Experiential Learning Through Virtual Simulation

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Experiential Learning Through Virtual Simulation
Anneke Zwart, Student (University), Netherlands

One of the processes involved in action learning is experiential learning: a learning technique that takes into account the impact of emotions and subjectivity and its influence on the learner’s experience. Team-based experiential learning is an effective instrument to develop the members of an organization. However, difficulties arise with this learning technique as many organizations start to do business globally. Such organizations have departments in various part of the world. As a result, employees in global organizations span different places and time zones. Therefore it is difficult to provide face-to-face learning opportunities for employees in such organizations.

So, how can global organizations provide team-based learning opportunities for their globally dispersed employees? Conine (2014) points to the concept of Virtual Simulation as a cost and time effective solution. Virtual Simulation refers to global business simulation with and across virtual firms. Virtual teams can be defined as “small temporary groups or geographically/organizationally dispersed knowledge workers who coordinate their work predominantly with electronic information and communication technologies in order to accomplish one or more organization tasks”(Ebrahim, Ahmed and Taha, 2009).

With Virtual Simulation, multiple virtual teams are made and assigned to a specific “world”. Within these worlds there is competition, but no interactions. Across the worlds, however, there can be collaborations and interactions. Each world has a monitor that staffs the so-called “control room”. A control room runs the simulations and provides role-plays in which the various monitors interact, negotiate and collaborate for the purpose of increasing competitive advantages.

Few weeks before the simulation starts, the required information, models, readings and objectives etc. are given to the teams, so that the team can prepare for the simulations. This is an important part of the virtual simulation process, since it enables teams to discover and deal with the cultural issues and differences within teams before the simulation actually starts. What they learn can be directly applied to real-life work. Other benefits mentioned are expanded reach; lower costs (no travel costs etc.); providing a solution for differences in time zones; reflecting the reality well; learning by experience; decreased disruption (due to the fact that most have access to computers everywhere and always).

The main aim of such simulations is not to replace real interactions but to imitate the real world, in which employees also need to continuously collaborate with each other to generate value. In such a way, virtual simulation can be a very effective team-based learning tool in global organizations.

Source: Conine, T.E. (2014) “The Virtual Simulation: A Tool for Leadership Education in Global Corporations” Global Business and Organizational Excellence Vol. 33 Iss. 5 pp. 17-28
Ebrahim, N.A., Ahmed, S. and Taha, Z. (2009) “Virtual R&D Teams in Small and Medium Enterprises: A Literature Review” Scientific Research and Essays Vol. 4 Iss. 13 pp. 1575-1590

Experiental Learning in Global Organizations
Andy Radka, Director, United Kingdom
Hi Anneke, interesting points made here about virtual action learning. I have experimented with Virtual AL in Second Life but the intention there is to try to replicate the face to face world. The point in your post about not replacing real interactions but rather to imitate how things happen now in collaborative ways is a better way I think.


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