The Ultimate Active Learning Tool for Engagement & Academic Honesty​

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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Improves Engagement, Forces Critical Thinking & Creates Connection

case study

Improves Engagement, Forces Critical Thinking & Creates Connection


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.


Fall 2020, November 12th


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

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.



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. 


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.


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.


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.


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.


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. 


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.


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 usually 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



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.


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.

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