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Online Role-Play - Designers' Guide


  1. [Background & Purpose]
  2. [Learning Objectives]
  3. [Suitability for Online Role-Play]
  4. [Scenario]
  5. [Resources]
  6. [Roles]
  7. [Meeting Places]
  8. [Events]
  9. [Duration]
  10. [Assessment]
  11. [Evaluation]
  12. [Support for the Moderator]
  13. [Platform]


NOTE: There is a companion Designer's Template (RTF) for this Guide. It provides a number of forms to help you with your designing activities and follows a similar section structure to the above for your convenience.

Something to keep in mind...

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Background & Purpose

This section introduces the Designer's Guide. It considers three matters:

Why use role play?
Purpose of this guide
What is online role play?

Jump to any item of particular interest, or scroll down to read them in sequence.



Why use role play?

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, an artificial environment may be, if not ideal, at least sufficient. The most important advantage of role play is that it provides a SAFE environment for experiential learning.



We use online role play because it encourages deep approaches to learning through safe, yet challenging, explorations of perspectives.

- Online Role-Play Expert Reference Group


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Why we use role play...

Discussion from a selection of role play designers:



Purpose of this guide

This guide will take you through the "thinking" process of creating an educationally meaningful online role play. It is designed to be used in conjunction with our Designer’s Template. After working through the template you will have made a written plan to create a role play for use with your students.

The guide is very comprehensive and covers almost every conceivable feature that an online role play might have. However, every role play does not need to have every conceivable feature – a smaller, shorter design may suffice for your curriculum need and may better suit the time you have available for the design task! The key components of role play are:

  • Scenario.
  • Roles.
  • Resources.
  • Events.

Therefore concentrate on those sections in the guide. However if these four sections seem daunting then try one of the Quick Start Role-Plays: Role-Play 1 or Role-Play 2.

One of the most common causes of failure in running a role play is making it too complex. It should be kept simple. Try not to accomplish too much in one go. Pick the simplest and clearest approach. It is always possible to elaborate later; it is not so easy to simplify once the complex interactions have started to emerge (van Ments, 1999, p.65).


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Role plays have been used as a tool for teaching, learning and training in many areas and disciplines. The first known Australian instance was Middle Eastern Politics at The University of Melbourne in 1990. When the teacher moved to Macquarie University the strategy was successfully implemented again there whilst The University of Melbourne continued to develop the initial implementation. Since then teachers at other universities have adopted and modified the role play learning design. Therefore the learning design has transferred between teachers and institutions and, having been in use for over twelve years, it has stood the test of time. For a full description of seven role plays being used in Australian universities:

  • refer to the Exemplars section on our website (close this window, click 'Exemplars' tab) or
  • start with the Comparison Matrix (PDF) which compares and contrasts the characteristics of those seven role plays.

Throughout this Designer’s Template, examples from the seven Examplar role plays will be used to highlight design issues.

Before embarking on the design of a new role play, you may like to consider selecting or modifying an existing role play. Refer to:

elsewhere on this website for guidance. 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.

If you decide to design your own role play, you should also peruse other important documents on the web site:


  : Design with attitude!

Design with attitude! Improvise and use your creativity! Role plays don’t always have to be planned affairs. If you use forums and believe in emergence, it’s amazing what can evolve.
Marie Jasinski, DMIT



What is online role play?

Online role play provides a scenario and a set of roles that students adopt in order to solve a problem, create something, explore an issue etc. The role plays you are going to design are not simulations of physical systems. Role play simulations are for modeling human interactions. 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.

All of the role play examples in the Exemplars section fit more comfortably into the category of social-process simulations rather than tactical-decision simulations in Gredler’s taxonomy. In the tactical-decision category the focus is on the collection and interpretation of data and the development of a strategy to achieve a specific goal. In the social-process category, focus is on the study of human interactions and communication in pursuing social or political goals. More specifically our examples fall into the sub-category of multi-agenda/social-system/social-process simulations as "participants assume roles in a hypothesized social group and experience the complexity of establishing and implementing particular goals within the fabric established by the system. The differences and potential conflicts among the roles set in motion the dynamics of the simulation." (Gredler, 1994)

Although all of our examples 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 skills and communication skills that are the main outcomes of a social-process simulation. As participants work towards their social or political goals, they may experience a range of emotions such as pride, frustration, anger, rejection, acceptance or conflict therefore debriefing activities are an important part of any role play.

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.


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The word "role play" can be misleading because of the emphasis on the word "play" which may have connotations of gaming or theatre rather than serious educational intent. Some people use the term "role work" to get around this perception. That being understood, we use the word "play" to indicate playing in character, playing for fun and playing to understand alternatives.


  : Team design

Design with a team! You’ll need design, technical and moderation skills to achieve a successful outcome. One person rarely has the required level of all three skills.
Marie Jasinski, DMIT


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Learning Objectives

Role plays are situations in which learners take on the role profiles of specific characters or organisations in a contrived setting. Role play is designed primarily to build first person experience in a safe and supportive environment. While there is continuous conversion of experiences into learning outcomes, the formal stage of this occurring will be mainly at debriefing time.


EXAMPLE from Securities Markets Regulation RP (...description>>)

Role-Play Outcomes

Knowledge outcomes

  • Understand the regulatory nature of securities markets, including the process of regulation and the various players.
  • Appreciate alternative but valid research approaches (ie law and finance) relevant to the regulatory debates.

Capability outcomes

  • Critically evaluate 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.
  • Be capable of utilising the web for accessing information, evaluating its usefulness and interacting with others in and outside the course.
  • Be capable of all forms of communication including the development and maintenance of personal and professional relationships.

Value outcomes

  • Work self-critically by yourself or as part of a team.
  • Have developed an enhanced respect for other disciplinary and cultural approaches to securities markets regulation (including self-regulation and the role of business ethics).

The specific objectives of the anonymous role pay are for students to develop these by:

  • engaging as important Securities Markets Regulation (SMR) players in a role play. This should encourage deeper approaches to learning of SMR concepts by 'experiencing' the interactions of the goals, aims and ambitions and interests of different securities markets player. Deeper approaches to learning are highly correlated with better quality learning. Hence you should increase the quality of your learning of the key knowledge and understanding of SMR processes (particularly the political, legal, finance as well as dimensions to decision making) during a securities markets conflict.
  • developing communication, negotiation and decision making skills, particularly in relation to understanding how meaning is conveyed via the web. This should also help your understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of electronic communication in important issues.
  • experiencing learning and interacting as an anonymous learner by using electronic media (ie. UTS Online private messaging plus Discussions). ie. throw off the baggage of your views and 'live' and experience those views of your character.

