The persistent gap in simulation design literature

About eight years ago, I wrote the following:

….there remains a severe lack of basic ‘how-to’ guides (whether grounded in higher pedagogic theory or not); instead, the typical process of spreading use of simulations is by word of mouth and the adaptation of existing models to new situations. 

I was arguing that while there was a metric tonne of individual case studies of the ‘show and tell’ type and another pile of more theoretical musings on the nature and purpose of simulation games, there was a gap in-between.

The theory pieces were great for that paragraph at the top of your paper for justifying ‘why simulations’ but didn’t tell you how to go about actually doing one, while the ‘show and tell’ stuff sometimes gave you enough to re-run that particular sim, that sim was never quite what you needed.

No tools, no easy way forward.

All of this came flooding back during TLC in Baltimore this last weekend, with many of the colleagues on the track talking about starting out on their sim-building journey and looking for help.

Even I, with a pretty healthy dose of experience, found that when I was designing an online, asynchronous sim, there was basically nothing at all that worked through the options and mechanics. If you read my paper, you’ll see that much of it ended up being a working from first principles.

This persistence of a lack of operational literature is frustrating.

It’s also quite understandable, in that there aren’t that many people who are bothered enough not just to build their own sim, but also to abstract from that out to general design and implementation principles.

And yes, before you ask, I did write various things, gathered here. But that’s not really enough.

Maybe you need something like Classroom Assessment Techniques, the classic handbook from Cross, or maybe you need something else more dynamically and interactively built online, but as long as we lack these kinds of resources then we’re doomed to lots of people spending lots of time they don’t need to, reinventing wheels that have been reinvented many, many times before or – and worse -just giving up because it’s too tough.

As usual with such thoughts, while I can identify the problem, I can’t offer a easy solution.

Maybe you can, in which case I’d love to hear from you. As would many others.

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