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Computer simulations can be defined in three categories: computational modeling simulations, human-computer simulations, and computer-mediated simulations. These categories of simulations are defined primarily by the role computers take and by the role humans take in the implementation of the simulation. The literature on the use of simulations in the international studies classroom considers under what circumstances and in what ways the use of simulations creates pedagogical benefits when compared with other teaching methods. But another issue to consider is under what circumstances and in what ways the use of computers can add (or subtract) pedagogical value when compared to other methods for implementing simulations. There are six alleged benefits of using simulation: encouraging cognitive and affective learning, enhancing student motivation, creating opportunities for longer-term learning, increasing personal efficiency, and promoting student-teacher relations. Moreover, in regard to the use of computer simulations, there are a set of good practices to consider. The first good practice emerges out of a realization of the unequal level of access to technology. The second good practice emerges from a clear understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of a computer-assisted simulation. The final and perhaps most fundamental good practice emerges from the idea that computers and technology more generally are not ends in themselves, but a means to help instructors reach a set of pedagogical goals.


Carolyn M. Shaw and Amanda Rosen

Simulations and games have been used in the international studies classroom for over fifty years, producing a considerable body of literature devoted to their study and evolution. From the earliest use of these techniques in the classroom, instructors have sought to identify and characterize the benefits of these tools for student learning. Scholars note, in particular, the value of simulations and games in achieving specific learning objectives that are not easily conveyed through lecture format. More recent writings have focused on what specific lessons can be conveyed through different types of exercises and have included detailed descriptions or appendices so that others can use these exercises. As simulations and games have become more widely incorporated into the classroom, a growing body of literature has provided instructions on how to custom design simulations to fit instructors’ specific needs. Although initial evaluations of the effectiveness of simulations were methodologically weak and flawed by research design, sampling, or other methodological problems, newer studies have become more sophisticated. Rather than simply arguing that simulations are (or are not) a better teaching tool than traditional class formats, there is greater recognition that simulations are simply one technique of many that can promote student learning. Scholars, however, are still seeking to understand under what conditions simulations and games are especially beneficial in the classroom.


Gretchen J. Van Dyke

The United Nations and the European Union are extraordinarily complex institutions that pose considerable challenges for international studies faculty who work to expose their students to the theoretical, conceptual, and factual material associated with both entities. One way that faculty across the academic spectrum are bringing the two institutions “alive” for their students is by utilizing in-class and multi-institutional simulations of both the UN and the EU. Model United Nations (MUN) and Model European Union simulations are experiential learning tools used by an ever-increasing number of students. The roots of Model UN simulations can be traced to the student-led Model League of Nations simulations that began at Harvard University in the 1920s. Current secondary school MUN offerings include two initiatives, Global Classrooms and the Montessori Model Union Nations (Montessori-MUN). Compared to the institutionalized MUNs, Model EU programs are relatively young. There are three long-standing, distinct, intercollegiate EU simulations in the United States: one in New York, one in the Mid-Atlantic region, and one in the Mid-West. As faculty continue to engage their students with Model UN and Model EU simulations, new scholarship is expected to continue documenting their experiences while emphasizing the value of active and experiential learning pedagogies. In addition, future research will highlight new technologies as critical tools in the Model UN and Model EU preparatory processes and offer quantitative data that supports well-established qualitative conclusions about the positive educational value of these simulations.