Simulations & Serious Games

Remote Teaching

Simulations & Serious Games

Simulations & Serious Games

Simulations and serious games can be used if practicing or experimenting in real life is impossible or simply impractical. Professional roles and skills can be practised, such as those of a coach, a lawyer, a doctor. Examples already in use at Leiden University are Digital Archaeology modeling of the spread of Neanderthals or building the Limes in MineCraft, Moot Court, model UN Security Council, and observing dementia in patients in VR.

In a roleplaying simulation, the storyteller creates a learning experience in a described and limited venue or setting with a theme that has an end goal with limited time to achieve it. Participants have an assigned role with responsibilities and must succeed in small tasks or puzzles to reach the end goal. In addition to professional roles, general cognition skills like communication, social skills, and leadership skills are also practiced.

You could use this...

  • To let students practise the application of knowledge, skills, and attitudes in a realistic, yet controlled environment.
  • To let students practice and evaluate realistic decision-making processes, taking into account human interactions and emotions. In a real-life setting, these can result in a different outcome than students might expect based on theory.
  • To recreate settings that are difficult to access, such as privacy-sensitive or dangerous situations.

Keep in mind

  • Games can vary in their complexity. Both a simulated conversation and a 2-hour online challenge are a gamified learning experience, although their preparation time varies quite a lot. Creating a scenario, decision tree, and setting description takes some preparation time.
  • Clear rules. Like in any game, there should be clear rules. The storyteller or moderator is always right about the consequences of actions, no rules-lawyering
  • Make it easy and accessible. Start with the least technical solution, and go with what your students are already familiar with. You can always add more technology if needed.
  • Game Design Document. Create the setting and the rules of the game in a document. What is the context? What roles are there? What is expected of each role? What are the rules of engagement? What are the limitations? What is the end goal? Who will make decisions on the consequences of actions?


Simulations and serious games are extremely useful when practicing skills or putting the learned knowledge into practice. Afterward students reflect with the teacher what the crucial takeaways are from the experience. Grading can be based on active participation and insights.

  • Conversation simulation
    Practising professional communication situations, such as difficult conversations and giving feedback are examples of a simulation. These simulations can be done in small-groups online settings, where students are assigned to a specific role they need to prepare and execute. During these phone, chat or video simulations, a small number of students can observe and provide feedback.
  • Team or group game
    Different teams are going through the same scenario at the same time, as if it were a competition. Each team has the same roles and will get new information about the scenario regulargly. E.g. a court where new information is presented every 15 minutes, a crisis scenario with an update every half hour or a fictional consultancy assignment where every week a new fictional briefing is given.
  • Analyse existing source material
    Ask students to analyse a video, a diary or a historical speech, then indicate what their actions would have been, or write a position paper based on a role. E.a. write a president’s speech during a crisis or a policy advice taking into account a specific philosopher.
  • Serious games - choose the channel
    • Play by Forum - turn based. Every player can react to everything that is posted. Regular updates of the consequences of the actions participants have taken plus new developments can be provided by both teachers and students.
    • Play by Email - turn based and teacher led. Ideal to guide groups through a game. With regular updates of the consequences of the actions participants have taken plus new developments
    • Play by Chat or Video conferencing (synchronous) - just like face to face simulations, during a timeslot, with possible addition of extra media, more intense.
    • Play in a Virtual World (synchronous), use an existing virtual world or create your own, this can be aided by audio chat.

Additional resources

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