The Ultimate Active Learning Tool for Engagement & Academic Honesty​

case study

The Ultimate Active Learning Tool for Engagement & Academic Honesty

Abstract

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.

INTERVIEW DATE

Spring 2021, May 14th

INSTRUCTOR INFO

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. 

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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.

DR. JOHN LINANTUD

WHY STATECRAFT?

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

Abstract

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

ABSTRACT

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

ACADEMIC HONESTY

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.

A Reason TO BE PROUD

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. 

ACTIVE LEARNING

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. 

EXPERIENCING CONCEPTS

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.

PRODUCTIVE FUN

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.

TOLERATING

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.

DEDICATED CLASSES

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.

WATCHING GAMEPLAY

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.

IR & U.S. GOV COMPARISON

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.

NO FREE RIDERS
IN U.S. GOV

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.

GROUP EXPERIENCE IN STATECRAFT IR

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.

A STUDENT STORY

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.

THE MENTOR SYSTEM

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.

DR. JOHN LINANTUD

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 International Relations Simulation or International Relations Lite Simulation products.  

Creates Network Connection, Contextualizes Lessons, & Connects Decisions to Outcomes

case study

Creates Network Connection, Contextualizes Lessons, & Connects Decisions to Outcomes

Abstract

After four years using Statecraft IR, Dr. Benjamin Tkach says that “it’s an important piece to get students excited about international relations.” Students are digital natives, so using technology as a teaching tool helps demonstrate lessons in a unique, engaging way.

For him, the top benefits of Statecraft are:

Plus, the lessons students learn working in groups are valuable because they have life applications. Group dynamics can sometimes be a challenge, but navigating interpersonal conflict in a simulated world is a healthy way to learn important lessons students can take with them to real-world scenarios like the workplace where stakes are much higher.

INTERVIEW DATE

Spring 2021, April 22nd

INSTRUCTOR INFO

Dr. Benjamin Tkach is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at Mississippi State University. His primary research focuses on privatization of security and non-state actors’ involvement in conflict. Additional research areas include US foreign policy and nuclear security.

He’s been teaching for eight years and using Statecraft for four years. During that time, he’s used it in two different situations: at a small liberal arts college and now in large classes at a Research One institution.

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Dr. Benjamin Tkach Photo

Statecraft is incredibly valuable long-term in establishing the utility of the class, establishing the classroom environment and making sure that the important lessons of IR almost become real for the student.

DR. BENJAMIN TKACH

4 years of statecraft

Four years ago, I found Statecraft at a conference where I took a class on simulations in international relations. Now I’ve probably ran the simulation in a total of seven different classes over the years; this semester will make eight run-throughs. At Mississippi State I teach the same course in the spring and the fall so I do it two times a year. I start it in weeks five to eight and we go through its completion.

It’s designed within my course to highlight different theoretical concepts each week.

LEVERAGING TECHNOLOGY

A major benefit of Statecraft is on the tech side: the user interface and the software system that underlines it is unique to Statecraft and has merit on its own.

It gives students another mechanism for learning and engagement that can’t be replicated by anything else I do.

ENGAGING DIGITAL NATIVES

One aspect of IR, and really political science in general, is how abstract it is. And so obviously, we try to contextualize it in classrooms and try to give examples using simulations and learning mechanisms to keep it interesting. 

The way that students learn now is in short bytes: it needs to be five to eight minutes of engagement if we’re talking about an online context; and the engagement has to be non-passive. That era where you stand on a stage and just pontificate is not the best way to engage the lessons of international relations. 

Statecraft gives students an opportunity for engagement that’s not human to human. As we think of the growth of technology and the digital native component of students that are coming into classrooms, having something that is more consistent with how they engage other aspects of their lives is helpful.

GROUPING STUDENTS IN A HUGE CLASS

One feature that I like about Statecraft is the foreign policy quiz. It groups students that have similar views of how the world works, which is a dimension they don’t tend to think about. 

Once the groups are formed around week three, I use them for their breakout groups, study sessions, projects and offline games.

That gives students exposure to other students that they may otherwise not meet because these are huge classes. I find that very valuable. 

Plus, it helps make sure students stay on track with other assignments that are not group related, and they check in with each other. With COVID, just having another group of people who are willing to check on you and want to engage is helpful.

Top BENEFIT #1: NETWORK CONNECTION

Students are isolated, especially during COVID. Here in Mississippi we have a lot of first generation students, we have a lot of students who are not necessarily comfortable in the university environment. I can use Statecraft to make me more approachable. Having a way for me to engage and connect with them at the group level is helpful. 

I might know something is going on with a particular student and I can’t approach it because it’s just through observation. It’s unlikely that I’m going to get that student to come to my office hours, or even respond to a one-on-one email.

But if I can engage them in the Statecraft group, it brightens them up and it humanizes me. As those interactions then start to increase, then they’re going to be much more comfortable contacting me or asking questions in class.

Statecraft is time efficient in building those connections with students and having something that allows me to engage groups where they’re going to be much more comfortable. 