Mark Freeman & Michael Adams, UTS

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EXAMPLE from Environmental Decision-Making RP (...description>>)

Outcomes and Objectives

Context: Discipline-specific outcomes

  • Demonstrate how principles from Physical Geography are applied in real world environmental practice and decision-making
  • Demonstrate the relevance and use of scientific principles in water resources management
  • Merge scientific perspectives with social-science perspectives in an environmental management context, demonstrating the limitations of discipline-bound attitudes and thinking
  • Students question conventional positions, values and perspectives on water management issues
  • Students integrate and synthesise a range of information needs for water management, balancing their use of divergent forms of information (books, journal articles, media, www resources, 'grey literature', and local knowledge)

Process objectives

  • Active participation in a simulated 'real world' process of environmental negotiation, working towards a consensus-based output/verdict
  • Students learn to appreciate the complexity and uncertainty of environmental decision-making processes
  • Students appreciate the importance of a participatory approach to resource and environmental management
  • Students apply conflict resolution techniques in environmental decision-making
  • Students recognise importance of moves towards consensus over compromise / majority decision-making

In terms of core priorities, these could be summarised as:

  1. use of scientific principles in water resources management
  2. demonstrating relevance of what is taught through reconstructing experiential real-world practice
  3. learning skills to participate in negotiation processes that work towards consensus-based outcomes.

Gary Brierley, Mick Hillman & Elizabeth Devonshire, Macquarie Uni


EXAMPLE from Mekong e-Sim RP (...description>>)

Learning Outcomes, Graduate Attributes

Rob McLaughlan, UTS; Denise Kirkpatrick, UNE; Holger Maier, UAdel; Phillip Hirsch, USyd



Suitability for Online Role-Play

Is this activity suitable for online role play?

The following criteria attempt to filter out activities that are not suitable for role play as well as an advance organizer for planning. You need to be sure that the learning objectives are achievable via role play as well as be aware of practical issues:

  • The activity involves more than one learner interacting with other learners. A role play needs about 8 – 12 roles to be effective. The participation you have in mind is NOT "acting" out as in drama or play in which part of the message is embedded in the body movement nor is it therapy. The task is mental and the demonstration of doing the task can be done via writing.
  • The learners and teachers have access to the Internet. They may be geographically scattered. The learners, teachers and moderators are able to log onto the web site regularly in order to participate effectively. You may like to make a realistic guess on how often learners can log onto the Internet. You may have to devise incentives or make it clear to the learners that role play is a collaborative activity and they have a mutual obligation to participate. Otherwise, other learners may feel anxiety and frustration as they may be waiting for a response from the missing role.
  • The learners and moderators are able to commit a definite amount of time. Face to face role play usually extends for only a short period of time. Whereas online role play can sustain the activity over many weeks and thus can lead to more in-depth educational experiences for the students.
  • The activity involves several "stakeholders" and these stakeholders have different points of view. None of the points of view are black and white. The scenario that sets the roles in context must contain sufficient conflict to spark debate between the stakeholders. The scenario is manageable. The conflicting issues in the scenario are to some extent resolvable. You have some possible resolutions in mind in case your students are not forthcoming with their own resolutions.
  • You are sure that the learners are mature enough to handle the topic and the issues that may arise from discussion of the topic in "first-person" mode.
  • The activity does not contravene any privacy issues for the students or for real-world characters that may be modeled in the role play. If privacy is an issue, it may be sufficient to add a disclaimer.
  • You have access to appropriate technology for hosting an online role play. Read our Platforms Checklist (PDF) for further information.
  • You are sure that you have adequate time available before the first class begins to design and pilot my idea for a role play.

If you are uncertain about any of the above, you may have to rethink the learning design you have in mind or otherwise redesign the activity to better suit online role play.

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  : Getting started

Generating the role play in the first instance is complex and difficult. Scribble your main ideas down and do a visual mind-map of the framework before you get to the details.
Simon O'Mallon, DMIT


This Designer's Guide section discusses the topic of Scenario in two blocks:

Stakeholders and Roles
Scenario – Story

Jump to either sub-section directly, or scroll down to read both in sequence.



Stakeholders and Roles

Scenario is the driving context for the learning to happen. It is made up of:

  • a story,
  • roles and
  • events.

Events will be discussed in a later section meanwhile let’s start with a broad look at roles. Some designers prefer to draft a story first. Feel free to read that section before this one if you prefer.

A role play is about issues which involve more than one stakeholder. The role play becomes interesting because the issues will look different for different stakeholders. Stakeholders are not the same as roles as there may be more than one role allocated per stakeholder. In a later stage, stakeholders can be allocated roles and stories. The danger of starting role play design by working on characters first is that an over-emphasis on characters may develop and the generalized lessons to be drawn from the problem situations may be lost (van Ments, 1999). Therefore, begin with stakeholder positions.


EXAMPLE from First Fleet RP (...description>>)

Description of three stakeholder groups

Governor’s Table

Following navy tradition, the Governor has the option of dining alone, but he may invite officers of the colony and others to join him. He can invite them as individuals, or as a group. He can also consult with them on a confidential basis. It is the Governor’s choice. Increasingly savage sentences have failed to deter the convicts and theft from the gardens remains a major problem. There is no point in holding back rations to pay back what has been stolen, because there is little to hold back without causing death by starvation. Your task is to ensure that rations last and productivity remains high, and that you create a decent community for the future. The officer’s and convicts cannot hear your discussions, unless you choose to speak with them as individuals.

Officers’ Mess

All marine officers belong to the mess. All ships of war carried marines. Originally their job was to fire upon the crew of opposing vessels. However they are also the ships’ police, whose role was to keep the sailors under control. They wore the scarlet tunic of a soldier. On board the officers messed with the naval officers. When ships crews were paid off, marines were returned to land barracks - unlike the sailors they retained their job. The officers have had to be ordered to attend to the supervision of building of barracks for their men. They had been concentrating on building their own huts. The marine officers are most unhappy about being asked to sit as part of the civil courts. Officers had private stocks of food, including some of the livestock. They can hunt, and employ convicts in their gardens. So the reduced rations do not affect them as much. One of the general areas of concern is that your marines are punished using a heavier whip than that used for the convicts. Your task is to improve your own circumstances. Neither the convicts nor the captain’s table can hear your discussions, however you may address a submission to anyone you choose, individually or as a group.

Convicts’ Camp

Having been in prison together for many years on the hulks and the transport ships, the convicts know their shipmates very well. In the colony friendships continue along the lines established in earlier years, either as partners in crime or as shipmates. The vast majority of convicts have been sentenced for stealing, and come from cities. There are few in the colony who can teach them how to grow crops successfully, or any other useful skill. Many of your mates are former sailors who despise marines. All ships of war carried marines. When on board they rarely took any part in sailing the ship, or keeping watch. They were the ships’ police whose job it was to keep the sailors under control. You know that some of the marines are a bad lot, causing just as much trouble to the women as some of the male convicts are doing. In fact in March 1789 six marines were hanged for stealing food. Three of those who had been hanged had also assaulted a fellow marine. Some convicts have put a lot of work into their vegetable gardens, and are seeing them raided nightly by those who know of nothing but theft. Some of the convict supervisors have worked very well, and some are petty tyrants. You remember the Governor’s address to the convicts just after the women landed. You were impressed by his reference to not working people beyond their abilities, and that all should work for the community. You know that Captain Collins is humane but tough, and that he is the governor’s secretary, handling all official correspondence. The female convicts loath Captain Meredith in particular. Marines and members of the Governor’s table cannot hear your conversations. As a result of your discussion, you may decide to raise a petition to the governor, or do it through personal contact with an individual, using mail. Your task is to protect your fellow convicts and their personal property.

