Teaching with Simulations and Serious Games

Check out this list of online educational simulations / serious games. Grouped by topic, you can find simulations related to biology, leadership, politics, healthcare, city management, ethics, history, and marketing, just to name a few available topics. Summary information about each simulation is provided. While some entries link directly to the simulation, others contain a link to the developer charging educational licensing or individual user fees.

How might you use a simulation or serious game with your students? An activity like this is a wonderful way to start the course or introduce a specific unit, grabbing student attention and familiarizing them with the content. Likewise, you could use a simulation as a concluding activity, letting students demonstrate their knowledge by playing. Students can then reflect on the game itself and how well it captured reality. In a face-to-face class, you can use the classroom computer to play together as a class – or use student devices to have groups play together. Alternately, and for online courses, you can have students play on their own and then share their reactions in a discussion or short writing assignment.

Is the simulation at the right level for your students? Note that in the example use  scenarios described above, the level isn’t as important as what students do with the knowledge: get interested, evaluate, problematize, etc. Of course, the simulation can’t be impossibly simple or hopelessly intricate, but, barring those conditions, there is still a lot of learning to be done from a simulation that isn’t matched exactly to the level of the course.

Do you have an online simulation that works well with your students? What about a classroom-based simulation? Personally, I’m a big fan of teaching the tragedy of the commons with a classroom-based simulation. Please share your favorite simulations / serious games in the comments!


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