Statecraft reflected real-world dynamics with trade and international agreements. Obviously, on a different scale, the trading process happened much how it would in the real world. There were negotiation and coercion involved in some trades. Statecraft contributed to the class experience and learning environment in many ways. Especially with COVID, it was very hard to meet people. However, Statecraft back and forth conversations allowed our class to meet and converse outside of the classroom. In my case, I made two really good friends through it and our conversations started off with a lot of trade negotiations. It also taught the lessons we were learning and I was able to understand the game and the class the further it went on. It connected what we were learning to us actually being able to use it through the simulation. Just like real-world that the more you are involved typically means the power that your nation had and reflects participation and engagement in the class. 10/10 experience.
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Student Quote
In response to Dr. Tkach's end-of-course questionnaire

top BENEFIT #2: CONTEXTUALIZes LESSONS

The second component that I like Statecraft for in terms of learning is contextualizing the lessons. There are key terms and concepts in international relations that are embedded within Statecraft that are very abstract, but they’re hugely important ideas. Overarching concepts such as anarchy, shadow of the future, cooperation, and uncertainty. 

I use the sim to point out these major concepts and start conversations: “Okay, here’s what’s going on between these countries. How does it tie to our theory, and then how does it reflect in Statecraft?”

TIES ASPECTS TO THE REAL WORLD

In terms of the gameplay itself, there’s numerous aspects that tie to the real world: big concepts like anarchy and shadow of the future. 

Part of the reason I run it in the middle portion of the course is that it allows realization of some of the other aspects, such as international law or trade or conflict. 

Statecraft allows domestic politics, it allows international actors or a host of different types of international actors to be engaged in the process of the international community. So it provides those lessons and those identifiers. 

DEMONSTRATES LESSONS OFFLINE

Statecraft also helps when I take its lessons offline as course exercises. I have a Scattergories-style popular trade game in which country groups must look at products in their house. I want them to go look and think critically about where their items in their dwellings come from. 

What it pushes students to do is realize how trade impacts their daily lives in Starkville, Mississippi. We end up with just dozens and dozens of unique countries and unique products from each of those countries.

That is one example of how the lesson of Statecraft ties to the different theories of trade. Plus, because it’s competitive, and students enjoy that aspect of it, they really usually get into it. 

making a personal connection

Statecraft is incredibly valuable long-term in establishing the utility of the class, establishing the classroom environment and making sure that the important lessons of IR almost become real for the student.

So much of what happens in IR is “over there.” It’s outside of most students’ daily engagement; not just the news, but a general feeling that “Oh, this has nothing to do with me.” 

What Statecraft allows is: “Yes, it does, here’s how it is and here’s my engagement.” Statecraft facilitates that and I think it’s very beneficial in that, which is one reason why I use it.

Statecraft modeled real life political scenarios that were mentioned in lectures, which helped paint a picture of what each aspect of world politics is about and how it works. Statecraft contributed to the class by giving us the opportunity to work together within our groups as well as throughout the full class. Overall, statecraft helped me so much with the ideas and concepts we learned about in class by allowing me to see it in a "real world" situations.
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Student Quote
In response to Dr. Tkach's end-of-course questionnaire

TOP BENEFIT #3: CONNECTING DECISIONS to OUTCOMES

In Statecraft, Students can attach the consequences of decision making to an outcome. For example, simulating how states are structured, their domestic features, the features that they pick, as well as the resource constraints that each state is dealt. 

Being able to see how these different pieces connect in the decision making process with an outcome against real competitors is one of the great strengths of Statecraft. 

It’s not against AI, it’s not just against simulation, it’s against those people over there, right? They may have seen each other or vaguely know each other. Then all of a sudden “those people” took Sapphire Island. They didn’t expect that. Now they’re suddenly interested. Suddenly they start to think: “Okay, our decisions in this have real consequences for the operating of the state.” 

CHOICES IMPACT THE WORLD

It can be difficult for those groups to process when, for example, another group says “We’re not going to invade Sapphire Island” and then they  choose to.

Those dynamics are critical because it connects both cases in the international system and identifies that making a choice not just impacts you but impacts the network, in this case, the Statecraft simulated world.

This aspect of connecting decision making with outcomes is one significant strength of Statecraft that would be very difficult to simulate in any other environment.

STUDENTS HAVE TO MAKE DECISIONS

Some students struggle to make confident decisions. The nice thing about Statecraft is that students have to make decisions so they can grow their decision-making skills.

There’s a realistic aspect to this because it does contribute to their grades, but it’s also built into the nature of the simulation. It helps them be able to think through the “if” scenario of what happens when they make the decision, plus actually take action by clicking through and implementing it. 

It's not Fair!

One of the aspects of public goods is the free rider problem, and Statecraft does an excellent job of framing and demonstrating that. Students wonder: “Well, why isn’t this getting solved?” 

Usually have your type-A personality who’s the president who comes and says, “Why can’t any of these other countries cooperate and get this done? What am I supposed to do?” You’re going to fail. Unless your country does it on its own, it’s not going to happen. They respond: “Well, that’s not fair!” 

No, it’s not fair. That’s what I’m trying to communicate. There’s a reason we haven’t solved some of these international issues and here’s one of several aspects. 