Sandra Wills, UoW



  : Make it credible

The role play does not have to be believable, it just needs to be credible. Your brain loves to play games, let it.
Simon O'Mallon, DMIT

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EXAMPLE from Xmas Party From Hell RP

Draft notes about stakeholders during first design of the role play

Stakeholder Stakeholder viewpoint

Ensure that acceptable behavior are practiced as defined within the legal requirements

  • understanding of the legal framework
Support Staff

Enjoy working in a harassment-free working environment

  • use of terms such as "girlie" is unacceptable
  • aggressive sexual behavior
Teaching staff There is a culture difference between the acceptable behavior in some workplace (e.g. a auto repair shop where picture of nude women is hanged) and a classroom. It is unacceptable to bring the norm from the workplace into training environment.
Union Representative  
Student Counsellor  

Marie Jasinski, DMIT; Roni Linser, UMelb; Albert Ip, DLS


EXAMPLE from Mekong e-Sim RP (...description>>)

7 stakeholders becomes 43 roles


[MOP] Ministry of Planning, Cambodia
[CNMC] Cambodia National Mekong Committee, Cambodia
[MAFF] Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Cambodia
[SPC] State Planning Committee, Lao PDR
[MAF] Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Lao PDR
[MIH] Ministry of Industry and Handicraft, Lao PDR
[STEA] Science, Technology, and Environmental Agency, Lao PDR
[MPH] Ministry of Public Health, Lao PDR
[LGWRC] Leading Group For Water Resources & Water & Soil Conservation, China
[NPC] National Planning Committee of the People’s Republic of China, China
[EGAT] Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, Thailand
[MARD] Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Vietnam
[ADB:IED] Asian Development Bank: Infrastructure, Energy and Financial Sectors Department, Based in Philippines
[ADB_OESD] Asian Development Bank, Office of Environmental and Social Development, Based inPhilippines
[GMS_TRANS] Greater Mekong Subregion Transport Forum, Mixed
[GMS_TRADE] Trade Facilitation Working Group of the Asian Development Bank’s Greater Mekong Subregion Initiative, Mixed
[WB_IAG] The World Bank International Advisory Group, Based in USA
[UNDP] United Nations Development Program, UN
[TCTID] Transport, Communications, Tourism and Infrastructure Development Division of the UN Economic and Social Commission
for Asia and the Pacific, UN
[UNESCO] United Nation Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UN
[MRC] Mekong River Commission Cambodia, Lao, Thailand, Vietnam
[AusAID] AusAID, Australia
[AMTA] Agency for Coordinating Mekong Tourism and Activities, Mekong
[TERRA] Towards Ecological Recovery and Regional Alliance, Thailand
[FOCUS] Focus on the Global South, Thailand
[OXFAM] Oxfam International, Mixed
[NFC] Non-government organisation Forum on Cambodia, Cambodia
[IRN] International Rivers Network, USA
[PROBE] Probe International, Based in Canada
[WCD] World Commission on Dams, World
MEDIA [VTIMES] Vientiane Times, Lao PDR
[WATERSHED] Watershed: The People’s Forum on Ecology, Thailand
[CNN] Cable News Network, World
[DT] Development Today, World
[AECasia] The Asia Architecture Engineering & Construction Network, Asia
[NTV] Nam Theun Villagers, Lao PDR
[XBFV] Xe Bang Fai Villagers, Lao PDR
[TLSF] TonLe Sap Fishers, Cambodia
[TRANSFIELD] Transfield, Australia
[NTEC] Nam Theun 2 Electricity Consortium, Mixed
[CNG] The Christiani & Nielsen Group, Thailand
[LAHMEYER] Lahmeyer International, Germany
[SWI] Scott Wilson International Consultancy, Malaysia

Rob McLaughlan, UTS; Denise Kirkpatrick, UNE; Holger Maier, UAdel; Phillip Hirsch, USyd


Depending on the learning outcomes, it may be sufficient for your role play to go no further than stakeholder positions rather than fleshed out human characters. Usually the stakeholders are in that case organizations.


EXAMPLE from Environmental Decision-Making RP (...description>>)

Organisation Roles

Gary Brierley, Mick Hillman & Elizabeth Devonshire, Macquarie Uni



Scenario – Story

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Can you map your stakeholders to characters from some existing story or case study? An interesting story gives richness to the role play activity. However, if the story is too complicated, the learning objectives will be buried in the details. A simple story is best. The main characters in your chosen story should match the stakeholders in the sense that when these characters are put in the situation described by your scenario, they will have similar stakeholder viewpoints.

As long as copyright permits and the existing story is available to the learners, basing on an existing story saves a lot of work. The characters, the time and the environment are described in the story but you can adapt the characters and put them in different circumstances to create the role play. Although it is useful to model role plays on real situations there is an argument for keeping them slightly divorced from particular examples because irrelevant facts may be introduced; defensive behaviour may occur if the main characters can be identified; participants may want to duck out of responsibility and maintain that the faults lie outside the role play situation (van Ments, 1999).


  : Story prompts

You can reference children's stories, scenarios and characters (with minor changes [to protect the innocent] {the wolf didn't do it}) to build a faster and stronger overview. We (adults) all have these stories in us already.
Simon O'Mallon, DMIT

Unless your role play is set back in history, choose a time period so that the players can apply their imagination. Futuristic role plays can motivate the learners to base their actions on both current and imaginative events especially if the story happens in the near future. Events in the near future are influenced by current events and this provides motivation for learners to do research.

If the story depends on discovering objects based on a map, you may like to consider an activity based on adventure games rather than role playing. However, think again. If the key activities can be abstracted into meeting rooms/area and the actual geographic relationships between them do not matter, then continue using role play design. What is the purpose of the objects? If the objective of picking up the objects is to indicate the learners have been there, give up the concept of objects. Think instead about what sort of communicative activities should happen in that location when roles meet there.


  : Brevity

Keep the scenario succinct. People are used to short stories from advertisements. Practise focusing the field of play.
Simon O'Mallon, DMIT

Once you’ve decided on the general scenario, you should try to draft a short introduction to the role play. This not only helps clarify the scenario in your mind but helps you decide on the manner in which you’ll be introducing your students to the role play. The background information could be presented in the form of a newspaper, a prospectus, a letter, a set of official documents or other format that mirrors the context of the role play itself. Generally the introduction is in two parts: the first fills in the broad background and is often written in the past tense; the second provides the immediate problem and should be written in the present tense. If it is impossible to reduce the amount of information that you need to provide to the students then it may be better to use a case study rather than a role play (van Ments, 1999).


  : Tell yourself

After you have created a rough framework, bring the story together by telling a story to yourself. Exaggerate, double back, overlay. The scenario will build itself.
Simon O'Mallon, DMIT


EXAMPLE from First Fleet RP (...description>>)

The problem... Sydney Cove 1789

In January 1788 the First Fleet landed at Sydney Cove with 2 years supply of provisions. It was high summer. Based on Cook's observations, made in July 1770, it had been expected that the convicts would quickly establish farms, which would produce enough to feed the colony. It is now July 1789, and there have been no ships from home. The land has proved difficult to farm, and the only grain harvest to date has had to be set aside for seed. The provisions you brought with you have deteriorated, and have had to be supplemented by the purchase of more from Cape Town, South Africa. The Sirius took over five months to complete the journey.

