PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Review: Wills, Leigh, and Ip, The Power of Role-based e-Learning

Book review: Sandra Wills, Elyssebeth Leigh, and Albert Ip, The Power of Role-based e-Learning (New York: Routledge, 2011).

While this volume is focused on the use of electronically-facilitated educational role-playing, its value is significantly greater than this. In ten highly informative chapters, the authors address the educational value of games and role-play, discuss their design (including rules and roles), explore the challenges of acting as moderator, examine how to assess learning, and suggest future trends. They also provide a brief summary of possible electronic platforms and an overview of sample online roleplays, with a heavy emphasis towards the Fabulsi simulation platform (with which Ip is professionally involved). Consequently, the book has value not only for its intended audience in the e-learning community, but also for those interested in the educational use of all serious games and roleplaying—whether electronically facilitated or otherwise.

Stylistically, the book draws upon a rich array of research in the field, often presented through summaries, bullet points, and graphics. Personally I found this very helpful, making it possible to dip in and out of the text for insights that were relevant to my own teaching and research. Among the things I particularly liked were:

  • The discussion of design considerations (chapters 4-5), although I do think the authors give inadequate attention to both the role of resource constraints and the degree to which design considerations may shape the sorts of strategic choices available to participants.
  • The discussion of participant learning types (pp. 140-143).
  • The six roles of the moderator: as administratorguardian angelresident resourcemanipulative devilimprovising storyteller, and institutional representative (p. 147).

Others, however, might find that the narrative flow in the book a little choppy at times. Also, because the book has been written in part as a contribution to scholarship on e-learning, it hasn’t always been optimized for role-play neophytes looking for clear, brief, and concise practical advice.

Those caveats aside, however, I do very much recommend this book. Both education researchers and simulation practitioners will find it of value

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