WELCOME TO THE INTERNATIONAL SYSTEMS

One scenario is if there’s no violence; sometimes this is because they’ve strategically decided to gain points as a class for not having any kind of violent action other than against the pirates and some of the games. I’ve seen states that agree to that, hang on to it for three or four terms, and then invade either a neighbor or Sapphire Island. And the class is in an uproar, and we have to sit down and have a conversation with the class about behaviors and people are upset. 

I have to say: “Well, you didn’t make some kind of treaty.” Yeah, they’re dishonest, fine. Fair enough. But did they violate any of the rules of the game or any rules that you yourself built? The answer to that is NO. Welcome to the international systems.

WHAT IT REALLY MEANS TO BE PACIFIST

The other area of connecting decisions to outcomes is when simulations are violent. That could mean multiple invasions or a country that gets conquered completely. 

Students connect and start to recognize the importance of concepts and values. They want to be pacifist: “Well we’re pacifist, we didn’t have a defense force.” 

You said you were going to rely on the international community to help you, and they did nothing. You also got conquered. That’s your state choice. 

There’s not much to be said to that. They learn that being a pacifist doesn’t mean you don’t have a military per se, you just don’t use it offensively. 

THERE ARE CONSEQUENCES

The severity of seriousness in one class led to the use of nuclear weapons. One country had had it with the behavior of another country.

As it would have it, the country that used the nuclear weapon was not in the top three top performing countries because the international community responded.

The other classmates were like: “That seems way out of line.” They took action against them. Trade routes dried up and other disadvantageous outcomes occurred.

There are consequences: The students used a nuclear weapon. Now they’re going to have to repair the world and  try to rebuild the lack of trust amongst the actors after that behavior. 

So those kinds of things do happen with Statecraft when things fall apart, so to speak. But even that situation is helpful because of what students can learn from those engagements.

Statecraft mirrored real world international dynamics in several ways. Firstly, it demonstrated the "prisoner's dilemma" problem in that no state knew definitively what other states would do each turn. Secondly, it demonstrated that repeated interactions can overcome the desire to "defect," as constant interaction between states inspired more cooperation than discord. Thirdly, it demonstrated the difficulty of collective action problems, as only several states pooled resources and technologies to create the Globe of Frost, but all states benefitted from it. Statecraft improved the class experience and learning environment by highlighting many of the above issues in a simulated manner. It helped to turn the ideas discussed in class into actual strategies in a mock international system, which improved understanding and retention.
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Student Quote
In response to Dr. Tkach's end-of-course questionnaire

Learning to function in groups

Being able to function in different groups with different people that you might not be familiar with, or people that you have not met before is important. 

Obviously, if you’re engaging in international dynamics, the unfamiliar is something that we have to be able to navigate and do well.

WHEN GROUPS FAIL

Interesting outcomes I find do happen when groups really struggle to coordinate within their country. As well as the foreign policy quiz generally works, sometimes groups still don’t work. Sometimes there’s a strong personality, or sometimes someone didn’t take the quiz very seriously. And so they get put in a group where they have different IR perspectives and attitudes.

When that group starts to fail, I will meet with them one-on-one. They’ll ask: “Well, can we just change groups?” No. No, you can’t.

“I don’t understand, this other group gets along and they all want to accomplish the same thing.”

In the United States of America, how often do all the politicians agree on what we should do in foreign policy? How often do they agree on domestic politics?

It turns out that frequently nation states may not agree with themselves on what the policy should be.

The issues don’t usually escalate after I’ve engaged and communicated. Those groups usually take two or three turns to figure out that they are not functioning well. And in Statecraft, two or three turns is a lifetime. They’re significantly disadvantaged by that lost efficiency. Overall, it doesn’t really impact grades because there’s so many other opportunities for points. 

A lifelong lesson

More importantly, it’s a lifelong learning lesson for those students: if you’re assigned a group and you’re given tasks, you have to figure that out. There isn’t running to an arbitrary authority and saying, “Oh, we just can’t work together. We can’t figure it out. We can’t do it.” 

For that group those lessons are realistic and long-term. That’s what happens in real life. You work at a company or you work in a small business, and sometimes you have to work with people that may grate on you or may not fit you well. You still have to get your tasks done.

A HEALTHY PLACE TO LEARN HARD LESSONS

Since Statecraft is a simulated world, I feel it helps students take small steps towards dealing with those difficult group dynamics scenarios.

Doing this in the digital realm takes pressure off of the engagement compared to a scenario like an important work presentation.

It’s an undergraduate classroom situation. We can figure out a solution and a strategy together. That’s a healthy and easy way for students to learn an important long-term lesson that comes directly out in the functionality Statecraft provides me in the classroom.

Worth the time investment

Using Statecraft doesn’t save me time because I maximize its use; I want to make sure that the student experience is the best it can be. What’s important is that it’s a useful educational pedagogical tool for student learning. It definitely doesn’t cost me any more time.

In my way of using it, I put a lot of effort into making sure that it’s running consistently. I respond to groups when they are in the classroom, I follow up on emails and engagements when I see certain patterns or certain behaviors out of place. I want to make sure that it runs smoothly. 

