Using online simulations to support the development of student leadership skills
In their final unit, students in the Graduate Certificate of Humanitarian Leadership engage in an intensive five-day simulation of a real-world humanitarian situation which gives them the opportunity to demonstrate leadership behaviours and apply appropriate humanitarian strategies to existing and emerging humanitarian contexts. Students take on roles within the senior leadership team of an NGO while academic staff impersonate characters that NGO members would typically interact with in the course of their work.
Reimagining an intensive unit
In 2020, Associate Professor Phil Connors, a founder of the course, worked with the DLF faculty pod for Arts & Education to reimagine the simulation in an online environment. During the five days of the online simulation, students commenced with a structured small group session, the Action Learning Sets, to explore challenges and identify solutions to a given problem. This would be followed by four to five hours of the actual simulation incorporating a rapid team review (RTR) session facilitated by coaches. The simulation activity was wrapped up on day five with a series of debrief sessions and feedback from peers.
During the simulation period, students and their coaches used Microsoft Teams for meetings, debriefs and peer feedback sessions. Academic staff members shared insights and collaborated throughout the simulation in a private, staff-only, channel within the Microsoft Teams environment. They also recorded their observations of student leadership behaviours directly from within the Microsoft Teams space using a third-party app. Breakout rooms in Zoom were used to carry out an individual assessment activity where students gave a presentation to a high value donor (HVD) on their organisation’s crisis response strategy.
The benefits for students
Simulations bring about multiple benefits to the learners, including the opportunity to apply theory to real-life situations, which improves learning, engagement and enjoyment of the course. While the main purpose of the simulation was to develop students’ leadership skills, they also had the chance to cultivate a range of other skills such as decision-making, problem-solving and effective communication.
Learn more about delivering online simulations
In this video, Assoc. Prof. Connors talks to Isma Seetal about the unit and the online simulation. He also gives us a tour of the Microsoft Teams site that was created for the simulation.