Towards an Open Simulation Platform

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Facilitated by Ronald "Skip" Cole, United States Institute of Peace

Simulation-based training in a fast-growing segment of online learning. USIP is developing the Open Simulation Platform to support the authoring, sharing, and delivery and learning-oriented simulations, with a focus on conflict resolution skill-building. Skip will share learnings from the project, and seek participant input on how to better leverage community resources as USIP brings the project to fruition.

Towards an Open Simulation Platform/notes


First Story:

System dynamics for DuPont: showed improved model, but no institutional change. They made a game that simulated the problem, and it had a big impact.

Second Story:

Go into a village to dig wells. Well has been dug... hooray, good work. Then a couple of your people die, b/c they were shot by a neighboring tribe. So they go out and shoot some of the other tribe. Turns out the original problem was where the well was dug... interfered w/ water related income for the neighboring sheikh.

We want experts to be able to put their expertise into simulations which can be used by other people to develop an internalized understanding of the problem space.


It's a very generic platform. Wizard driven to generate the content.

The Open Simulation Platform (OSP)

Gov't agency supports this project.

Example User Experience:

A student in a class gets an email saying "go here and register". He does so, and gets another email telling him what role he'll be playing in the simulation (e.g. Army general, local chieftain, etc).

You log in and get a bit of detail about your role. Then simulation starts. Maybe a bus blows up, CNN says group A is responsible, Al-Jazeera says group B is responsible. Move forward through time with different students having different roles. People will toss "curve balls" at the process. Also all people have secret information that others may not know about them. There's always a teacher to mediate and adjudicate the process moving forward.

After it's all done, people go back and reflect on how things went.

Simulation length can vary. Instructors can see a library of on-line simulations and choose from them to assign to the various players. There's also an authoring component, so if you've gone somewhere and gathered information, then you're able to walk through the steps of the simulation and record it for others to use later.

"A Force More Powerful" is a great training simulation that was developed for training people in non-violent campaigns, how to stay non-violent even in the face of violence. Unfortunately that code is now owned by a game company and won't be released for other use.

How to improve the community (it's been a single developer):

- Maybe connect w/ orgs of similar values

- Maybe pay developers. Still open source license, but paid developers to gain momentum.

- Start focused on a small niche, make sure you meet a single use case well, rather than taking on too much generality too fast.

- Maximize the community pool... open nature of the tool can drive a lot of interest by involving and engaging expert communities worldwide, as opposed to the very black-box propietary knowledge nature of the competition in this space.

- Capturing the scenario is important. Open data is as significant as open source code.

- Use sexy examples, e.g. Bono, Wolfowicz, and the Pope. (Possible perception problems from being associated w/ a US Gov't agency.)

Right now it's mostly a text interface, focus is on APIs and pluggability to allow flexibility and basic functionality. It's a role-playing engine.

Visit and join the mailing list. Send an email to scole <at> usip -dot- org.

USIP == United States Institute of Peace, this is a new initiative within this group.