case study

The Ultimate Active Learning Tool for Engagement & Academic Honesty


For Dr. John Linantud, the two biggest benefits of using Statecraft Simulations are:

  1. Engagement: Students really get into Statecraft and it’s active learning. While they’re having fun they are also experiencing political science theories in a personal way. 
  2. Academic Honesty: is unique, it’s virtually impossible to plagiarize a Statecraft paper and get away with it if you use Turnitin. Since 2013 only 2-3 students out of hundreds have tried to plagiarize a prior Statecraft paper or a classmate’s paper. Plus, their personal experience gives students a reason to be proud of their classwork, which builds their confidence.

Since Dr. Linantud has experience with both the Statecraft IR and Statecraft U.S. Government simulations, in this interview we also discuss some of the key differences between the two products. 

Plus Dr. Linantud shares student stories, surprises and some insightful ideas for other instructors learned during his eight years of Statecraft experience.


Spring 2021, May 14th


Dr. John Linantud has been teaching for over 24 years. He is currently an Associate Professor and Degree Coordinator of Political Science at the University of Houston–Downtown where he’s been an instructor since 2002. He has assigned Statecraft Simulations to his classes since 2013 and has written two scholarly research articles featuring Statecraft Simulations. 


Photo of Dr. John Linantud

Each simulation really is unique. The students just don't follow one pattern every semester. Plus, a lot of them take the initiative and they call meetings and they stand up in front of class. They do stuff without me forcing them to do it. It's probably the best part. That's the best surprise when students take the initiative on their own.



Back in ‘13, the Statecraft exhibit and brochure at the International Studies Association Convention really caught my eye. I wanted something new, a challenge for me and the students. Something that would emphasize the students and be good for their own initiative. Something where they could be independent.

Statecraft is a much better assignment than my other assignments. When you compare it to other assignments, that’s where Statecraft holds the edge, as far as I’m concerned.

research articles as positive reviews

I think Statecraft has done a really good job because I wrote a couple of research papers about it. I co-wrote the articles with Dr. Joanna Kaftan, an Associate Professor of Sociology and Degree Coordinator for Anthropology, Sociology and Social Sciences at the University of Houston–Downtown. Those are my positive reviews for Statecraft. It really shows up in engagement and academic honesty. 

Ideologies and Competition: Student Reflections on Their Statecraft Experience


This article utilizes the online world politics simulation Statecraft to examine how students perceive the influence of simulations on their political ideologies as well as their expectations about behavior and outcomes within the constraints of a virtual world. 

Students make definitive connections between their initial political ideologies (folk realism or folk idealism) and their initial strategies within the simulation as well as how their ideological positions change over time as a response to events within the simulation. In addition, they justify their actions based on their political ideology and final outcome-success or failure. 

Written by Dr. John Linantud and Dr. Joanna Kaftan
Published 2020, Journal of Political Science Education

The Statecraft Effect: Assessment, Attitudes, and Academic Honesty


This article uses a multimethod research design to compare Statecraft to non-Statecraft assignments and courses along three dimensions: student engagement, political attitudes, and academic honesty. The results indicate that Statecraft increased student engagement and academic honesty. In terms of political attitudes, students generally remained on the left side of the political spectrum, but shifted toward the right and became more hawkish by the end of a semester. Changes in attitude are more strongly associated not with playing Statecraft, but taking a political science class by the coauthor, or some other external variable. Statecraft, however, did reduce support for pacifism.

Written by Dr. John Linantud and Dr. Joanna Kaftan
Published 2019,
Journal of Political Science Education


With the academic honesty aspect of the simulation, it’s kind of a “sleight of hand” situation because if they write a paper on Statecraft, there’s nothing for them to plagiarize because nobody else has done that simulation but them. You see what I mean? 

You can’t plagiarize your own simulation. You have to be loyal to yourself and I think the students like that. They like to write about their own Political Science experiences.

Since 2013 only 2 or 3 students out of hundreds have tried to plagiarize a prior Statecraft paper or a classmate’s paper.


In this article we also wrote about how Statecraft affects student self esteem. What we did was go through some of their papers. The whole experience gives students something to hang their hat on because it is a direct engaged experience that they do, rather than reading about what other people or other countries have done in the actual world.

That’s the potential of Statecraft. To give students a chance to create their own world, so to speak. It gives them something to be proud of because they have to be accountable. 

They can go back and review their accomplishments at the end of every semester. 


The engagement part of Statecraft is the ultimate active learning, as opposed to passive learning, experience.

Passive is when the student sits there and just goes through PowerPoint or they’re supposed to read a book and take an exam. In contrast, Statecraft is active learning. And you can tell because the students get into it and they go above and beyond the call of duty. They spend all hours of the day on it. They talk about it in their other classes; I hear that from the other professors. They say students come from my class and it’s hard to get them to focus on their class because they want to talk about Statecraft. You can tell the difference in the room when students are doing Statecraft because they’re all working on it at the same time. 


