blitzen are thinking about trading gifts they received. See if you can broker a gift exchange that maximizes overall good cheer!

Santa's Little Helper: Santa, fueled by the octane of Reality TV, has created a competition to find a new protege. You are a finalist and must manage a rag-tag team of previous cast offs in one last task. It won't be easy, but if you succeed you will earn a plum salary, sweet benefits, and the title of "Santa's Little Helper"!

For individuals and institutions who want a customized learning experience and game design, a new gaming/simulation environment will be available in higher education.

XplanaSim has a unique sim-authoring tool that allows clients to easily create their own, customized games. The basic structure is provided, but users can add and delete nodes, thereby constructing their own decision tree. Each node can be customized by adding various media, titles, and decision options. (from the product flyer).

Simulations and serious games that are flexible enough to support hybrid as well as 100% online delivery have the advantage of appealing to multiple learning styles, facilitating collaboration, motivating the participants, and providing a repository of documents, articles, and objects that can be utilized in future situations or scenarios.

XplanaSim episodes are created using a Flash-based role-playing simulation engine: there is no proprietary downloading necessary. XplanaSim can integrate with LMS platforms. All major types of meda are supported.

Using a flash-based simulation approach is very effective. The simulation is self-contained, and so does not require multiple players. The fact that simulations are built in flash, which can be easily integrated with instant messaging, bulletin boards or blogs, makes them perfect in conjunction with e-books and/or webinars. It also works well where access is not completely reliable, and a high-speed internet connection is not a given.

To be most effective, a simulation or serious game really does need some sort of collaboration, whether virtually (through the discussion board, e-mail, skype, etc.) or face-to-face.

XplanaSim will be available through Xplana Learning.

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