I don’t think you have to do that; you can just let it run. In fact, early on Statecraft was just push-and-play; give them some time in class, give them time to debate. You don’t have to grade anything. It comes out, it’s well managed, the help desk is very effective. That’s a perfectly legitimate way to use Statecraft, but there’s so much more that this tool can do for me. 

If I had to replicate some of the learning opportunities within Statecraft, I’m not sure how I would do it, and I’m pretty confident however I did it would take more time than using Statecraft. So in that way, it probably does save time.

STUDENT PRAISE

And after my first semester here at Mississippi State, I saw my undergraduate coordinator in the hallway. He mentioned that students were talking about my class and the simulation. These students had commented:

“Hey, Statecraft is different. This is something that we enjoy. This is something fun. This is something that helps us learn. We don’t have this in any other class that we’re taking. Dr. Tkach is really demanding but this is a fun aspect.”

I don’t I push my class or Statecraft, and I don’t advertise it. I’m terrible at self promotion, but students engage with it and when someone asks “How are your classes?” Statecraft is one of the first things, if not the first thing, they mentioned.

Statecraft is an important piece to get students excited about international relations.

DR. BENJAMIN TKACH

Statecraft was a wonderful simulation because it absolutely reflected the real world dynamics of international relations. First, major concepts such as sovereignty became apparent immediately. I enjoyed having complete control over what happened within my countries borders without having other countries able to directly interfere. Next, I enjoyed getting to communicate with other countries regarding issues such as international trade and collective goals. Countries that made allies definitely saw the benefits. Trade became important within the simulation and those that used their comparative advantage and traded heavily could certainly benefit in terms of overall resources. Additionally, it was interesting to watch countries come together in attempt to address matters such as terrorism, climate change, and human rights issues, which are aspects that we face in the real world today. In particular, we faced a collective action problem as some countries wanted to free ride or were simply too poor to help on certain issues. Finally, Statecraft allowed me to grasp the concept of anarchy far better than before. It was clear that there was no central power in the simulation and this led to each country needing to battle for security. It became very clear that countries would need to be smart and competitive in order to gain power and wealth over its opponents, because ultimately, all countries were fighting to be successful in the same categories.
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Student Quote
In response to Dr. Tkach's end-of-course questionnaire

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 International Relations Simulation or International Relations Lite Simulation products.  

A Robust, Effective Online Simulation that Increases Engagement​

case study

A Robust, Effective Online Simulation that Increases Engagement

Abstract

Dr. Hollinger’s classes have been designed around simulations paired with textbooks for years. Originally, he used an in-person simulation he created. When classes suddenly went online, he had to pivot quickly for the new format, and decided to use Statecraft as his new simulation solution. He’s been impressed with what a robust, effective tool it is for an online environment. Plus, it saves him time compared to running a simulation manually.

His students really get into the simulations, even staying after class to play. He sees students naturally making connections to the textbook material and even picking up other unplanned lessons. They’re always surprised to discover that cooperation is the most effective strategy. Dr. Hollinger has set up a unique game configuration strategy that rewards them for peaceful collaboration and also lets them play “risk” at the end of the game just for fun.

For Dr. Hollinger, the best thing about the simulations has been the increased student engagement. This is his third semester using Statecraft Simulations in multiple classes: “Adapting Statecraft has been effective. Now in any online course I teach I’ll use Statecraft.”

INTERVIEW DATE

Spring 2021, February 22nd

INSTRUCTOR INFO

Dr. Keith Hollinger holds a  PhD in governance and globalization, an MA in Political Science and a BS in economics with a concentration on International Economics. He’s been teaching since 2010 and is currently a Senior Lecturer and Director of Undergraduate Education for Polytechnic Social Sciences at Arizona State University. Dr. Hollinger has completed at least five full sim run-throughs of the IR and IO sims in the past year. 

CURRENTLY RUNNING

Dr. Keith Hollinger photo

The best thing about Statecraft is the student engagement. My students stay after class to play. I always have 100% participation, and I always have 100% attendance.

DR. KEITH HOLLINGER

WHY STATECRAFT?

I’ve run simulations for years. I built my own intended for face-to-face interactions. What happened was: when we transitioned to Zoom learning, I wasn’t able to deploy my simulation. I use different colored poker chips for resources, it’s not intended to be online. 

In early 2020 everything was “normal” and the University went on spring break. I took a camping trip, was gone for six days and when I came back the whole state was on lockdown. 

Suddenly I had one day to transition my class online. My classes are designed around a simulation paired with a textbook, so I adopted Statecraft as a stopgap. 

I grabbed Statecraft, linked it up with my current syllabus, and just kept rolling. I had some familiarity with it from a conference demo, so I wasn’t afraid to launch it with one day’s notice. 

STUDENT RESPONSE

The students get into it. I actually have situations where I use part of the class for lecture and I can look at them and tell they’re saying, “Just shut up and let us go back to the simulation.” They really get into it.

 I can’t use a master Zoom room because my students do not leave class. Last semester, I had students who would stay online up to four hours after class. Not one single group, many students from all the groups would stay. 

