Play = Learning
By JAYSON CHIK
A few weeks ago, my school friends and I got together and ended up reminiscing about our school days. The bulk of our conversation was discussing how we would idle away during recess times playing weiqi or Chinese chess. Sometimes, the girls would bring in those precious cloth “stones” to play batu seremban, or make up our own games to play in the courtyard. We remember and learnt so much from playing games with each other.
Games have been and will always represent a big part of how we learn and grow. From young, we are constantly exposed to different games of various levels and difficulties that develop different cognitive and motor skills. You don’t even have to be of talking age to play a game – Kim Wallace from BabyCenter suggests that playing games has been found to be integral in infant growth as they learn how to build skills, problem solve and overcome mental challenges. Parents are highly encouraged to let their children indulge in pretend play (or imaginative play) as this spurs the child’s imagination.
This is even true for adults. Researchers are increasingly convinced that learning through “play” or “by doing” substantially elevates learning retention. In adult learning (also known as andragogy), the gamification of learning has been increasingly popular in recent times as it provides an enjoyable yet safe environment for learners to self-discover and apply their new insights. One such gamification approach is simulation-based learnings.
Simulation-based learnings – or simulations in short – is a learning technique that replicates real-life situations and experiences in a safe, guided and controlled environment. According to the definition provided by Bell, Kanar and Kozlowsky, simulations can be understood as “artificial environments that are carefully created to manage individuals’ experience of reality.”
There are a few types of simulations in the market – for example online simulations, business simulations, board game simulations, case study simulations and machine-based simulations. What’s available out there can range from Monopoly-like corporate games to immersive technology-driven platforms such as flight or F1 race simulators. For me, the best “sim” I have ever played has to be the Silega simulations.
A few weeks ago, I watched senior leaders, including the chief executive officer (CEO) of an organisation, battle it out during Silega’s Cold War simulation. This sim replicates countries who are supposed to collaborate to fight a greater enemy, but instead end up turning against each other for personal greed and satisfaction. As each member of the leadership team of this company watched how they all tore each other apart, they all had numerous light-bulbs light up.
They realised why their organisation had not succeeded before – they as leaders were territorial and worked in silos, preferring to fight for their team’s needs rather than the greater organisational good. The “aha” moment and insight was stunning. It could not be taught sitting in a classroom or even if they were lectured on the importance of breaking silos and teamwork.
Yet, in this sim, each leader immediately “saw” the errors of their ways and repented. They vowed never to act in silos and committed to ensuring the big organisational goal would be their guiding light and not departmental or personal goals.
I saw with my very eyes, the power of Silega’s simulations and game-based learning. Another simulation with incredible effect is the Silega Commander sim. Here people are allowed to learn and practice leadership under a stressful, business-like environment, yet even if they fail (which they almost surely do – hence the enhanced learning!), it is not real life.
Learning about each other
The positive effects of simulations have long been studied in multiple articles and white papers which deals with different types of simulations. Listed below are a few of the interesting facts and benefits of simulations in a corporate training environment.
1. Simulation-based learning creates realistic yet safe situational experiences
Simulations can create real-life experiences for the learners. All Silega simulations were designed from the replication of events in real life and real industries based on different durations and scenarios. For example, Silega Expedition is based on the dangers of climbing Mount Everest. Each team goes through 30 days to pick a route (there are four possible routes up Everest with the easiest route being the longest), determine supplies, and many other decisions that must be made.
Each decision could have detrimental effects later in the game. Imagine making wrong decisions on the amount of oxygen to carry. It may seem trivial but as the participants approach the top, they realise they cannot go on to the peak as they lack oxygen. It is an amazing way to teach participants the importance of little decisions and the power of its compounding effect in life.
Each sim can teach meaningful lessons and insights and this is done in a safe environment where mistakes are great opportunities to learn and grow.
2. Simulation-based learning encourages more interaction and healthy competition
Simulation differs from the traditional classroom learning in terms of the observable interactions. Several articles on simulation-based learning mention that simulations can offer students a lot of opportunities to interact with each other. In traditional classrooms, interactions and energy levels are highly dependent on the instructor’s ability.
With simulation, regardless of the trainer, the key lessons are learnt through interaction and competition with each other. Every Silega simulation that I have attended pitted participants against each other, creating deep motivation for us to “win.” Also, when there are elements of healthy competition in a simulation, it’s not surprising to see notable increase in participation, engagement and effort from the learners, increasing their learning uptake.
3. Simulations can be used as a tool of observation/assessment
Aside from driving home messages or learning objectives, simulations can also be used as a tool for participant observation or assessment. As Bryant Nielson from Capital Wave Inc. puts it, simulations can be used as a gelling tool for a new team the same way team building always does. Team members will get to know each other a lot more via the afforded interactions. Most importantly, they will get to know each other’s true personality when they are under duress or time pressure.
An increasing number of organisations have also started to use simulations as a valid tool of assessing their current employees and prospective new joiners. This is because simulations can be designed or modified to bring out quite a number of observable traits such as problem-solving and decision-making, which is crucial in identifying or confirming the critical development areas of the students.
As a connoisseur of various Silega simulations, I am now a full believer in the impact of simulations. There is intense power in simulations and I can personally vouch for its impact and effectiveness. More importantly, there is power in play. If you are not playing, you may not be learning effectively.
So, go out and play lah!