Simulations: Practical Aspects

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Practical Aspects

How long does it have to be?

Again, a bit of a trick question: you decide how long it should be. Short simulations (30 minutes to an hour) can be very simple in organisation, with little or no preparation needed. Anything longer usually needs you to think about preparatory reading or activity, as well as how you will observe everything: if you are looking at a day-long or multi-day event, questions of refreshment and food become relevant. In practice, the main constraint is institutional – you have the time that the timetable allows. Usually that points towards shorter simulations, but you can also split a long simulation into smaller and shorter elements.

Do I need a special room?

Not really, but you do need to think carefully about what your students will be doing. In particular, you need to know if your students will be moving about at all: if so, then you have to avoid rooms with fixed furniture (e.g. lecture theatres). These latter are good for former debates, but really hamper movement. Typically, students will need space to sit and to write, so flat-floored rooms are usually best. Again, you might be constrained by your institutional timetable and room availability: if you have a large group, then you might consider splitting it up into smaller ones that go into different rooms.

How many students do I need to run a simulation?

Anything from one upwards. Single player games usually need some counterpart (in the form of a computer or a game-sheet) and are rare: simulations’ value comes from the interaction between players. Debates work best between 8-20 people (i.e. a seminar group size), so aim for that: larger groups need more structured debate, with roles being played by teams with spokespersons. The danger in large groups is that often there is little for most people to do, so you need to think about how to give them a useful function (e.g. by running parallel sessions).