THE ONLINE FORMAT

I set it up so students have designated playing time. They break out in their teams twice a week, and then we have big international debates and negotiation as a full group. Since my students don’t leave class when it’s over, I have to assign a new Zoom host. I say: “Okay, when you decide to leave, assign a new host until everyone’s gone. Make sure you keep the room open for everyone.” I assign a new host and go off to teach my next class while I know my other class is still going on.

This simulation is so much more robust for an online environment. 

Even with the Zoom environment, it’s very robust. It helps to coordinate it in Zoom because I can get them locked away into rooms where no one else can hear what they’re doing. Although it does hinder their spying.

LESSON CONNECTIONS

The lesson connections just come out naturally. The way the textbook is designed, they read, they stop, they write a little bit about a concept. These are the core concepts of the field for that topic.

Of course, they’re going to see the concepts in the simulation, because they’re describing the macro processes, macro systems. That’s what they’re recreating in the simulation, so it’s an obvious link for them. I think it’s extremely effective. 

TEACHING OPPORTUNITIES

I have students use the memos to relate what aspects of their textbook they’re observing and experiencing in the simulation. Then they have a textbook shared writing, where I ask them to talk about the simulation in terms of the textbook with each other.

Whatever the content is for the textbook chapter, I focus on that in the simulation.

I’ll give you an example: I have two classes right now whose chapters align in the textbook. They’re both dealing with global terrorism. I challenged them last class to see if they could find a solution to global terrorism in the simulation. Right now they’re actually applying the chapter in both classes, trying to solve the global terrorism problem. 

Through the application the students are able to pick up all kinds of other little aspects that you wouldn’t think to teach in a lecture class. 

For example, when dealing with the terrorists, they also learned about minority politics. Or with the melting glacier climate crisis I can focus on the sustainable development aspect. I challenge them to come up with a sustainable development plan and propose it to the other countries for a treaty.

COOPERATION FIRST

Students are always shocked to learn that cooperation at the international level is more efficient and effective at meeting goals for everyone involved, regardless of their government type. 

They notice as soon as they go into some form of intense competition all their resources are consumed. The lesson is: yes, be competitive… but be cooperative first.

MYSTERY & RISK

I set it up so that students don’t know when the simulation is going to end. I build in 10 turns extra, so that it goes past the end of the semester right now. They can roughly figure it out because the textbook ends. This is a generation of gamers. They know how to win the game, and they’ll figure it out early from looking at the awards at the end.  

Once I give awards and they receive their grade points, I have a tradition: they get to go to war. Now it’s just for fun. They can use whatever resources they built up to play risk and destroy everything.

So they build these awesome cooperative systems, and then they use those countries to fight it out, just for a game. They think it’s a lot of fun. It gives them an incentive. 

They want to cooperate just enough to make sure that everything gets achieved and no one goes to war before grading. They also want to maneuver themselves so that they’re dominant; they know there’s an endgame war coming. They know that they’re building up for this war, and they don’t know who’s going to be on top. That adds a lot of uncertainty. It makes it more realistic, because isn’t that possibility what countries are always preparing for?

TIME SAVINGS

Running my original in-person my simulation was extremely time consuming. I did everything manually with spreadsheets and bags full of poker chips in the room. Statecraft absolutely saves me time administering the simulation.

I have brief lectures and discussions to make sure they’ve gotten the main points. I’ll administer a quiz on the most important components in class. I make sure they’re getting the material, I answer any questions. Then they go into the breakout rooms and they are in negotiations, and I just cycle through the rooms to manage negotiations. 

It saves a lot of course prep time because they’re actively engaged in the application. It’s a helpful Simulation.

TOP BENEFIT: ENGAGEMENT

The best thing about Statecraft is the student engagement. My students stay after class to play. I always have 100% participation, and I always have 100% attendance.

Since I have these dedicated playing times, my students are afraid to miss class. Because things happen, and then they get lost… They’ll miss one class, and then they won’t miss any more. They let their teams know they’re very engaged. If they’re not going to be in class, they make sure that they send out whatever their decisions will be, their opinions and they set up a proxy, and let me know.

It’s really improved student engagement and retention. Adapting Statecraft has been effective. Now in any online course I teach I’ll use Statecraft.

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 International Relations Simulation or International Relations Lite Simulation products.  

Builds Community, Creates Learning Connections & Aids in Assessments ​

case study

Builds Community, Creates Learning Connections & Aids in Assessments

Abstract

Dr. Kristin Vekasi used Statecraft International Relations for the first time this semester in her 150+ student Intro to World Politics course.

A top benefit was that the simulation helped create community in a large all-online class that could have felt impersonal. Students at least got to know six or seven other classmates in their simulation groups really well and it created laughter plus fun inside jokes for the class.

The automated component and helpful Statecraft materials also helped ease her workload. In a class that has students who are both political science majors and others who take it for general education, the broad range of backgrounds makes it difficult to assess students. In Statecraft students enter at the same level so it was much easier to assess what they had learned.

Since her class was so large she had two different simulation groups. Despite nearly-identical situations they had dramatically different results, which was very interesting and created teaching opportunities.

