Setup for the Live Presentation:
Another web conference was held with Collaborate. Initially there were no glitches, but before long there were some brief audio problems with echoes while Aldrich spoke. They seem to be related to multiple microphones open at the same time. Fortunately, the problems did not last long.
Clark Aldrich is nothing if not organized. His introductory blog post, his freely downloadable book and his slides were all clearly enumerated and presented. The first Collaborate session on Wednesday consisted of the first part of his presentation, while the Friday session picked right up where he left off. The second half of Friday’s session moved in Q and A.
Aldrich presented a five phase outline for the development of educational simulations and serious games:
Phase 1: Concept
This phase is a combination of consultation and marketing with a potential client. A major selling point in the success of simulations is in promoting competence and conviction. (Conviction is understood to mean that participants are more likely to apply automatically and intentionally the lessons learned. One of the first things that the consultant needs to understand from the client are the specific areas of need. Early personnel roles in concept development should include at least a project lead, a designer and a project manager.
Phase 2: Create and Design
Aldrich spent the bulk on his time on time section, which reflects his area of specialization. He makes the interesting point that simulations tend to be used in areas where the cost of failure is too great to bear. Several factors need to be considered: Engagement (activitites be fun enough), Relevance and Convenience (well chunked), all of which needs to be produced at an acceptable cost within a reasonable time frame.
This is also the place to talk of budgeting. Features like multi-player and artificial intelligence can greatly increase the cost of production. He made the fascinating point that the preliminary budget should be open to adjustment depending on the number of overseers that need to sign off. Less than four signatories could reduce costs by 25%; while having ten or more to sign off may double the cost!
Learning objectives should start with the high level best practices for the area. Then there practices filter down through influencing the choice of genre and the core of the simulation. Early walkthroughs help get the client on board. Once approval is granted the simulation model truly gets underway with the inclusion of programmers and artists. This stage culminates with the production of a full design document which serves as the blueprint for detailed development.
Phase 3: Code
This is the place where the “grunt work” of the programmers and coders is done. Resources are gathered and shaped to fulfill the plan in the design document. Usually one complete level is completed first. Once that is satisfactorily completed, then the emphasis shifts to the production and integrate of all the small components.
Phase 4: Calibrate
Pilot tests are important to ensure that the project delivers what was promised. Areas that need revision are addressed. Careful attention needs to be paid to the user experience. There needs to be a cycle of frustration, when participants cannot yet figure out exactly what needs to the done, followed by a resolution as goals are completed. Maintaining a proper balance between frustration and resolution is difficult, but vital to success.
Phase 5: Deploy
This area received little emphasis besides being mentioned as the final step. Little is accomplished by all the effort expended in making the simulation until people actually use it.
While the slides were not available via a link, I learned that you can use the file menu within Collaborate to download slides. Very, very handy.
While Aldrich went through the material quickly, his clear outline made him easy to follow. His expertise as a presenter was obvious. He seamlessly incorporated comments from the chat window.
Take away points: I think that teaching procedures are where simulations excel. On the other hand I was left with this question: When are simulations not the best way to learn?