Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Opening up sim creation - Clark Aldrich tells us how he does it.

Today's #change11 MOOC session on building simulations was fascinating - hearing simulations designer Clark Aldrich tell us how simulations are created and designed.
I should not be suprised that the process mirrored the design of learning, but it was refreshing to see these principles being expressed in novel ways. Aldrich started by stating that the goal of education is individualistic - with the intention to build competence and build conviction, through participation and practice, emotion and interactive content.
Building conviction was explained carefully and was an interesting concept since normally we do not address it. He means doing the hard things even if you do not want to, to have your understanding (and experience?) at more than a naive level so that your competence is reinforced by your self knowledge and will (my words - please correct me!).
As a philosophy, Aldrich spoke about aligning what you are doing with what you do well with what you want to do with what you think is important to do (in a growing and sustainable way) - this sentence and emphases taken from his slide (based on his book "Unschooling Rules"?).

The road map for producing simulations is simple:
  1. Determine the concept.
  2. Create and Design.
  3. Code.
  4. Calibrate.
  5. Deploy.
He went into detail about the various roles in the process, of aligning delivery of content with the importance of context, agreeing on the metrics for success (ahead of time) and on the programme goals:
  • Engagement
    • Fun enough (liked this - you are not designing for total stimulation)
    • Relevant
  • Convenience
    • Well chunked
    • Easy to access
  • Acceptable cost per student
  • Acceptable time to creation
  • Comfort level of instructors and sponsors (not sure what this meant for sponsors).
It is interesting that these could be learning design programme goals and relevant to any design of learning.

Aldrich went through the "storyboard" of several simulations to show how you can use instances to explain the simulation. These took some listening to and the chat channel was quiet during this process. I, certainly, had to concentrate and not chat!

Two rules of thumb stick in my mind from the presentation:
  1. The cost: $100k / 6 months / for every finished hour. This seemed very reasonable for a well-planned, designed and executed simulation, and a great statistic to have from an expert in the know. There were adjustments to this for single player (-25%), adding multiplayer to a single player (+60%), light-weight mechanics (-70%) and 3D client installed (+100%).
  2. The number of critical decision makers: this was a great way of putting it which I am sure could be applied in all sorts of situations. In symbols, where d is the number of critical decision makers:
        If d < 4, costs are 25% less; if d > 10, costs are 100% more.

What a great rule of thumb, and we can all think of situations where this is so. I would add also that as d gets larger, the probability of reaching a decision approaches zero.

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