INTERVIEW DATE

Fall 2020, December 16th

INSTRUCTOR INFO

Kristin Vekasi, PhD, is an Associate Professor at the University of Maine Department of Political Science, in the School of Policy and International Affairs. She has been teaching for nine years and this was her first semester using Statecraft IR in her Intro to World Politics lower division 100-level course. It’s a large 150+ student course that has political science and international affairs majors but also students from across the university who take it as a general education class. 

CURRENTLY RUNNING

Dr. Kristin Vekaski Headshot

In a big class like this that has students outside of the major my students have a really broad range of backgrounds. It makes it difficult to assess what I had given them.

With Statecraft they all came in at the same place and I was able to actually assess: “Ok, how were you able to apply this theory in this way?” That was awesome; I really, really liked that element of using the simulation​.

DR. KRISTIN VEKASI

WHY STATECRAFT?

I enjoy and value using simulations in the classes that I teach. It was my first time teaching a class this large. I have some simulation activities that might have worked in a live classroom setting but for a large all-online class that wasn’t going to work. So I looked into a bunch of different options. 

I found Statecraft and liked how it had components that were group-oriented and would also build interaction and community for students who would never actually meet one another, and who felt isolated this semester. I really liked that community component. 

It would be too difficult, I decided, for me to be able to monitor some of the other longer-term simulations I considered in online capacity when I had 150 students in the class. 

I really liked how Statecraft is very automated but also really interactive; it eased the burden on me. It isn’t just the students interacting with the computer and getting automated feedback. It is a human endeavor with an automated component. That was initially compelling for me.

BUILDING COMMUNITY ONLINE

It worked out really well. My class was broken into two groups and each group had a live zoom call one day a week. In this live class I would do activities related to whatever we were studying: discussions, discussion questions, maybe a mini-lesson. Then the students would have 20 to 30 minutes with their Statecraft group. 

So every week, at least in class (and I know they did a lot out of class as well) they would be with the same people week after week after week. In this really big class where they didn’t get to meet a lot of people this semester, they at least knew 6 or 7 students pretty well. That was great. 

Overall it led to some really fun back and forth, especially on zoom. The students would be ragging on each other in the chat as we were talking and it created good inside jokes for the class. Again, that led us to build community that we wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise. 

TOP THREE BENEFITS

LEARNING SUCCESS INDICATORS

They had weekly quizzes where they had to write a short answers. For example, we had been talking about norms in international relations and they were able to apply that concept in the simulation. When I asked a question like: “In your Statecraft simulation what is one norm that you think has emerged, have there been any rogue states?”

Students would respond: “Oh well, I know that this was a norm, here’s a norm and I know that it was a norm because of this and this person violated it and we saw this reaction.”

It gave me a way to assess whether they were able to apply concepts outside of the exact sentences that were within the textbook. I saw them make connections.

BIG CLASS ASSESSMENTS

In a big class like this that has students outside of the major my students have a really broad range of backgrounds. Some of them will be really familiar with, say, post World War II history, or are WWI buffs… and then others are asking: “There was something called the Cold War… what is that?” This broad background range makes it hard for me in terms of designing exams. It makes it difficult to assess what I had given them.

With Statecraft they all came in at the same place and I was able to actually assess: “Ok, how were you able to apply this theory in this way?” That was awesome!

I really, really liked that element of using the simulation.

PARALLEL WORLDS

I had two parallel worlds that didn’t interact with each other. Sometimes I would briefly share what was happening in the other world in the other class, just in a sentence or two. But they were never in the same, not even in the zoom room, and they got the same information from me every week.

Despite that the worlds diverged a LOT. They were so different, it was a very interesting result! One of the worlds was very cooperative, and worked cooperatively on technology and scientific innovation. They established a league of democracies and they worked diplomacy. That’s where they were successful, but that group didn’t manage to solve some of the collective security problems. They didn’t manage to eliminate terrorism, for example.

Then the other group, when the simulation ended they were in a full-blown entangling alliances WW1 situation. However they did manage to eliminate terrorism as well as the pirates.

So I wondered if it was because they were just different personalities? But the classes, you know, 70+ people in each group is a lot! And they were assigned randomly to the different groups.

It was very interesting… given different initial starting conditions you can go really different directions. That was fun and surprising for me!

TEACHING OPPORTUNITIES

It definitely created teaching opportunities. When we did our debriefs at the end of the semester I debriefed each group on the other simulation as well. We talked through things like domestic regime types and the importance of the individual leader personalities in foreign policy making. 

It also prompted a conversation about neighbors because we had the different maps and they chose different regime types. So there were questions like: How much of a security threat is your neighbor vs someone is further away? How do neighbors affect your initial foreign policy strategy? It was an interesting lesson.

FUN FACTOR

I think the vast majority of students enjoyed it. Being on zoom calls is kind of a drag. It made that element a lot more fun for a lot of students.

I know some really really got into it, there were a few that didn’t and it stressed them out… but I think anything would have stressed those students out. I could tell that the very engaged students who always had their cameras on found it really interesting and had a lot to say about it.

