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  Mekong e-Sim Design Team

"Mekong e-Sim: An online role-play simulation about international natural resource management issues"


R McLaughlan
D Kirkpatrick
H Maier
P Hirsch
Design Team
  Team: Robert McLaughlan, Denise Kirkpatrick, Holger Maier and Philip Hirsch


  Focus: Role Play
  Discipline: Engineering & Architecture
Science & Geography
Arts & Humanities
Education & Educational Technology
  Target: Undergraduate (middle, late)
  ICT used: Web plus LMS (Learning Management System)
  Scope: Over several learning sessions, across several subjects/institutions

Designer's Summary


Role-playing within a simulation/gaming framework allows human participants to adopt a role that encompasses a set of interests, values and knowledge.

In this learning design the simulated world comprises up to 40 different roles (personae). The students adopt a shared persona which involves them researching a range of different information sources (e.g. Internet, articles) to develop an understanding about the responsibilities, views and strategies of their adopted persona. Since four students share a single persona they collaborate on developing this understanding.

These perspectives are then operationalised within a simplified but functionally relevant version of a complex decision-making context. Different personae interact (via email and online discussion forum) in response to events that have occurred and the actions of other personae. During the forum activity, students gain an understanding of the multiple perspectives on the topic being debated through reading the postings of all persona.

Students then participate in a structured process of guided recall, reflection and analysis of the role-play simulation. This involves sharing the experiences of the participants present, the understandings they have developed and relating this to any theories or practices relevant to the intended learning outcomes.

Rationale for Inclusion


This exemplar has been selected for inclusion for the following reasons:

  • It represents a high quality online role-play implementation. It was awarded the ASCILITE 2001 Best Web Project Award. (Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education: http://www.ascilite.org.au).
  • It illustrates a cross-displinary and cross-institution implementation. It involves students from three different subjects/courses from four participating institutions.
  • The learning design was first developed in 1996 and has since evolved and been progressively evaluated. The original design was influenced by the following online social science simulations: Middle East Simulation (Andrew Vincent at Macquarie University), Project IDEELS and Project ICONS (University of Maryland).
  • The learning design can be reused in other disciplines and contexts.

A comprehensive Designer Template, plus a number of checklists and associated documentation is provided to guide the design and implementation of such an online role-play model.

Please Cite As:

  McLaughlan, R., Kirkpatrick, D., Maier, H. & Hirsch, P. (2002). Description of Mekong e-Sim: An online role-play simulation about international natural resource management issues. Retrieved , from Learning Designs Web site:
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