case study

Improves Engagement, Forces Critical Thinking & Creates Connection

Abstract

Instructor Nadia Jilani-Hyler found Statecraft when looking for a way to increase engagement in a summer class with long hours. The students “had an absolute blast” and she discovered how useful a simulation can be as a teaching tool. 

Using a Statecraft simulation not only achieves her goal of increasing engagement but also requires critical thinking, which is hard to teach. As she plays the role of political advisor, she sees her students struggle with the “grey area” in the simulation. Their questions and stress demonstrate that they are experiencing lesson topics in a personal way and actually learning. The students who step up and take on leadership roles can be surprising. Often it’s not the “straight-A” students who most excel in the sim; it’s the students who can navigate ambiguity and get excited about a game learning format. 

This year with the move to an all-online class format the simulation has been a huge help by creating a sense of connection for students in large 200+ student asynchronous digital classrooms.

INTERVIEW DATE

Fall 2020, November 12th

INSTRUCTOR INFO

Nadia Jilani-Hyler has been a political science Lecturer at Augusta University in Georgia for the past five years. She has used both the Statecraft International Relations (IR) simulation and the Statecraft U.S. Government simulation in at least five classes. She was a beta tester for the U.S. Government simulation in 2018.

Instructor Jilani-Hyler is currently running the
U.S. GOV LITE SIMULATION IN THREE CLASSES

Dr. Nadia Jilani-Hyler Headshot

I like that the simulation encourages critical thinking because I want my students to be informed citizens who are able to navigate the government system. I approach the class as a way to teach them that they know enough to make decisions. To show up and vote. To volunteer for a campaign.

NADIA JILANI-HYLER

WHY STATECRAFT?

I started using the IR Simulation from Statecraft when I was teaching an International Relations summer class that met five days a week in long three-hour blocks. I wanted something that would break up the lectures and still be engaging material.  

The students absolutely loved it, they had a blast. It made me realize how useful simulations can be in the classroom.

When I started teaching American Government for the first time here at Augusta University I sought out a simulation I could use. First I tried “World of Politics” which is a set of digital sim materials I had to administer. It was really clunky and so much work I gave it up after one semester. 

Then in 2018 I saw the U.S. Government Sim mentioned on the Statecraft website. When I talked to Joe he said it was in beta testing and I was so eager to find something that I asked “Well, can my students do the beta testing!?” I’ve used it almost every semester since then. 

DOES THE SIM MAKE YOUR JOB EASIER?

Yes! Playing the U.S. Government Simulation is a type of experiential learning that teaches students aspects of how American Government works. 

If they’re playing the role of a member of congress, for example, they realize by playing the role how complicated BEING a member of congress is. That your time is split between trying to pass legislation and seeking reelection. That both of those things are connected in some ways but are also disparate in a lot of ways too.

The intricacies and complexities between varying interests are very difficult to just talk about in a lecture or read about in a textbook. In the sim the students actually experience this complexity.

gamifying learning

It’s almost like each student has a piece of a puzzle that they have to put together to solve the terrorist problem, for example. They have to be good, diligent communicators to be able to avert that crisis. While also trying to keep public opinion in their court, not only for the president’s reelection but also in case they want to use strategies like bulk data collection and military tribunals and things like that. 

The sim enhances student’s understanding of American Government even if they don’t necessarily realize it. They just think that they are playing a game.

LEARNING SUCCESS INDICATORS

The students get very stressed out by the difficult decisions they have to make and they are not sure what the right answer is. When they email me asking me what to do, I respond “This is how our elected officials have to be feeling! They don’t necessarily know the right answer; they’re having to guess the right answer a lot of the time too!”

The student’s stress, their struggles and their questions are big indicators that they feel the impact of the simulation and are learning lessons in a way they wouldn’t get from a lecture.

CREATES CONNECTION

My large classes are asynchronous with all 220 students online. Making these classes more engaging and giving the students some sense of connectedness was really important to me.

For most of these students, it’s their very first semester and their introduction to what college is going to be like. Most of them don’t know each other. They’ve been thrown into a very strange new environment and on top of that COVID19 is happening.

Imagine going to a party and you don’t know anybody; how can you get to know the other people in the room with you? One thing that you can do is play a game! 

Statecraft is that icebreaker party trick: a game that I can use to get the students talking together and interacting with each other.

ENCOURAGES CONVERSATION

They can voice their opinions or take a stance on things like military tribunals or bulk data collection, which are real world issues, but it’s a fake world in which we’re applying them. That gives them a little bit of anonymity that feels very protective when you’re discussing online.

The simulation gives students something that’s not the real world to talk about; it’s a safe opportunity for them to speak out more.

TEACHES CRITICAL THINKING

The critical thinking aspect is a major benefit of the simulation. Critical thinking and problem solving are difficult to teach, especially in an intro-level American Government class. 

I like that the simulation encourages critical thinking because I want my students to be informed citizens who are able to navigate the government system. I approach the class as a way to teach them that they know enough to make decisions. To show up and vote. To volunteer for a campaign. 

NEW LEADERS ARISE IN THE GREY AREA

Augusta University is a Science and Health oriented school, so most of my students are majoring in scientific fields and they’re used to black and white answers, constants. From day one I teach my students that politics isn’t that! It’s the opposite of black and white. It’s a grey area.

I love that there is a lot of grey area built into the sim. It can push some of my straight-A students—who are used to rote memorization and things being black and white—to a point where they can’t make a decision because they aren’t sure which one is the “right” decision. Sometimes the “best” students in the class feel out of their element playing a game like this so they might not be the ones who really excel at it.

The students who end up stepping up, taking on leadership roles and truly engaging are sometimes a surprise. It might be the students who have been struggling who have finally found something that they can engage with and that excites them. That’s an aspect of the sim experience that’s really interesting.

THE TEACHING OPPORTUNITIES

I frequently end up playing the role of political advisor for my students. When they do have questions about what the right move is going to be I typically won’t tell them “This is the right move…” but I will say “Ok, well, these are your options and let’s talk about what all the possible consequences of your options are in relation to your goals and what you want to accomplish.”

I unusually launch the sim after we’ve covered the three branches of government or at least the two branches that are playing in the game. That means we’re playing while we’re talking about elections, campaigns, and the media impact on politics. 

I can pull the game into lectures and say “Just like my media players are learning the media can have a profound impact on what’s happening in the world by choosing to run a story or not run a story…” for example.

FAVORITE TECH & TOOLS​

THE STATECRAFT EXPERIENCE

My experience with the Statecraft Customer Service team has been fantastic. Ross was assigned to my class this time and he’s always there responding to student concerns and questions. If there seemed to be a glitch he would react to it immediately. Having that kind of support was huge, especially with 220 students.

I’ve had a really positive experience with Statecraft going back many years and I hope that they continue to update and improve these sims.

WORDS OF WISDOM

My advice for a teacher launching Statecraft for the first time is: Be engaged yourself! It probably could run without you, but you’re not getting the full understanding of how your students are engaging with it if you’re not engaging yourself.

Experience Statecraft for Yourself

These awesome results are available for your class too! Book your demo today to get a personalized tour and have all your questions answered. Or read on for more information about the U.S. Government Simulation or U.S. Government Lite Simulation products.