CHALLENGES & SOLUTIONS

I didn’t have good logistics for memos at the beginning of the semester, so that was really challenging. Initially it was difficult for me to easily know week by week what had happened. I had some challenges with the memos because there were a lot. I tried to give students a break. I always had them writing me on Monday morning saying “Oh I forgot to submit my memo, can I still do it?”
I had to say: “Well, you can’t. That’s not the way the system is designed.” 

So created a work-around to accept late memos. I ended up using our university learning management system. Plus I had to develop a strategy to decide which memos to read: for example, figure out who was the president and always read their memos.

Next time I’ll do memos via my Learning Management System and try to make policies clearer. I got better at that as the semester went on, and I learned how to use the interaction log. The next time I’ll be better at my memo strategy.

WORDS OF WISDOM

To deal with the policies challenge I mentioned: I would use the conditional release material in my learning management system to make students read and agree to policies. So the first day, or maybe the second week of Statecraft, I would put up an “Expectations of Statecraft” quiz that they had to take before they could access the next bit of material. It would say things like: “I understand that I have to write a memo every week and this is when it’s due.” A checklist making those expectations really clear in a way that can’t be missed.

Another recommendation: using Statecraft materials should be incorporated right from the beginning. I didn’t figure this out until about halfway through the simulation. The quiz questions or short essay questions or that sort of thing; use them from turn 1 or 2. 

THE HELP TEAM

I worked with the customer service team and they were incredibly responsive. When I had questions they were always answered.

Joe came to both of my classes and that was great. I wish I had done that earlier, it helped students a lot.

Maybe not on the first day, but a week after I introduced it I would ask someone from Statecraft to come speak to the class the next week when they’re all confused and just starting out.

I am not going to be teaching this class for another few semesters because of a sabbatical but I wish I was because I want to do it again! I will do it again.

DR. KRISTIN VEKASI

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 International Relations Simulation or International Relations Lite Simulation products.  

Worth It: Sim Creates Emotional Connections to Course Material​​

case study

Worth It: Sim Creates Emotional Connections to Course Material​​

Abstract

When Dr. Cigdem Sirin’s fully online asynchronous course moved from a 7 to a 16-week format, she felt the need to add something to her curriculum to create engagement and excitement. She decided to give Statecraft a try, but had some concerns. Would it work?

Fortunately, she was pleased with the results! She saw increased engagement and peer connection in the virtual world. The simulation created a way for students to apply what they were learning and make connections to course material. The dramatic situations created emotional responses that foster empathy for real-world problems countries experience. She’s confident the high engagement and emotional connection will also equate to long-term knowledge retention. Plus, Statecraft support took care of all of her technical concerns. 

At the conclusion of the sim, she is glad she gave Statecraft a chance. The benefits for she and her students outweighed the costs.

INTERVIEW DATE

Fall 2020, November 18th

INSTRUCTOR INFO

Dr. Cigdem Sirin is an Associate Professor of Political Science and the Director for the Center for Faculty Leadership and Development at the University of Texas at El Paso. She’s been teaching for 12 years. This was her first semester using the Statecraft International Relations (IR) Simulation. 

CURRENTLY RUNNING

Dr. Cigdem Sirin Photo

At the end I was very pleased, I liked it! The way students wrote their weekly memos I could see that they enjoyed the simulation and they did engage with their peers.

The risk paid off. I am happy that I took a chance with the simulation because it really gave me that missing engagement piece in a remote environment.

DR. CIGDEM SIRIN

WHY STATECRAFT?

I had two main motivators:

First, I felt the need to find creative, innovative ways to engage the students and create interaction. I’m teaching this IR course fully online and fully asynchronous. In a pandemic we all feel very isolated, we lack the human contact that would happen in a face-to-face class. In a simulation like this they’re part of a team. They not only have to interact with their team members but also engage in negotiations and discussions with other teams. It’s the perfect platform to give them peer-to-peer interaction.

Second, my class had a shift from a 7-week compact format to a 16-week full-term format. I thought it would feel monotone if I dragged the same 7-week content out for 16 weeks. I wanted something to fill that time gap.

I wanted Statecraft to be an extra bonus for students that would augment my existing material and introduce excitement. 

RISKS & REWARDS

The Statecraft simulation worked very well!

I was dreading it, to be honest. While I was finalizing my syllabus before the semester began, I thought: “Do I really want to do this simulation for the first time? What if it doesn’t work? What if it’s not good? What if we don’t have enough support?”

I took a risk! Every time you try something new in your course you’re taking a risk, especially if the course is doing well already.

One of my concerns was that there would be technical glitches and I would end up playing the role of tech person. But that didn’t happen. Statecraft support was great. Joe is amazing. He even came to the live information session that I created.

At the end I was very pleased, I liked it! Every week I asked students to provide simulation memos, like little journals. The way that they wrote those memos I could see that they really enjoyed the simulation and they did engage with their peers.

The risk paid off. I am happy that I took a chance with the simulation because it really gave me that missing engagement piece in a remote environment.

LET’S HAVE FUN!

This is a game, it’s a lot more fun than interacting through discussion posts! 

Of course there is an incentive for them to be invested since a portion of their grade will depend on their actions in the simulation. But I told them that our first and foremost priority is to have fun; to use this simulation as a fun opportunity to learn.

