Let’s Simplify the Administrative Requirements of Computerized Educational Simulations


  • David J. Fritzsche


" While the evidence seems to indicate that simulations are effective pedagogical tools, utilizing a simulation in the classroom can be a time consuming and sometimes a frustrating experience for the simulation administrator. Operational problems range from teams failing to turn in decisions on time to errors in the decision input or even computer breakdowns. A significant amount of administrative time is required to process each decision from collection to return following the simulation run. When problems arise, time requirements can escalate exponentially. Of course, Murphy’s Law is always at work when it is least needed: If something can go wrong it will. When a simulation is used as an extension of the traditional course requirements, the additional time required usually comes out of the administrator~ hide. Thus, given the effort required to successfully run a simulation, it should come as no surprise that many of our colleagues have not flocked to the Promised Land of computer simulation. It is not unusual for first time simulation users to terminate their simulation activities at the end of one term. Even some of our seasoned colleagues tire of the effort required and revert back to traditional techniques. How can we reduce the time required to run a simulation while at the same time retaining educational benefits? An examination of the duties of the game administrator offers some interesting opportunities for reducing the administrative effort required while at the same time increasing the quality of the administration activity. Simulation administration duties can be broken down into creative tasks and mechanical tasks. The creative tasks involve environment enrichment and the introduction of techniques designed to help the competing team members better understand the simulated business environment. Environment enrichment activities include strikes, legislative activity, foreign competition, and other “real world” situations which are not part of the routine simulation run. These activities may be built into the simulation as an option or they may be incorporated external to the computer program by the administrator. For example, teams may be permitted to purchase the services of a professional lobbyist to influence a congressional decision concerning a tax on some aspect of business operations. The tax option is built into the simulation; however, the congressional activities and the lobbyist are external to the simulation. The administrator may often find it interesting and educationally advantageous to introduce certain analytical techniques which the teams can use to better understand the competitive environment in which they operate. Creative tasks are generally interesting to both the administrator and the team members. "