Individual officers and some convicts have set up vegetable gardens, but there are few in the colony who actually know how to farm. Convicts are free from public work on Saturday afternoons so they can tend their own gardens. However most of them are unused to rural life, being largely the product of city life. Some of them are people for whom theft has long been a way of life. They eat most of their rations in a day or two then steal for the remainder of the week. As the Governor promised back in February 1788, sentences for the theft of food are savage, but the convicts have not been deterred by sentences of 500 lashes. In any case many convicts and marines know there is little chance of being caught after dark.

Some of the female convicts attract some of the convicts and marines like moths to a flame. They see this as a way of securing better conditions for themselves. After all, for much of the time they have been on two thirds of the male convict ration. At the same time, despite the wishes of other female convicts, some of the soldiers and sailors view the women as being there for the convenience of the men.

There are only convict overseers for the work parties, as the marines refuse to undertake this task. Their commandant Major Ross considers his marines to be soldiers not gaolers, so there is no one to keep order amongst the convicts after hours. There are too many people about late at night and nothing to protect the more law-abiding community members, who are tired of seeing their gardens raided. How will order be maintained? How will thieves be brought to justice to deter others?

Sandra Wills, UoW


EXAMPLE from Xmas Party From Hell RP

Draft issues/circumstances in writing the role play

There is subtle and ongoing sexual harassment by the Managing Director (MD) of his male Personal Assistant. The Personal Assistant is referred to by the Managing Director as "My Girlie". The Managing Director is proud to be the only senior manager in his Department with a male Personal Assistant and thinks "My Girlie" is a term of endearment. Other staff, including the PA are offended by this term, but the MD does not realise that this kind of behaviour is offensive.

Other senior staff – all male – reinforce this behaviour, think it is a hoot and don’t believe there is anything wrong with it. Josh, the PA seems to be taking it on the shoulders and seeing the funny side. Some female colleagues have mentioned that this is inappropriate behaviour, but mostly in throw away lines over Friday drinks. So up until now this issue has been dismissed as making a big fuss over nothing and taking this EO stuff too far.

The issue: how do the subordinates of the Managing Director advise him and his male ‘inner circle’ that the term "My Girlie" is unacceptable and constitutes sexual harassment and must be stopped?

There are culture differences between some lecturers.

Marie Jasinski, DMIT; Roni Linser, UMelb; Albert Ip, DLS


EXAMPLE from Xmas Party From Hell RP

The Speech that broke the reindeer's back...


Today, there is another event on, this time it is FAREWELL drinks FOR JOHN CROWNLEY a popular and jovial staff member going on long service leave. John is renowned for dropping clangers, but everyone likes him as he is good natured and means no harm… There's lots of functions going on this time of year and this event has a better then usual turn out and it’s probably not because of John's popularity! Something else has attracted the hoards.

Maybe it's the fact that Mick Malloy the Managing Director will be making a farewell speech. There is an air of excitement and expectation as everyone is wondering what Mick will have to say THIS time. He is a nice enough bloke and has done some great things for the Ausis Institute, but being politically correct is not one of them. He's a nightmare for Alison Davies, the recently appointed Communications Officer. Some have said it was worth her position just to put out the fires and keep the Institute out of the spotlight. Alison is emerging as a bit of a stickler for protocol when it comes to the media and already she has had a bit of a run in with Verity Strong about editorial rights for the Institute newsletter. There is a rumour she wants to take over as Editor of the Ausis newsletter, but everyone knows Verity will fight to the end to keep that position. There may be a bit of power play going on here. Verity really protects her role as Editor and she should, because she sure is a good writer. Some people including Verity think Alison sucks up to the Exec team too much - well she has got them out of a few tight corners and Mick thinks she's OK. She'll be in the Inner circle in no time.

It's well known, but not publicly talked about that Mick has an inner circle of a few people who have the power to influence him. Some call it the Round Table. Poor Josh Stillwell wouldn't know what hit him being exposed to that group. They raise a few eyebrows with the finance division with their number of Business Lunches around the Round Table. There's a BIG rumour about a fall out of some sort between Mick and Josh. Josh is an ambitious sort of bloke - he must be to take on Mick as his personal assistant. Everyone can see he's too good for that job. Noone expects Josh to be around for long - he's aiming for higher things, so is trying to keep his nose clean. Some say he only got that position as a reverse equity thing. When the EO person Anna Leska heard that, she squashed it real quick, making it clear that all processes were followed and Josh won that position on merit. She's an OK person Anna. If you HAVE to have an EO position, then someone like her is as good as any - she's from a migrant background herself - Hungarian or something like that, but she's married to a Spaniard and has twin girls. What a multicultural place this is. Something's up though as Anna has called an extraordinary meeting of the EO committee which is very unusual for her…

So mostly everyone has turned up for the farewell and the drinks and nibbles are flowing.
Finally it's speech time and everyone shuts up and listens politely. Mick gives John a bum-bag as a travel gift and says he hopes it gets pinched often!! Hardy Hardy Har!
In response there are a few titters, a groan or three, and more than one set of pursed lips!! There's a bit of tension mounting.

Then it's John's turn. He gets up, faces the crowd, sucks his gut in, gives his bum-bag a surreptitious scratch and after a few mindless words, he blurts out....

"Thanks for the kind words and the bummer of a gift Mick me boy! The one thing I like about Mick is that he never changes. He always calls a spade a spade. Whether it's Genghis Khan or Marilyn Monroe, his personal assistant will always be ‘Girlie’ to him. What you got to remember is he means well…"
The speeches are over, but the gossip is just beginning...

Marie Jasinski, DMIT; Roni Linser, UMelb; Albert Ip, DLS



What resources will your students have access to for better understanding the scenario and the stakeholders in general? Will these resources be in print or online; will they be subject specific or generic?


EXAMPLE from Mekong e-Sim RP (...description>>)

e-Sim Resources Page

Rob McLaughlan, UTS; Denise Kirkpatrick, UNE; Holger Maier, UAdel; Phillip Hirsch, USyd



EXAMPLE from First Fleet RP (...description>>)

Rations Resource

Sandra Wills, UoW


EXAMPLE from First Fleet RP (...description>>)

Convict Database Resource

Sandra Wills, UoW


EXAMPLE from First Fleet RP (...description>>)

Generic resource from Role-Play

Sandra Wills, UoW


  : Grey literature

We make a lot of use of 'grey literature' - unpublished reports, scoping papers from our own research on the case study. This provides direct information on the case study itself. It is placed in library reserve in hard copy.
Gary Brierley, Mick Hillman & Elizabeth Devonshire, Macquarie Uni

from Environmental Decision-Making RP (...description>>)


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What roles do you need to represent the various stakeholder viewpoints? Some of the stakeholders need not have a role in the role play or you may take them yourself as moderator. Include only those stakeholders who can meaningfully participate and learn something.

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Unless your learners have great commitment to participation, too few roles produces insufficient interactivity to keep the role play going. On the other hand, too many roles may make the moderator’s job very difficult. Try eight to twelve roles for your first role play. Two to four students per role is an ideal number for effective team participation.


EXAMPLE from First Fleet RP (...description>>)

First Fleet Role Roll Call...

