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I had the pleasure of meeting up in person with Anne Derryberry of http://www.imserious.net a few days ago at our offices in Coventry, UK. One of the many topics of conversation centred on the subject of assessment within learning simulations and games. Sande Chen and David Michael wrote an article for Gamasutra in October 2005 entitled “Proof of Learning: Assessment in Serious Games” in which I was referenced.

This space is at a stage where the commercial practicalities frequently don’t yet allow us to work on some of the great ideas that many of us have already. Assessment is one of the key areas in my view. I believe that immersive simulations and complex serious games offer the opportunity to address some of the major weakness of traditional eLearning and classroom instruction. Assessment is one of the most obvious of these. 

At risk of sounding like a broken record, complex sims and games when used in learning offer a tremendous opportunity for allowing an individual or a group of individuals to ‘game the skill’ in a very realistic representation of a real world environment, system, process or situation (or, even better all four!).

If that is truly achieved then in terms of assessment we could, for example assess, evaluate or benchmark: 

  • Skills and knowledge at the beginning of use (a pre-test)
  • Skills and knowledge at the end of use (post-test)
  • Patterns of behaviour (e.g. attitude to risk taking) throughout
  • Time taken to recognise a ‘red flag’ (e.g. falling sales, customer getting angry) and then how long and whether the user(s) reacted effectively and appropriately.
  • Team type indicators, behaviours within teams and ability to manage teams.
  • Ability to learn from mistakes (and how quickly)
  • Numeracy skills (e.g. ability to evaluate data in game and to draw accurate conclusions)
  • Tendencies to rely on pre-conceptions, to stereotype, to generalise or, perhaps, to exhibit prejudices (e.g. in a diversity training context).
  • Memory recall and accuracy
  • Willingness to engage with others, to share resources/information and collaborate.
  • Willingness to adopt a leadership role or, conversely, a ‘followship’ role,
  • Strategic awareness.
  • Ability to improvise and adapt under pressure.
  • Soft skills e.g. ability to interact with a virtual or real world person (through an avatar) politely, professionally and effectively.
  • Ability to coach, mentor and support others in game.
  • Personality type indicators.
  • Persistence and perseverance.
  • Willingness to seek help and advice from others. 
  • Frequency of errors and mistakes

The list above was a quick brain-dump and is by no means exhaustive – in fact I feel another lengthy white paper coming in the not too distant future – but, I think, indicates that an immersive sim or complex game can potentially offer so much more than ‘just’ knowledge acquisition or skills development.  

If taken to it’s logical conclusion (and implemented effectively) then I can quite easily see how an immersive sim could be used as the centrepiece of an organisational recruitment & retention, skills development and competency management strategy.

Depending on the efficacy of the application design then skills mastered ‘in game’ should equate more or less to actual competency, attitude and aptitude in the real world. So if you’re from IBM, Capita, PeopleSoft or any similar organisation drop me a mail and lets talk.

There’s (human capital) gold in them there simulated hills! 

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