Extended Simulation: A World in Crisis

A world in crisis: Multilevel responses to global emergencies

Synopsis

International crises are complex phenomena driven by states and a variety of non-state actors including media conglomerates, epistemic communities and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations. This unit examines a number of interrelated themes dealing with the development and resolution of various types of global crises.


Students will be assigned specific roles and participate in an extended online and face-to-face crisis simulation. This theoretically grounded simulation requires students to work strategically with classmates to resolve the crisis according to role-specific objectives. Students will explore a number of factors that may prevent or accelerate the escalation of international crises, including: intervention by the international community, international agreements, the increasing concentration of media power, the emergence of social media, and transnational movements.

Class Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the unit, students should be able to:

  1. Identify trends in coverage of international crises by the global news media;
  2. Identify various state and non-state actors and their roles in a crisis;
  3. Critically analyse the goals and motivations of various actors during a crisis;
  4. Collaborate effectively with peers in a small group environment;
  5. Analyse the role of international organizations in resolving international crises;
  6. Interpret primary and secondary documents through developing critical reading skills;
  7. Communicate ideas and arguments in verbal form;
  8. Write research briefs and persuasive press statements.

Anonymous Feedback

After the first offering of the WIC class ended, I invited students to complete an anonymous online survey to determine whether the students believed the class helped them to prepare for their career. I broke the learning objectives into the development of problem solving and teamwork skills. For each learning objective, I included four questions that asked students to assess the degree to which the WIC class had helped them develop skills and perform tasks related to that objective -relative to other classes that they had taken. Students could respond to each with answers ranging from ‘much less’ to ‘much more’ than other classes they had taken. 46 percent of the class (29 students) completed the survey. This table provides a detailed breakdown of the student responses. Students were also given the opportunity to provide written comments for each of the broad categories.

Compared with other classes you’ve taken, evaluate the degree to which A World in Crisis has:

Much less

A little less

About the same

A little more

Much more

Required me to recognize flaws in my own thinking.

0.0%

0.0%

28.6%

35.7%

35.7%

Required me to ask peers probing questions that clarify facts, concepts, or relationships.

0.0%

0.0%

7.1%

39.3%

53.6%

Required me to evaluate arguments and evidence so that the strengths and weaknesses of competing alternatives can be judged.

0.0%

3.6%

14.3%

53.6%

28.6%

Required me to apply an abstract concept or idea to a real problem or situation.

0.0%

0.0%

3.7%

44.4%

51.9%

Required me to develop ways to resolve conflict and reach agreement in a group.

0.0%

0.0%

10.7%

25.0%

64.3%

Required me to, after evaluating alternatives generated by a group, develop a new alternative that combines the best qualities and avoids the disadvantages of the previous alternatives.

0.0%

3.6%

7.1%

42.9%

46.4%

Required me to be patient and tolerate the ideas or solutions proposed by others.

0.0%

3.6%

21.4%

32.1%

42.9%

Required me to listen to the ideas of others with an open mind.

0.0%

3.6%

14.3%

39.3%

42.9%

The results indicate that the vast majority of responding students found the simulation class helped them develop or employ the desired skills more than other classes that they had taken. For critical thinking and problem solving, an average of 85% of responding students felt that the class contributed to the development of these capacities than other classes they had taken. The written feedback supported this. One student explicitly noted the way the extended nature of the simulation allowed them to develop and learn over time: “I liked how continuous problem [sic] that keeps arising as it really imitates a real scenario and allows us to continue improving ourselves in order to perfect our mistakes from the last.” Since teams of students were given time do develop goals and strategies to achieve those goals, all students had to be careful to reflect critically on formal and informal statements of their peers. As one student noted, Because each group within the simulation had their own victory conditions, it was important to fact-check and assess the truth of statements that were made. Another student commented on the fact that they had to try to understand the points of view of other actors, By having to apply theory to a real-life situation I was forced to understand the thinking processes of parties… Sometimes an objective viewpoint does not accurately show the reasons behind a course of action.

More than 83% of responding students felt the class contributed to the development of teamwork and communication skills more than other classes. There was a wealth of written comments noting the contribution of the class to communication, persuasion and teamwork skills. Because students worked in teams, they had to resolve intra-group disputes. As one student commented, This unit allowed me to engage deeply with my other team members despite the differences that may arise. The extended nature of the simulation contributed to this depth of teamwork. “The team work was extremely necessary during the entire simulation. I have worked within teams before but my experience during the simulation was different because each one was driven by his/her interests which made the team work in some cases harder but necessary.

The inter-group dynamic reinforced the intra-group team building. As one student argued explicitly, There was much more team building required for this unit compared to others because of the way we had to act as an organisation and present ourselves to each other and other groups. This, in turn required group members to develop their persuasion skills. I like working with others, it may have been difficult to coordinate our time tables but beyond that, working with one another was a task that I greatly enjoyed. This class taught or rather improved my diplomatic skills, as well as my persuasion skills. Another student made a similar connection and linked the class to career plans, I think this class is one of the most relevant classes I’ve taken in regards to my future career plans. Reason being it imitates closely how future workplace culture / scenarios. The fact that it involved a lot of teamwork, internally within the group and externally shows the type of collaboration that would be likely in my future career. It resembles an inter-department communication and I think it helped me in building up skills to collaborate effectively. Another unique aspect of this class is that it IS a crisis. This is something which is bound to happen in all of our career, just hopefully not a huge crisis. I think it helped me realize that arising problems can be solved through effective communication and teamwork.

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