34 roles can be too many so a second version of the role play has been designed for 12 roles.


Description in 1789



Governor Arthur Philip

Navy, Governor of the Colony

John Archer/Forrester


Major Robert Ross

Marine, Lieutenant Governor, command of garrison

John Basely


Augustus Alt


William Bradbury


William Balmain

Third Assistant Surgeon

James Clark


Henry Brewer

Provost Marshall

Elizabeth Cole


Captain James Campbell

Marine, Second Lieutenant

John Massey Cox


Ralph Clark

Marine, First Lieutenant

John Culleyhorn


David Collins

Marine, Secretary to the Governor, Deputy Judge Advocate

John Harris


William Dawes

Marine, Lieutenant, Engineer & Surveyor

John Herbert Keeling/Kellan


Richard Johnson


Stephen Le Grove


James Meredith

Marine, Captain

Elizabeth Leonard


Andrew Miller


Joseph Marshall


Watkin Tench

Marine, Captain

Susannah Mason/Gibbs


John White

Surgeon General

Thomas Oldfield


Captain John Hunter

Navy, Captain

Charles Peat


John Coen Welsh/Walsh


William Richardson


Nancy Yeates


Isabella Rosson


Sandra Wills, UoW



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  : Good guys/bad guys

Not all roles are positive. If the play calls for it don't hesitate to include the "badies".
Simon O'Mallon, DMIT


  : Gender matters

Consider the use of gender-neutral names for the players.
Elizabeth Devonshire, USyd


EXAMPLE from Mekong e-Sim RP (...description>>)

Role Profiles

"Forty three roles sounds like a large number however it is OK as the students decide who they want to network with. Since the role play interaction is driven by the scenario and having suitable roles, then it is independent of us as teachers. If I had to control the interaction then forty three would be too many, but if the students control it then the more the merrier. However some people like to live in small towns, others in large ones! As long as there is a variety of meeting places then students will find a suitable place to collaborate."

Rob McLaughlan, UTS; Denise Kirkpatrick, UNE; Holger Maier, UAdel; Phillip Hirsch, USyd


  : Role up your sleeve

Sometimes it's advantageous to have a role up your sleeve. A good moderator can interact as a participant without compromising the role play. You can use this when the game is moving too slowly or inefficiently towards the outcomes.
Simon O'Mallon, DMIT

Roles do not necessarily have to be human. Sometimes, using animals can improve the imagination of the players. In role play, there is no reason why a dog or a house cannot speak a human language to communicate.

Stereotypes help simplify your design especially if one of your learning objectives is to sensitize learners to stereotyping. However sometimes you may be better to let your players apply their imagination rather than setting a stereotype up front as part of your design. Van Ments (1999) warns that stereotyped behaviour can generate self-fulfilling responses. He provides the following checklist to avoid unwanted learning:

  • do not write in stereotypes – keep to functions, powers and constraints;
  • use deliberate non-conventional writing;
  • cross-cast roles;
  • use role-rotation;
  • use debriefing session to question assumptions;
  • invite students to challenge;
  • ensure that reward systems encourage correct behaviour.


EXAMPLE from Political Science Simulation RP (...description>>)

Where the roles are countries, not individuals

Michael Fardon & Samina Yasmeen, UWA


Providing a role with both a public agenda and a private agenda can give a role compelling reasons to act. Such actions should allow the role to experience the kind of situation referred to in your learning objectives. Your instructions to the role should encourage them to think about these agendas themselves as part of the learning process, to publish the public agenda and to send the private agenda to the moderator. If your aim is to emphasise co-operation and collaboration then suggest in the private agenda some possible points for negotiation. Another technique in creating a need for authentic communication is creating information gaps between the roles.


EXAMPLE from Xmas Party From Hell RP

Role description for Josh Stillwell

Compare this individual role information with the information provided to all in the scenario section.

Your role
Personal Assistant to Managing Director

Personal characteristics
A very competent and efficient PA who is an asset to Mick Malloy, but you are still finding your feet in your new position. Outwardly you are very cool and calm and are seen as unapproachable. However, you are not very assertive and tends to let things build up until you explode which surprises everyone. No-one has seen that yet, but you feel yourself building up to it.

Social status in the simulation
An AS03 is not a very highly paid position, but you see it as a stepping stone to better things. As a PA to the MD, you are aware that people tend to suck up to you. This must be a Government thing. You work with Verity Strong as Sub-Editor of AIT newspaper, but everything has to be submitted to her.

Circumstances that this role is in at the start of the simulation
You are called "My Girlie" in private email from Dr Mick Malloy, your boss. You felt very uncomfortable, but didn't challenge Dr Malloy at all. You lack the courage to confront Mick to let him know how you feel. You are reluctant to take any action as on the whole you get on with Mick. It seems like a small thing, but you feel really demeaned. You will seek advice from your friend Billy Dodds who is studying aquaculture at the Institute and is a member of the Student Association.

Public agenda in simulation
(What are the goals of this role in the simulation? This public agenda will be available to other roles.)
To work closely in a trusting relationship with the Managing Director and to carry out your duties as professionally as possible.

Private agenda in simulation
(What are the goals of this role in the simulation unknown to other roles?)
Hates being called "Girlie" by your boss and would like to make it known you feel demeaned, but thinks there is a lot at stake if you do complain. You are ambitious and afraid of losing the job. This was a big promotion and you are setting a precedent within the department and you feel you have to succeed.

Marie Jasinski, DMIT; Roni Linser, UMelb; Albert Ip, DLS


Video snippet


EXAMPLE from First Fleet RP (...description>>)

Role Description: Governor Arthur Phillip (1738-1814)

  You are a 48 year old navy captain. You joined the Royal Navy as a lieutenant in 1761 having developed your sailing skills in the merchant service. After some years in the Royal Navy, you worked for the Portuguese navy from 1774 to 1778 as a captain. Your duties then included transporting Portuguese convicts to settlements in Brazil.

After you were commissioned to head the new settlement in May 1787, you spent considerable energy trying to have an advance party sent out to survey the site and construct some buildings. This idea was ignored.
You also began detailed discussions and argued about the supplies that you would be allowed to take with you. You are appalled at the poor quality of the tools with which you have been provided.

You have landed without the records of the convicts, and have no knowledge of either their skills or their background. You know that you need more skilled people to build the new settlement quickly, but you have to work with what you have got.

You found berths for both Andrew Miller and Henry Brewer on this expedition, knowing both to be good men. You know White is hot tempered but that he cares about the health of the convicts.

You value David Collins' opinions believing him to always be 'ready to exert himself for the public good'.
On the other hand you are at a complete loss to understand Major Ross. You wrote this report to Under-Secretary of State Evan Nepean about him.

'It has been said by the Lieut. Governor "that the detachment had not justice done them, in not receiving the necessaries ordered for them". He has been repeatedly called on to say what those necessaries are, and to explain himself, that an enquiry might be made, but from his answers nothing more can be drawn than that the Admiralty informed him the detachment would, on their landing, be supplied with what might be necessary to render their situation comfortable…As to those necessaries which were sent out for the use of the settlement, they have had not only the full proportion, but likewise a considerable part of those articles which were intended for the convicts only, such as shirts, frocks and shoes.'