I set the ground rules at the beginning: “Let’s have fun; keep it cool.”

Setting this tone kept them engaged and it did keep it fun.

LEARNING SUCCESS INDICATORS

I asked questions for the simulation memos like: “How is your country doing right now? What strategies did you apply? Are there connections to the course material?” I really liked reading student responses when they said things like: 

“Oh, look! This is the security dilemma that we just read about. Oh, look! This is prisoner’s dilemma. Oh, look! This is hegemony; this is bandwagoning; this is power balancing.“ 

I loved hearing these words because these things do happen in the real realm of international relations and they are making those connections.

APPLICATION OF COURSE MATERIAL

A top benefit is the application of course material. Students were able to draw connections and then get excited as they saw themselves manifest the course concepts in a simulated world. 

They kept saying, “I like how we are applying what we learn.” 

They are not just reading about how to ride a bike, they are actually “riding a bike” in a sense. I like that application component of the simulation. 

REAL EMOTIONS, REAL ENGAGEMENT

Emotions are real. Even if it’s a simulation, emotions are real. The more students get into the simulation, the higher the emotions.

Just this week in one of my countries the president got impeached. Yes, she got removed from office and she said “This was because of my power-hungry colleagues.”

I talked to the students involved and they said “Don’t worry, professor, it’s part of our master plan.” They were planning an unexpected surprise attack and it was part of their scenario. Imagine: what if it was a real life impeachment? They didn’t think the president of their country was doing a good job and so they successfully removed the president!

These dramatic situations can happen. Some students may take it way seriously, and it may be on the verge of a real-life tension. So you have to check in on your students, monitor the situation and act as mitigator sometimes to make sure that everybody still understands this is a game and there shouldn’t be personal attacks.

IT’S NOT FAIR!

Part of the simulation experience is replicating what actually happens in real life international relations. In the memos one student said “Well they’re ganging up on us and they’re sharing technologies, and it’s not really fair.” You know what? International relations is not fair.

Think about G7, or the European Union. I gave the example of Turkey, my country of origin. Turkey has wanted to be part of the European Union for a long time. It still has its bid for member status but I don’t see a wedding in their near future. Of course they want to be part of the European Union; it’s an organization where countries share technologies and have free movement of people. That’s just one example of how some other countries may think “It’s not fair! They have this nice quality of life, this nice coalition, this nice set-up and I’m losing from it.” G7: again, it’s the same situation where a bunch of developed nations are taking a much bigger share of the world resources. The other countries may be working hard but they cannot compete, so look what happens.

The students said, “We were going to use our resources to purchase big projects but now that we lost to this gang of nations, we are just going to use it for military.” That’s exactly what happens, right? Radicalization of some countries in the world: they see that there’s no channel for them to do well, so what do they do? They go to black markets, they go rogue.

CREATES EMPATHY

The simulation exposed why some nations are forced to be more militaristic and stay less developed. Now the students better understand that path. 

Their emotions get activated: they’re mad at the other students doing these things… but they’re replicating exactly what happens in the real realm of international relations.

This personal experience with frustrations and challenges creates empathy. That is my research area, so I’m really big on gamification. Serious educational games like this are great tools to create empathy.

KNOWLEDGE RETENTION

I think the simulation will facilitate knowledge retention in the long run. 

For example, now they clearly see the benefits of cooperation. They’ve personally experienced that if it’s an all-conflict, all-out war, Hobbesian type of world, that would be a horrible state of chaos. Now they understand the concept of anarchy with the absence of a central government enforcing decisions in the international realm. It makes them appreciate the value of cooperation and international institutionalism, plus what a big challenge it is for countries.

Many of them have told me, “Now we understand how hard it is to achieve cooperation in foreign policy and international relations.” 

ONLINE challenges & benefits

This class is fully asynchronous so it was hard for my students to find a common time to meet on a regular basis. I was impressed, though, the students did find a way to make it work. 

Next time I’m teaching this course, ideally I could have it be a hybrid synchronous/asynchronous online format with set meeting times. Having set time reserved that students could use for Statecraft activities would make life easier. 

Despite this challenge, the simulation does offer the benefit of having the interaction that you usually lack in a fully online environment. 

WORDS OF WISDOM

The collective action problem is part of the risk of team-based learning. The benefits are very high, but there’s always the risk that some will try to exploit the situation and be a free rider. 

Peer evaluations are important to monitor the situation; that would be a piece of advice I can offer to other instructors. By supplementing the individual memos with the peer evaluations, you send the message that this is not a team project where everybody gets the same grade; everyone will be graded individually on their participation.

Within the simulation there are protections embedded, plus if you instill these key monitoring mechanisms you can overcome that hurdle.

You also have to set ground rules from the very beginning because there will be a lot of interaction; including interaction that you cannot trace. They will be having both public and private meetings. Some things will be posted as manifestos or public exchanges, but many interactions happen behind the scenes. You just want to monitor the situation. Log in on a regular basis and engage with the students. 

favorite features

I’m happy that I took that risk, it’s a good simulation!

DR. CIGDEM SIRIN

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 International Relations Simulation or International Relations Lite Simulation products.  

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