By Parvati Prabha
Learning by doing is a principle that has been entrenched in practice for over a thousand years as it is believed to be the most enriching form of education. Aristotle wrote “for the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them” (Book II: Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics – Translated by W.D. Ross, 1999)
Learning by doing is learning from experiences consequential to one’s own actions, as opposed to learning by listening to lectures, reading instructions or watching others perform.
However, learning by doing hasn’t been a norm in society for imparting knowledge as it is not always feasible and economical to procure the necessary equipment for practicing skills.
Workplace is one of the places where focus is more on application of knowledge rather than mere knowledge – whether it is to fly a plane or win a sales deal. So when organizations expect their employees to excel and be effective, they realize that they need to provide a training platform where employees can perform and practice real life tasks in a risk free environment. This has led to gaining popularity of business simulations that generated realistic but safe experiential learning environments. The simulations enable them to tackle challenges, study the repercussions of their choices, learn through mistakes, and consequently, hone their skills.
So more specifically we can say that Business Simulations are designed with a primary objective to teach business operations in a simulated business environment.
The other entity of interest in our discussion is a computer game which is a regulated form of play and an integral part of our social lives. With the advances in technology, the thrill of playing games on computers has caught on with various fun as well as serious games facilitating single and multiplayer game play.
The framework of most games constitute elements of fiction and have tasks, goals and rules to traverse through the mechanics of the game. They evoke thrill, joy, curiosity and competitiveness to overcome the mystery surrounding the uncertainty of outcome at every stage of the game. The popularity of games has created a strong market for some serious games which are educational games that have instructional goals and elevate level of learner engagement and learning retention. They too build skills and competencies to improve efficiency and productivity as job tasks.
In spite of some fundamental differences between a business simulation and a serious game, there are instances when each of them functions like the other, thereby blurring the distinction. For example, a business simulation could be designed as a serious game, where learners win rewards and pay penalty thereby demonstrating components of a serious game with a real-world illustration of an organization, process, or system.
To cite a specific case, in an effort to educate someone on project management skills, a business simulation can be created with the learner having to administer a project right from its initiation phase up to its closure. There could be several strategic points, which result in different consequences panning out as per the decisions taken at each point. Gamified elements like gauges on efforts taken, impact on quality, costs incurred and time delays can be included and points could be awarded to eventually evaluate the learner’s performance in project execution.
Serious Games Vs Business Simulations
Here a comparison of some attributes of Serious Games and Business Simulations to understand their differences and similarities better.
Any learning solution strategy, be it a business simulation, a game or others, aims to address gaps in knowledge and skills through an effective learning strategy. It is critical to choose the right strategy to meet the business and training goals. Review factors like training purpose, target audience profile, content domain, scope of adding fun, proximity to real-life challenges, evaluation methods and most importantly the resources available for development. Though business simulations and serious games both require a significant amount of time, effort, and budget to develop, they offer myriad of benefits and are effective tools for providing an enriching immersive learning experience.