Statecraft is a better way to illustrate key concepts because it’s active.

Anybody can study Political Science concepts and theories but when you participate directly, you get to experience them.

And that’s both for IR and U.S. Gov.


In the classroom when students use Statecraft, there’s a greater level of interest and expressions that they’re having a good time and they’re having fun. Students like to say, “Statecraft is fun.” 

They say it’s fun on their own. I don’t have to ask them: “Is this fun or not?” They bring it up in the course of conversation and their papers.

As long as they’re engaged, you have an opportunity to teach them concepts. It’s not just empty fun. It’s productive fun.


During a good semester it makes it more fun for me too. But the thing is, Statecraft can also be very stressful because the students get into it.

If you’re an engaged instructor, it’s like you’re an engaged student. You can’t just turn your back and walk away.

I found a really good article that came out in 2008 – it wasn’t about Statecraft – it was about any type of active learning. If you’re the instructor, you have to tolerate that students are going to be doing stuff out of your control. You’re going to have to tolerate students competing against each other. And you’re going to have to tolerate and try to handle the stress and the emotions that come with students doing that.


My usual format is to have E-rooms where each student has their own computer. So, they’ll come in on, say, a Monday and a Wednesday each week. I’ll use most of, say, the Wednesday for in-class Statecraft. So that’s not only face to face, but they actually have the website booted up on their computers in class.

I’ve had a lot of success blocking out that one class a week when everybody has to be in the room for Statecraft, as a core. 

The website’s 24/7 and the students who are into it pretty much log on at all times. At any hour of the day. If they want to do something extra out of class time, they can.


I think it was a good move on my part to turn over that whole second class a week to Statecraft. It gives me a chance to see how the students play the game and I can see them react. 

If they’re going to interact with each other, you want to be there. It is fun to watch them play the game, though. The most important thing is that it’s good they’re learning concepts. It’s good fun.


The IR and U.S. Government Simulations are both similar because they have a realistic take on politics. 

The big difference, in terms of substance, is that in IR students role play members of the government in world politics. So the governments compete or cooperate with each other.

In U.S. Government they’re not in groups. They play as individuals. The students know that and they can tell the difference. I think they appreciate it, especially the students who have played both. I had a few of them this semester.


I think it does reduce the free rider issue. When I say Statecraft is a good relative assignment, I mean that it’s almost impossible for students to blow it off compared to every other type of assignment. 

In U.S. Gov, they can’t free-ride on somebody else if they want to get any points or make any moves. They have to do it all themselves. 

That’s a really good difference for the U.S. Gov sim. In Statecraft IR there’ll be a couple of slackers. But like I said, compared to other assignments, Statecraft IR really draws people in.


Students do have to learn how to work in small groups, so that is a positive benefit of Statecraft IR. They need that life experience. 

Whether they’re going to go in their political career or not, they need experience working in small groups where they’re held accountable for their mistakes and they’re rewarded for their successes.

What's the most surprising result?

The biggest surprise result is the energy and the mastery of theory that a lot of students show in the final paper on Statecraft IR. Very good job. It all comes back to the Political Science outcome for me.

What’s surprising is that within the assumption that there’s going to be conflicts between the countries, there’s a lot of variation. So each simulation really is unique. The students just don’t follow one pattern every semester.

Plus, a lot of them take the initiative and they call meetings and they stand up in front of class. And they do stuff without me forcing them to do it. It’s probably the best part. That’s the best surprise when students take the initiative on their own.


I think the main student story dates from the very start. There was a guy who really liked Statecraft, he was already a gamer so he was really good at Statecraft. The next semester, he couldn’t stay away from my classes that were doing Statecraft, even though he himself wasn’t in those classes. He would come by just to watch. 

Finally I said, “Charles,” (his name was Charles) “Why don’t you help these students and you’ll be their mentor?” So he came by twice a week for classes he wasn’t enrolled in.

That’s where I got the idea to get the better students to be mentors for the rookie students the following semester.


We’ve got a course called Special Projects at UHD. If students are good at Statecraft or at least they understand it, I’ll say: “You can mentor the new crop of students for your special project.” As the instructor, I assess that project for them. Works out pretty well for everyone. 

Charles wasn’t the only student to be fascinated by Statecraft. Previous students have always filtered by to watch, or they come in a room and see other students playing Statecraft. 

Students kind of miss it. When they’re doing it, it’s very stressful. When it’s over it turns out they miss it. It’s been like that this whole time. 

Tips from an expert

To the instructors who are afraid: The thing is you have to try it, you have to try Statecraft to learn what it's like. It’s successful for a reason, and a good reason.


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