However you know that you have to work with him. You expressed your views about the marine officers in an early despatch to Lord Sydney. As a navy captain you are used to promoting those with ability from the ranks. You call all non-officers The People. However you are no democrat in the modern sense of the word.
You convey your instructions through your secretary, as well as receiving information and opinions from officers invited to dine with you (provided they bring their own bread).

You belong to the Governor's Table. You may invite anyone you wish to dine with you using the chat room facility. That is your privilege. Frequent guests include Collins, the commissary Andrew Miller, the Chaplain Richard Johnson and his wife, and Surgeon White. You are also on good terms with Dawes.

Sandra Wills, UOW


  : Character names

As you tell your story give your characters names. Remember it can't get weird enough, and after you have given them names invent their life history so far. This gives the characters credibility in your role play world.
Simon O'Mallon, DMIT

Of course, if the roles in your role play are real world people then it is not the designer’s job to sketch out the character description – it is the students’ task:


EXAMPLE from Securities Markets Regulation RP (...description>>)

Individual task 1 - Preparing a role profile

A mark is given for completing a role profile and posting it to the UTSonline (Blackboard) folder called 'Role Profile' on time. Students who wish to score the full 5% are advised to complete the task using the following headings in their role profile. Clearly this should reflect real experience.

Ambitions. Your role no doubt has personal and professional ambitions and goals. You should reflect on the tangible outcomes that your role would like to occur in securities markets. Some roles have professional or personal associations. The mission statements of these agencies, companies and other associations found on the websites and elsewhere should be used to help formulate your ambitions for your role.

Concerns. Your role no doubt has personal and professional concerns. Your profile should reflect those concerns that are based on both personal and professional issues that you believe are important from your role's perspective in securities markets.

Strategies. Your role no doubt has strategies that you expect he/she may use to achieve your ambitions and overcome your concerns. All people have ways of trying to influence the outcome of the decision making process. Where the role has a professional responsibilities then some of the tools they use in carrying out their work can be stated as part of your strategy.

How long should it take? Maximum is 500 words. We have allowed up to 7.5 hours for this step. These profiles are available to all students and staff involved in the role play.

Mark Freeman & Michael Adams, UTS


EXAMPLE from Securities Markets Regulation RP (...description>>)

Self-descriptions made available

Mark Freeman & Michael Adams, UTS


It may be helpful to have a diagram such as an organization chart showing the relationship between the roles you have created.


EXAMPLE from Xmas Party From Hell RP

Organisation Chart

Marie Jasinski, DMIT; Roni Linser, UMelb; Albert Ip, DLS



Meeting Places

Some of the decisions you make in this section will affect your choice of platform – see our Platforms Checklist (PDF).

What are the natural meeting places in your story? Will there be different access rights to these meeting places for different roles? You will need to ensure that this communication structure matches your learning objectives and mirrors the context of the scenario.


EXAMPLE from Fashion House RP

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.



Left and below:
two examples from
Fashion House Role-Play
showing meeting places
graphically represented


Simon O’Mallon, DMIT


The following two vehicles are useful for most situations:

A place where learners can meet casually and exchange any ideas. Usually, every role is equal in this conference. ALL roles will have both READ and WRITE rights.

Where roles can broadcast information to all other roles who are looking for the information. You may like to allocate one role as a reporter or editor who is responsible for gathering "news". If you have a rule that "global sim-mail" is not encouraged, then the newspaper fulfills that function more efficiently.

You also need to decide whether your role play needs a chat function in addition to asynchronous email and/or forum with threaded discussion. Again access rights to the chat room need to be specified. If your class is meeting regularly in a computer lab to undertake the role play then chat will be more important than role play. If your class is distributed world-wide then chat may be less important. Note that chat is not recorded for later viewing like discussion on the forum, so roles who missed the chat session may miss valuable information. On the other hand for secret negotiations and deal-making then chat may be the ideal communications structure.


EXAMPLE from Political Science Simulation RP (...description>>)

8/10/2002 - Using DigiChat and Secret Diplomacy

Dear Students

There seems to be some confusion as to what you are meant to do in secret diplomacy. Please use the Secret Diplomacy channels as your first point of contact. Only if there are more than two actors who need to negotiate at the same time should you use digichat room. If you have problems using the secret diplomacy, please let me know.

As I said in the lectures, I will be available in the Institute of Advanced Studies. Please come and ask me if you need to get some views on your strategy and the logic of your objectives and the ideas contained in the draft resolutions which you must be working on now!

That brings me to the main point of the simulation exercise... The idea is for you to find a solution to the Kashmir issue. You must play your country's role and still see what can be done to resolve it. Surely you have all those fresh minds...they can be put to a good use for finding a solution to world problems!

Good Luck.

Samina Yasmeen & Michael Fardon, UWA


EXAMPLE from Xmas Party From Hell RP

Meeting Spaces

The navigation panel at left gives an indication of the range of meeting spaces provided in the Xmas Party from Hell Role Play.

The screen clipping below shows some of the action underway in one of them.


Marie Jasinski, DMIT; Roni Linser, UMelb; Albert Ip, DLS


EXAMPLE from Mekong e-Sim RP (...description>>)

Different meeting places are represented as Public Inquiries

Rob McLaughlan, UTS; Denise Kirkpatrick, UNE; Holger Maier, UAdel; Phillip Hirsch, USyd





A role play, like any other human activity, develops in stages. The obvious stages are: formation, development, closure.

During formation, players get to know the system, the characteristics of their roles, understand the goals of the role play (not necessarily the same as the learning objectives) and start the communication process.


EXAMPLE from Mekong e-Sim RP (...description>>)

Outline of Events


  • Read background papers on Mekong region
  • Familiarise yourself with roles
  • Watch video on Mekong region and development issues in region
  • Explore Mekong e-Sim website
  • Allocation of 43 roles (groups of 4)
    • Government Organisations
    • Non-government Organisations
    • Development Agencies
    • Media
    • Academic and Research Institutions
    • Village Groups
    • Engineering Organisations


  • Announcement of Forums
  • Objective
    • To influence Decision-maker Group in Each Public Enquiry
  • Strategies
    • Find relevant factual information (papers, internet, from other groups)
      guided by Issue Paper Topic
    • Form alliances with other groups
    • Lobby via all e-mail (private) and discussion groups (public)
  • Outside Influences
    • Issue Paper Topic
    • E-mails from other groups
    • Discussion board messages from other groups
    • Media Releases
      • e-Sim Times
      • CNN
      • Vientianne Times
      • Watershed
      • Development Today
      • Asia Architechture Engineering & Construction Network


  • Each group makes submission(s) to appropriate forum
  • Other groups comment on submissions - Online discussion
  • Decision-maker groups announce decision

Rob McLaughlan, UTS; Denise Kirkpatrick, UNE; Holger Maier, UAdel;
Phillip Hirsch, USyd


The development stage may consist of several episodes, each triggered by some events either created from communication in the previous stage or injected into the role play by the moderator (and designer). As a designer you should try to create in advance a number of "kick start" events that you and/or your moderator can choose from depending on which direction the participants are taking the role play. We call these events "kick start" because sometimes discussion in the role play flags or peters out and a controversial event can serve to kick start discussion again. A lot of learning occurs at this stage. Usually, this is the longest running stage.

