Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Developing RES-SIM - A game changer

A little over a year ago, Sittimont and I thrashed out the initial concept for RES-SIM over lunch at the Tanner Bar. We brought Helen and Vanessa (RMIT) on board, as well as a strong advisory panel. Competition for OLT funding is more competitive than ever, but we pulled it off. In March, we officially commenced work on our OLT grant 'Modelling disaster resilience: enhancing student learning through trans-disciplinary simulation of wicked scenarios (RES-SIM)'.
RES-SIM will 'develop the conceptual model for a virtually distributed computer-based teaching and learning tool that enables students within and across disciplines (e.g. engineering, architecture, logistics), both on and off campus, to collaboratively acquire essential decision-making skills through immersion in a dynamic disaster system simulation.' 
In an educational environment, we need to search for innovative ways to replicate real-world scenarios. The last thing we want is for our graduates to be caught by surprise when faced with scenarios not encountered during the study of their disciplinary knowledge base. In many fields, a valuable strategy to bridge this experiential gap is to incorporate games/simulations/virtual experiences.

My first exposure to this was when I used a software tool that simulated the operations of a construction company as part of an assessment for architecture/engineering/construction management students in a Project Management course. The students worked in multi-disciplinary groups and made weekly decisions regarding different aspects of their company. Every weekend, a different scenario played out and afterwards, the group was able to analyse the impact of the decisions they had previously made.

As a researcher in disaster risk reduction, I have long been interested in how societal systems and subsystems respond to disturbance, both natural and human induced. Existing studies do attempt to classify and delineate these variables, however a multi-disciplinary evidence-base fit for the purpose of educating our students is far from complete. This project gives us the opportunity to compile the field data required to underpin a system resilience education tool.
'RES-SIM presents a revolutionary method of evaluating and responding to disaster scenarios, based on a holistic understanding of the affected systems and subsystems of society. This ‘whole-system’ approach will allow students (future emergency responders) to hone their judgement and decision-making in a safe environment that provides valuable feedback based on engineering-based, sociological-based and economic-based system dynamics.'
We live in challenging times. The educational landscape is shifting. Students engage differently. Graduate attributes in demand evolve alongside industries themselves, and our curriculum must keep up. In addition, the future of our global society is uncertain. Disaster risk continues to increase for many people inhabiting our planet. Besides the purely professional competencies embedded in the utilization of this learning tool, there is little doubt that society demands graduates with an understanding of disaster risk in complex systems in order to address the systemic problems that it faces.

When Sittimont and I first discussed the concept, we were excited by the possibilities. Now, the project team truly believes in making this a reality. RES-SIM can be a game changer.