Helping others with using simulations

Of late, I’ve been working with the Higher Education Academy once more, developing more resources for their excellent New to Teaching Toolkit site. This is intended to help those with less experience develop their own practice in a supported way. I’ve mirrored my contributions on my own site (How to do simulation games), itself built on an earlier HEA project.

As I’ve discussed elsewhere, this all feeds into some bigger questions that I’ve been considering of late on how to make resources on simulations that others can usefully use. The tension falls between simulations’ endless flexibility and the need for specific help for specific needs. I suggested a number of ways to overcome this in the linked paper, but I’ve also explored some other options in these new resources.

Firstly, I’ve built up an FAQ, based on the kinds of queries that I’ve encountered over the years. Compiling the list was an interesting task in itself and I hope you’d agree that I’ve not shirked the hard questions, such as “what’s the point?” and “isn’t it a lot of work?” As you’ll see from my answers, I’ve put these kinds of questions in not just to provoke, but also to help sketch out the limits to the use of simulations: like any pedagogy, they are better for some things than others and it’s better for everyone to appreciate that.

Moreover, an FAQ potentially helps to build connections with the user, in that it can suggest an empathy with their situation. I wouldn’t overstate this, since I’ve not had much feedback yet, but it does offer another way into using simulations that is less formal or rigid and which so let’s people address their concerns.

The second big step for me is the use of video. As I’ve noted before, I think I have a face for blogging, but I wanted to try video as a different medium of communication. On the downside, the density of information is relatively low, and without a transcript it can be hard to take structured notes (I should note that the HEA versions will have a transcript attached). However, it does have a number of advantages.

The most notable benefit is that it literally puts a face on the material and gives non-verbal cues to the user. As such, it mixes up the text and gives variety to the content that different users will be able to engage with. Beyond this, it opens up new spaces for discussion and response. For my part, it has required a different formulation of my ideas, which might be helpful in communicating my basic messages.

Taken together, I hope that these new materials will help users. Until the HEA site is up, I don’t expect much feedback, but I’ll be looking forward to getting it, so that I can think some more about how to move on to even more resources, whose form I can only guess at right now. If you have suggestions, then I’m all ears.