Ashley Parker

Ashley Parker leads the content creation and learning design for business simulations produced by Harvard Business School Publishing, which are used by universities and companies worldwide. Covering the breadth of the MBA curriculum, she works in lockstep with authors (from HBS as well as across the globe) to ensure that simulations are both engaging and pedagogically effective. She has worked extensively on a broad range of inductive experiential learning materials (which include simulations, business cases, and interactive illustrations) as well as online courses.

She holds a Master of International Business from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University.

Smart Stories: Under the Hood of Narrative Simulations

Certain games use different quantitative features "under the hood" to enrich the pedagogical impact of gameplay.  I’ll show four examples of how simple features and functionalities added to a branching game pay huge dividends to the learner.

The first is simple: every decision the user makes tips the scales between three values, and the resulting (im)balance illustrates the application of the framework being taught.

The second is about introspection and self-discovery: judiciously using timers and interruptive elements (including conflicting decisions) add to cognitive load and push the user to make trade-offs, which are quantitatively tracked and captured for self-analysis.

The third is more complex: the amount of information, and the order in which the user encounters it in the storyline, highlights their "distance" from the perfect path; this is distilled into a facilitator-facing score. This is called the Levenshtein Distance; a useful tool that conveys a great deal of meaning very quickly.

The fourth is an example of how an engrossing branching story is all but a distraction: users work in groups to make decisions, and the resulting debrief focuses on their ability to adapt and lead, rather than their "success" in the story.

All of the above games are designed in service to the instructor facilitating the experience: What do each of these games provide back to the facilitator’s view in order to arm them with the best information to debrief the game?

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