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EXAMPLE from Securities Markets Regulation RP (...description>>)

Individual task 2 - Simulating your role

The simulation controller, 'Press release', announces a series of press releases each business day. The announcements relate to several types of political, financial and legal information signals and crises in the securities markets. You must respond privately as your simulated character would. (eg. Peter Costello and John Howard), or respond publicly through your own press releases into the designated discussion folder. Marks will be awarded for the quantity and quality of the responses in relation to each assigned role.

You respond in character every day. Students who make only a few and/or minor contributions will receive 1% (out 5% for quantity) and 1% (out of 5% for quality). Clearly this means private messages with the simulation only will need to be monitored. This is to enable the full grading of the interactions (eg. private deals between players). Students who wish to score the full 10% are advised to:

Try to act like your character. This role simulation is designed to draw out the needs of each character and therefore requires you to think like your character. For instance, a small time member of the public who owns a few Telstra shares probably has no concept of portfolio risk or the effects of interest rate changes. Others may be sceptical of academics, the press, politicians or bureaucrats. A fun, interesting and meaningful simulation can only be achieved if the participants become their character. This character will be created by you incorporating: the background material provided, your readings on the role and your personality. Feel free to embellish the character while still retaining their functional role in the simulation if you feel that this is possible and within their personality in response to a crisis.

Try to keep in touch regularly. Your ability to influence the scenario will require you to follow what is happening and respond quickly. Aim for checking the simulation at least several times once a day as press releases will occur each day. And the role simulation only goes for one week. But do not please talk about your role with other members of SMR for that week except as your role permits of course.

Use your influence. Every player can influence the scenario but will need to use a different set of tools. A small time investor may call for protest and letter writing while a politician may commission an inquiry.

Communicate with other players (and only within UTSonline). Communication is vital for a player to achieve their needs. These communiqués can be private to a single player (via Send Message off the home page) or can be public (via Discussion off the home page, then into 'Role Simulation', then use back of envelope icon) to all players. You can make private deals with other players for mutual support. However the deals you make should be ethical based on what you regard the ethics of the players involved. With some players this may lead to a broad range of options while other players will have little room to move. The website should be used as the only vehicle for the release of information to all the players.

Maintain confidentiality. All characters roles are confidential. Do not share the information of your designated market player role. All communication is to be via UTSonline to retain complete anonymity of your role and to gain the full learning objectives.

How long should it take? We have allowed about 15 hours for this step.

Mark Freeman & Michael Adams, UTS


EXAMPLE from Securities Markets Regulation RP (...description>>)


Media Barons Hit By Euro Scare

At 10am the European Union Central Bank announced that there was little to fear from the decline in the euro currency in the light of two major media empires having financial problems servicing their debt in Europe. Since 1st January 1999, all new long term debt for the major European news services have been expressed in the euro currency rather than the individual currency of their home exchanges. This has been relatively stable during 1999 until the recent volatile movements in the price of gold and various soft currencies. However, the US dollar and the EU euro have been upholding well until today.

Economic experts have stated that they believe there is a correlation between the uncertainty caused by last week's announcement by the IMF that the South American country of Equador has defaulted on its IMF loan and the world market volatility and impact on the euro. Technically, the IMF loan default will result in many other bank loans to Equador becoming immediately payable in US dollars and other loan in euros. However, there are billions that have no security in any currency and this may cause problems for large lenders and excessive exposure by media organisations to these financial problems.

Mark Freeman & Michael Adams, UTS


The closure stage (or debriefing stage) is equally important. Closure here does not mean an end to the activities in a role play. In fact, most role plays never end. But at some point, the moderator has to ask the learners to stop, step out of the role play, reflect upon the experiences in the role play to draw conclusions, and compare the outcomes with academic theories/frameworks. It is true that the students will routinely reflect upon their actions during the role play in all stages but it is the closure stage that formally consolidates the experience into concrete understanding.


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  : Fiction?

Remember 'life is stranger than fiction'. Don't hesitate to make your role play vivid.
Simon O'Mallon, DMIT


EXAMPLE from Mekong e-Sim RP (...description>>)

Students reflect by publishing one critical learning incident

Rob McLaughlan, UTS; Denise Kirkpatrick, UNE; Holger Maier, UAdel; Phillip Hirsch, USyd




Face to face role play most commonly is sustained only within one class session. There are examples of extended face to face role play however it requires great skill on the part of moderators and much concentration on the part of the students to do it for a whole semester, for example.

A more typical example of face to face role play is represented by the work of James Levy at UNSW who uses face to face role play in teaching Latin American history:

"About five or six weeks in advance of the role play, I distribute a description of the situation and the roles. On a separate sheet is the agenda of topics to be covered at the meeting. The students then choose a role: an army officer, landowner, banker, peasant, or student leader… The students then research the role they’re to play and the positions they should take on the agenda issues. As a guide to the students I also provide a syllabus of readings which refer to some of the major issues informing the situations that are to be played out. These issues, and the accompanying readings, are discussed in our class meetings prior to the role play. By the time we begin the role play – normally about six or seven weeks into the session – the students should be fully prepared. Concurrently they are preparing an essay which reflects the position they plan to take in the discussion… Even though we allow three hours for the role play, we frequently carry it over into the next week. I have sometimes been known to go beyond that when I think real progress is being made by the students and they’re involved and interested."
(Levy, 1997, p.14-16)

One of the advantages of online role play is that the timeline can be extended and therefore hopefully the learning can be extended or deepened. In the university Exemplars referred to throughout these guides, the duration of the online component of the role is usually 3 weeks, although the preparation and debriefing and assessment may extend the role play most of the semester.


Middle East Politics
World Politics in Transition
Securities Markets Regulation
First Fleet
Political Science Simulation

Environmental Decision-Making

Mekong e-Sim
Total duration including online and f2f components plus final assessment task
(in weeks)
Duration of online role play interaction only
(in weeks)

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How are you going to assess the achievement of the learning outcomes for each participant?


EXAMPLE from Securities Markets Regulation RP (...description>>)

Individual task 3 - Role simulation final report

The final learning activity relating to the role simulation is a report of what and how the role simulation affected your achievement of the subject learning objectives. Word limit is 2,500.

Hint: Keep a reflective journal
It is suggested that you maintain a reflective journal throughout the role simulation. This will help you recall how your learning impacted on your understanding of the securities markets through the role simulation.

How will it be marked?
Students who wish to score 25% will follow the follow grading and feedback criteria. (A whole page is provided to students) The 25% role play report will be marked using the following feedback and grading checklist. The ticks below indicate where you stand with regard to each set of statements. A tick in the extreme left hand box means that the statement on the left is true and therefore is of distinction quality. The boxes from left to right are abbreviated by H (for High Distinction ie. 85%-100%), D (for Distinction ie. 75%-84%), C (for Credit ie. 65%-74%), P (for Pass ie. 50%-64%) and F (for Fail ie. 0%-49%) respectively. Ticks to the left within a box are better than ticks to the right.


