So what is the difference between an activity, a game, and a simulation?

Well, quite a lot actually. It would be incorrect to mix the terms up and still be able to accurately describe the benefits of experiential learning. Project management is an experiential topic -you have to experience it to really learn about it. Let’s look at each of the terms in turn.

Project Management Activities:

Any educational activity is inherently better than a student passively sitting in a lecture or reading a book. There is no denying this fact. Lectures and books may impart knowledge, but cannot check that the knowledge has been understood, or that it could be applied correctly. Competence is a result of experience plus knowledge. The activity may bring some experience, but is the activity engaging?, true to real life?, and valid? The activity may just be a case study, or it may be a seminar exercise. Once solved, a student will not learn anything from a second run through the same activity.

Project Management Games:

A ‘game’ is a mere pastime, and implies winners and losers, and whilst life is a competitive business, losers may become discouraged. Therefore games with losers are not an ideal educational tool. A game also implies ‘fun’ rather than the serious business of learning. Games might include fictitious elements, false currencies, or made up names. Games may include elements of ‘chance’. Can students really relate to such fictitious situations and still believe they are applying their knowledge in a real test of their skills?

Game Vouchers & Dice

Game Vouchers & Dice

Project Management Serious Games:

Serious games, or ‘gamification’ is becoming a big business. However often this means taking a real learning situation and applying a game – any game – to it, such as learning to cross the road by playing snakes and ladders. The two items are not related. Yes, learning the facts about crossing roads have been made fun, but the game needs to be based on a road crossing situation. To me, gamification is about making learning fun, but in a way that may trivialise the message of the learning.

Project Management Simulations:

A simulation is a representation of real life in a safe environment. It looks and feels like a real life situation. A simulation is a type of activity – engaging to a student or learner, and a type of game – engrossing to get involved in, but without winners and losers. A simulation is a real life problem scenario, configured as a game in a safe environment.

What’s in a word? Well, when it comes to activities, games, and simulations quite a lot. They all imply ‘active’ learning rather than ‘passive’ learning – and that is good. But a ‘simulation’ – a model of real life in a safe environment – is the correct word to apply to project management learning.

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Posted On: 2nd June 2016

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