Learning Designs - Products of the AUTC project on ICT-based learning designs
Home | Guides (selected) | Tools | The Project | Search
  Online Role-Play


Setting Notes
ICT Contribution


Setting Notes


Implementation tips

Preparing learners

  • The moderator’s main role is preparing and guiding learners to gain maximum learning benefit from the role play experience. See our Tips for Moderating Online Role-Play (PDF) that were collected from Australian role play designers during an e-mail icebreaker activity preceding our National Summit on Online Role-Play.

Guidelines for planning

  • It is likely that teachers will increasingly select or modify an existing role play rather than designing their own. Or in some large institutions, the task of running an online role play may be passed on to a new teacher if the original designer leaves. The Checklist for teachers selecting an existing role play serves as guidance for using a role play if you were not the original designer. It helps teachers decide whether an existing role play matches the needs of the course, how much modification is needed or whether a completely new role play is a better way to go.
  • It is assumed that the original designer of the role play has covered all issues listed in the Online Role-Play Designer’s Guide. You may want to browse that document as a way of evaluating the role play you are thinking about using.
  • If you decide to design your own role play then an Online Role-Play Designer's Template (RTF) is provided.

Guidelines for the moderator

Why Use Online Role-Play?

  • Explore the video clips listed here for comments from role-play designers and students.

Designers and teachers


Why do you use role-play?
Rob McLaughlan, Mekong e-sim, UTS

Generic skills that students learn as part of this role-play
Middle East Politics Role Play, Mq Uni

Why use role-play?
Elizabeth Devonshire, Environmental Management Role Play, Mq Uni

Online role-play as a way of learning
Environmental Management Role Play, Mq Uni

Why use role-play?
Maureen Bell, Idontgoto University Role Play, UoW

What do you think of online role-play as a way to learn?
Internet Gambling Role Play, UoW

Why use online role-play?
Rohan Miller, Internet Gambling Role Play, UoW

Tips for other students participating in role-plays
Middle East Politics Role Play, Mq Uni

Why do you recommend role-play?
Mike Fardon, Political Science 102 Role Play, UWA

More tips for other students
Middle East Politics Role Play, Mq Uni

Why use role-play?
Marie Jasinski, Xmas Party From Hell Role Play & Fashion House Role Play, DMIT








The strategy used in this learning design is a collaborative role-play approach that has been well developed through a number of implemented subject designs. The first known Australian instance was Middle Eastern Politics at The University of Melbourne in 1990. Since then teachers at other universities have adopted and modified the role-play learning design.

Role-plays are situations in which learners take on the role profiles of specific characters or organization representatives in a contrived setting.

The idea behind using role-plays as pedagogical tools is that experience is the best teacher. If access to such experience in real-time is impossible, a simulated environment may be sufficient. The most important advantage of role-play is that it provides a SAFE environment for experiential learning.

Much of the learning occurs because the learning design requires a learner to explore and articulate viewpoints that may not be their own. It is a similar learning experience to that of debating except there is potential for it to be more personal and less abstract as the student actually puts themselves in somebody else’s shoes. Many learners find the personal aspect more engaging than the formal aspects of debating.

Although all of the role-play exemplars in this site lay much stress on the academic theory and content of their university-level discipline area, they also stress the generic learning outcomes such as negotiation and communication skills. As participants work towards their role’s social or political goals, they may experience a range of emotions such as pride, frustration, anger, rejection, acceptance or conflict, so the design allows illustration and practice of emotional skills.

Unlike a face to face role-play, online role-play can be anonymous which provides distinctive features to support learners who may be intimidated, shy or otherwise unable to participate fully in a face to face situation, especially impromptu face to face role-play. Online role-play can provide practice leading into face to face role-play if needed.


Securities Markets Regulation

Learning Outcomes Summary
This learning setting will support students in: -

  • Understanding the regulatory nature of securities markets, including the process of regulation and the various players.
  • Appreciating alternative but valid research approaches (i.e. law and finance) relevant to the regulatory debates.
  • Critically evaluating current issues of regulatory debate and reform in securities markets, such as insider trading and takeovers utilising legal and finance theoretical paradigms as well as their respective methods of research.
  • Utilising the web for accessing information, evaluating its usefulness and interacting with others in and outside the course.
  • Using communication to develop and maintain personal and professional relationships.
  • Working self-critically by themselves or as part of a team.
  • Developing an enhanced respect for other disciplinary and cultural approaches to securities markets regulation (including self-regulation and the role of business ethics).
  • Engaging as important Securities Markets Regulation (SMR) players in a role-play.
  • Developing communication, negotiation and decision-making skills, particularly in relation to understanding how meaning is conveyed via the web.

Environmental Management

Learning Outcomes Summary
This learning setting will support students in: -

  • Demonstrating how principles from Physical Geography are applied in real world environmental practice and decision-making.
  • Merging scientific perspectives with social-science perspectives in an environmental management context.
  • Integrating and synthesizing a range of information needs for water management, balancing their use of divergent forms of information.
  • Actively participating in a simulated 'real world' process of environmental negotiation, working towards a consensus-based output/verdict.
  • Appreciating a participatory approach to resource and environmental management.
  • Applying conflict resolution techniques in environmental decision-making.
  • Recognising the importance of moves towards consensus over compromise / majority decision-making.


Mekong e-Sim

Learning Outcomes Summary

  • To identify the political, social, economic and scientific dimensions to decision making in natural resource management conflicts.
  • To identify the responsibilities and appropriate responses for characters in the role-play.
  • To develop communication, research, critical thinking, negotiation and decision-making skills and an appreciation of cultural differences and approaches.
  • To utilise Information Communication and Technology skills.