Role play report H D C P F  
Clear & focussed introduction, and continues to be interesting           Uninspiring introduction, and continues to be uninteresting and boring
Grammar and spelling accurate           Many spelling and grammatical errors
Logically developed argument and well set out           Rambles, lacks continuity and difficult to follow the logical sequence
Appropriate length (2,500 words) & referencing (10)           Too long/short and minimum 5 relevant references
Effective use of figures & tables           Figures/tables add little to argument
Objectives achieved           Objectives ignored
Topic covered in depth           Superficial treatment of topic
Accurate presentation of factors           Much questionable or inaccurate evidence
Rigorous critique of key concepts           Lack of demonstration of key concepts
Original and creative thought           Little evidence of originality


Mark Freeman & Michael Adams, UTS


EXAMPLE from Mekong e-Sim RP (...description>>)

e-Sim Assessment

Rob McLaughlan, UTS; Denise Kirkpatrick, UNE; Holger Maier, UAdel; Phillip Hirsch, USyd



  : Link assessment to tasks

Nest the assessment criteria outcomes into the tasks/activities of the role play.
Simon O'Mallon, DMIT


  : Journal

Use a journal to log/assess student participation during role play activity. This may be as simple as a note pad on which to write comments, or as complicated as a word document in table format with columns labelled with various assessment criteria.
Michael Fardon, UWA

Video snippet

Comments on assessment from two role play designers:



How will you know whether your role play design worked? How do you know whether your learning objectives were achieved? What are the questions you will ask your students about their experience of your learning design? If you use moderators other than yourself, what can you learn from them to improve the design next time you run it? What evaluation methodologies will you use, for example:

  • paper survey
  • online survey
  • focus group
  • individual interview
  • external evaluator
  • tracking and web statistics
  • analysis of student assignments?


EXAMPLE from Securities Markets Regulation RP (...description>>)

Questions used at student focus group
  • What was your role and how was it different to current or past work experience?
  • How did you go about researching your role?
  • What were your reactions to the role play – at the start, the middle and the end?
  • Tell me about any changes in your understanding?
  • What skills did you learn?
  • What is the impact on your work/organization?
  • What advice do you have for future students?

Mark Freeman & Michael Adams, UTS


EXAMPLE from Mekong e-Sim RP (...description>>)

Results of student survey
Developed awareness of multiple perspectives 91%
Developed negotiation and communication skills 70%
Developed knowledge about organisations in region 94%
Developed knowledge about values and attitudes of roles 85%

92% of students rated Mekong e-Sim from satisfactory through to excellent

Robert McLaughlan, UTS; Denise Kirkpatrick, UNE; Holger Maier, UAdel;
Phillip Hirsch, USyd


EXAMPLE from Mekong e-Sim RP (...description>>)

Results of analysis of student essays

"Mekong e-Sim was intended to support students in understanding multiple perspectives associated with natural resource management. The extent to which students demonstrated this was evaluated through the examination of written student assessment tasks that were designed to demonstrate student capabilities and understandings. Analysis of debriefing essays using the Biggs SOLO framework indicated that 75% produced multistructural responses to the problem, providing evidence that Mekong e-Sim is effective in supporting students in learning about alternate perspectives on problems."

Robert McLaughlan, UTS; Denise Kirkpatrick, UNE; Holger Maier, UAdel; Phillip Hirsch, USyd


EXAMPLE from Securities Markets Regulation RP (...description>>)

Web statistics and tracking

Whilst it had been expected that students would log in to the role simulation regularly, the number of logins was surprising, as Figure 1 shows. Many students logged in not just once or twice per day, but a number of times in an hour, to read, respond and respond again. There were short periods of almost synchronous debate when a large number of students were all logged on together. The busiest times of day were mid and late afternoon with 30 to 50 logins per hour. The number was between 10 and 20 per hour from 10pm until 1am. Half of all logins were outside of 9am - 5pm business hours. This is significant indication of student commitment, with 75% of the class being part time.


Figure 1: Activity level by hour of the day

The number of user sessions, averaged on a daily basis, is shown by Figure 2. The rate of both public postings (from one role character, visible to all) and private postings (from one character to another alone) increased significantly through the period - a function of both the pressure of deadlines and the growing interest in the many nuances of debate which developed. The average user session increased from 15 minutes at the beginning of the role simulation to nearly 30 minutes by its conclusion.

Figure 2: User sessions through the role simulation

Note: Final day the debate was only open until midday.

The average time spent using the medium for different web based learning tasks is shown in Figure 3. This suggests that students were more deeply immersed in the web based role simulation than is usual for other tasks.



Figure 3: Average session time for different web based learning tasks

Mark Freeman & Michael Adams, UTS


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Designers' comments about evaluation:


Video snippet

Students' comments on their experience of role play as a way of learning:


Support for the Moderator

Creating a role play is a significant effort and university class sizes are often so large that the designer needs assistance from tutors as moderators. Some well-established role plays such as the Political Science role plays at The University of Melbourne and Macquarie University are now so polished that they are able to be run by new moderators without the involvement of the original designer. However you will need to prepare materials for the moderators to assist them understand your scenario and your roles and you will need to provide more in-depth literature than is provided to the students as background research. You will also need to provide them with an opportunity to put themselves in the learner’s shoes, to experience a role play themselves as a learner before they embark upon moderation.

See also: Moderator's Checklist (PDF).


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Hints on supporting moderators from two role play designers:




Your choice of technical platform will depend on what technical resources you have available to you, on your budget and on the decisions you’ve made in this design template, especially in the Meeting Places section. You could use your university’s centrally provided Learner Management System (WebCT, Blackboard…); a free mail service such as Yahoo or Hotmail; or a role play engine such as UWA Simulation Builder or Fablusi.

See: Platforms Checklist (PDF) for more information.


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Some hints on platforms from two role play designers:



Gredler, M. (1992). Designing and Evaluating Games and Simulations: a Process Approach. Houston, Gulf Publishing Company.

Levy, J. (1997). "Getting into the Skins of Historical Roles" in Ballantyne, R., Bain, J. & Packer, J. Reflecting on University Teaching: Academics’ Stories. Canberra, Committee for University Teaching & Staff Development, Australian Government Publishing Service.

van Ments, M. (1999). The Effective Use of Role-Play: practical techniques for improving learning. London, Kogan Page.


This document benefited greatly from review by Shirley Agostinho, Jim Meek and Maureen Bell of UoW. It benefited in general from the numerous comments and examples provided by all members of our Online Role-Play Expert Reference Group:

John Shepherd (UNSW); Andrew Vincent (Mq); Raphael Veit (Mq); Gary Brierley (Mq); Mike Hillman (Mq); Roni Linser (UMelb); Manjula Waniganayake (UMelb); Mark Freeman (UTS); Michael Adams (UTS); Tanja Golja (UTS); Robert McLaughlan (UTS); Denise Kirkpatrick (UNE); Mike Fardon (UWA); Liz Devonshire (USyd); Simon O’Mallon (DMIT); Marie Jasinski (DMIT); Maureen Bell (UoW); Rohan Miller (UoW).

Front page graphic courtesy Robert McLaughlan and team (UTS).


Authors: Albert Ip & Sandra Wills, November 2002
You may reproduce and distribute this document provided it is reproduced in full and without any modification.
Please report errors to albert@DLS.au.com



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