More information about Learning Outcomes and Suitability for Online Role-Play can be found in the Online Role-Play Designer's Guide, sections 2 & 3.





Implementing assessment strategies

  • The assessment in this learning design is integral to the learning process and the assessment tasks are usually the same tasks that are required to move the role-play forward, for example publishing a role profile and active engagement in e-mail discussion of the proposed resolutions.
  • The assessment demonstrates their understanding and empathy with the role the students have taken on and their ability to outline the various stakeholders’ differing perspectives.

The importance of the assessment strategies

  • Assessment is the factor that encourages, motivates and drives the learners. Without assessment there can often be a drop-off in engagement by some individuals in the discussion, which then affects all others in the role-play.
  • Assessment ensures alignment between the objectives and learning outcomes and therefore usually is split between a number of components progressively throughout the role play.
  • If the learning has been undertaken in a collaborative team, the assessment needs to incorporate components that recognise the students’ contributions, or else one of the components need to be individual assessment rather than group assessment, for example the final reflective task.

For tips, examples and video clips on assessment from role play designers, see Online Role-Play Designer’s Guide, section 10.


ICT Contribution


Online role play simulation contains no random elements. The computer does not participate in the simulation. The role of the technology (both computation and communication) is to facilitate role play and create an environment which we refer to as simulation. For the learner there are no computer-generated random events that will happen unexpectedly. In contrast to some simulation games, a role play simulation will not have "natural disasters" generated by the computer at random. If there is going to be a disaster, it will be by design and controlled by the moderator.

Online role play involves collaborative conversation therefore the ICT required is e-mail or bulletin board on a network, either a Local Area Network or the Internet depending on the distribution of your students. Some role plays provide access to a synchronous chat facility in addition to an asynchronous e-mail facility but a role play would rarely run entirely as a chat session as chat provides little opportunity for reflection and refinement of proposals. A more sophisticated self-contained web-based environment enables you to provide convenient online access to resources and a more visual metaphor for meeting places for the different stakeholders as well the potential to reuse your role play with other classes.

Examples from Web Based Role-Play Platforms Showing Meeting Places Graphically Represented Within the Web environment


Mogue Magazine

Mogue Magazine is the worlds’FAV fashion mag. Mogue are guesting designers to “DO” the front cover. Design houses have fought and Figwood has won. Now they need fashion people to make it happen.

Figwood Designs have won the chance to host the next Mogue cover. They have two weeks to get together a fashion team to do the shoot. There are a number of teams vying for the greatest chance in their careers and we don’t know who they are … Are you going to make THE team?

Sex, Money, Intrigue, more money and ultimately, POWER

Two weeks kids,….DO IT.

from Fashion House Role-Play showing meeting places graphically represented


Simon O’Mallon, DMIT

Pedagogical considerations when selecting a platform:

1. Anonymity - It is generally agreed that the facility for students to take a role anonymously is a major feature of online role play. Most platforms support this. Only if a team of students is playing a single role is anonymity compromised. In general, there is no need to keep anonymity between team members, although it is possible on some platforms, however anonymity between groups gives added dimensions to a role play learning design.

2. Censorship of postings - In a formal educational environment, knowing that the moderator is monitoring all posts is usually sufficient to prevent students posting inappropriate messages to the role play. The large amount of messages, the need for distributing the messages in a timely manner and the workload of the moderator usually means that censorship cannot be effectively exercised even if it is supported by the platform.

3. Size of role play and grouping - Role play is a group activity and subject to group dynamics therefore a role play with too many roles will make moderation difficult. A role play with too few roles will not have sufficient messages to sustain a continual interest for the players. A minimum of 6 to 8 roles is generally recommended for an interesting online role play. Given the size of a role play is usually much smaller than the class size, a teacher can choose to group students to play a role (team play) or run the role play in different distinct "worlds" or a combination of both. There are many learning opportunities in team work so consider this option first. The optimum size of a team is 2 to 3 students. Not many platforms easily support the notion of separate worlds.

4. Reuse - Designing an effective role play is a non trivial exercise. You need to supply appropriate resources to help students making decisions during role play. You need to have an interesting scenario with a "kick off" episode which gives a significant number of roles compelling and urgent reasons to take some actions. You need to have an appropriate set of roles so that sufficient facets of the issues are explored from sufficient stakeholder viewpoints. Therefore the capability of a platform to support you and/or your colleagues in reusing the role play with other classes should be considered if you wish to capitalize on your efforts.

Your choice of technical platform will depend on what technical resources you have available to you, the complexity of the online role play you are designing, the time you have available for designing, the time your students have available for participation, the technical sophistication of your students, and of course your budget. You could use your university’s centrally provided Learner Management System (WebCT, Blackboard…); a free mail service such as Yahoo or Hotmail; a role play engine such as UWA Simulation Builder or Fablusi; or a hosted service such as Fablusi.

WebCT - Macquarie University

UWA Simulation Builder

Blackboard - UTSOnline

Click any of these
sample images
for a closer view



Yahoo Groups


For a comparison of five different platforms being used by university role play designers in Australia, see our Checklist: Platforms for online role plays (PDF).

For the platforms that are used by the various role plays exemplars, check our Comparison Matrix (PDF). For examples that use existing university platforms check our QuickStart Role Play 1 (PDF), QuickStart Role Play 2 (PDF), or Email Role Play Templates.





  Top of Page Home