To tackle this question properly, one has to understand what is meant by simulations. The Oxford dictionary defines simulations as a process where one reproduces the conditions of a situation. As far as far as this question is concerned, simulations can be useful in a learning environment for they can help one to solve different problems that might be evident in a learning environment. These problems may require the concerned stakeholders to have effective communication among them for the problems to be fully solved.
In the education setting, it is very important for the individuals concerned to lay down ways of solving different problems that may face them at any given time. Valesky, T. (2003) suggests that there is no specific order for using simulations. He goes ahead to suggest that simulations developed for a specific class can be used by any other class depending on the topic in question. He further suggests that participants in a simulation is equipped with the necessary experience that will enable him or her solve real life problems as they may be faced by him the day to day tasks more especially in the education setting.
For simulations to work best, team work is very essential. According to Valesky , T. (2003), teamwork does not only require an individual to be a participant in a simulation but also collaborative i.e. share any information that will help develop something that will be beneficial to all stakeholders. The use of simulations has been made easier by the rate at which technology is advancing. Most simulations are audio- visual, meaning that the gadgets used in advancing simulations are able to be controlled to suit the situation at hand. This therefore means that that, all the barriers that have been blocking the advancement of this great technology have been removed. However, one obstacle still prevail; showing the prevalent human emotions which can only be shown through one on one communication.
As members of a simulation in the City of Centerville’s Education Sector we developed a simulation in such a way that none of the participants physically met the other unless on rare occasions. The members of the education sector were Katrina King, Program Assistant (Special Education Administrator); Tonja Carter, Teacher; Lisa Starks, Athletic Director; Michelle Gwire, Research Assistant and Kelly Hayden, Teacher/Transition Coordinator. We chose different people with different specialties because according to Achilles, C. et al (1997) people with different abilities make decision making easier. Making choices is more often than not one of the most challenging tasks. We therefore decided that, the inclusion of members from different areas but within the educational sector will go along way into helping us reach decisions that will enable the city of Centerville to thrive. This is important more so because, education is one of the sectors crucial to the growth of any city.
During the simulation, we decided to let Lisa Starks to lead the first period of the simulation and Katrina King to lead the second period. During the simulation we realized that communication is very essential for the development of any sector. Horgan, D. & Valesky, T. (1993) defines communication as a process through which information is passed from one department of an organization to another either vertically or horizontally. He explains that vertical communication is when the information moves from the junior members of an organization to senior members whereas horizontal communication is when information moves across departments in an organization.
During the simulations, we come up with three options that were likely to boost the development of the education sector in Centerville. Before we could decide on which option to choose, it was prudent that we carry out the SWOT analysis of each option. As Cohen, D, et al (1972) suggest, before making any key decision as a leader, you must analyze the strengths of that decision i.e. how better is the option compared to other options and how positively the option is likely to affect the stakeholders. Secondly, one should analyze the weaknesses or the negative effect of the option to reduce those chances of making fatal mistakes likely to affect the organization or institution negatively. Third, the best option should provide opportunities or avenues for further advancement. Lastly, what are the dangers that the option is likely to pose to an organization?
The main question during the simulations was how best to improve the education sector in Centerville. The first option that came up during the simulations was to build a University Convention Center in Centerville. Many other options arose as to which is the best option to build the convention center. The first option was for the University to build a convention center close to the main campus. The community was to acquire the land and pass it to the University to do the building. The strength of this option is that, the new convention center will be more convenient and the cost will be lower. However, as Vroom, V. (1973) indicates, for an option to be taken as the best, its advantages and disadvantages must be shared equally among all the stakeholders. This option fell short of this quality because the community would have had little control over the use of the convention center. Besides, the location is unfavorable for it is far away from downtown Centerville. However, the option will provide the city with an opportunity to improve its revenue collection and provide the city with an additional social support center. Finally, the option was likely to open an avenue for the reduction of prices on other projects.
The second option was to build a high end hotel. The main idea was to convert and refurbish an empty textile factory. The role of the community in this option was to provide the building and the land around it free of charge. We assessed the option and realized that though expensive, the option was acknowledged by many people more than the first option. Another strength of the option is that it was centrally located in Centerville hence it will benefit the community more than the Convention Center. The option was also likely to reduce crime in the area because their hiding place –the old factory, will be no more. The fact that thug related violence have been reported to have struck most high schools in Centerville is one of the reasons that qualifies the venture as worthy. The option was however found to have a few weaknesses. First, building the hotel will be costly to the city. All the above weaknesses notwithstanding, the venture will provide an opportunity for the reduction of the price of other projects in the area.
The third option suggested during the simulations was to modernize the current convention center. This option was considered more cost effective compared to the first two options. To make the option a reality, the community had to transfer the current convention center to private investors who will in turn modernize the building. However, the option also had it shortfalls. First, modernization of the building would not increase its surface area hence the capacity could have remained the same. The second issue is that of location which is said to have been causing traffic jams. The scenario is likely to continue. However, the option will provide an arena for increased businesses for large corporations will be using the facility during corporate functions. The final decision however at the end of the simulations was that none of the options should be adopted. We reached at this decision by carrying out the SWOT analysis of each option.
The decision reached above could best be analyzed by Valesky, T. (2003), in his classical decision-making model where he gives the following tips on how to choose the best option during a simulation. First, the participants involved must identify the problem facing them. They are then required to analyze the problem and determine the optimal result or objective to be achieved. After that, they should provide alternative solutions to the problems as in the case Centerville above. The next step is to determine which of the options will offer the best solution to the problem at hand by trying to analyze the expected and unexpected consequences of the option. After identifying the best alternative, the next step is to implement the best alternative. As in the case of Centerville above, the best alternative implemented was to choose none of the options presented. Finally, the participants should evaluate both the result and the implementation to determine whether it is best of all the options. This sentiment was supported by James, M. and Herbert S. (1958), who suggested that the classical decision-making model applies to the ‘rational man” who makes decisions without being influenced by emotions. Rational men make their decisions in highly specific and clearly defined environment as opposed to ‘administrative men’ as managers of organizations are called who make decisions who does not have this highly specific and clearly defined environment.
As leaders in an education setting, the participants in a simulation must realize that most decisions made involve people. As argued by Lindblom (1993), decision makers cannot be able to know all the alternatives available. Therefore, as mentioned earlier, proper communication will ensure that all participants in a simulation, even though they are not in the same location are able to communicate different alternatives that will help them solve any problem facing them at nay given time. The Centerville city, for us to ensure that every member’s opinion was taken into consideration, the members involved were given the task of analyzing the options tabled in terms of their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This was in line with the fact that, in simulations, all members involved must be in agreement with the opinions of each other.
Bearing in mind that we participated in the simulation as members from the education sector, the following strengths are evident as far as our simulation is concerned. First, all the participants of the simulations posses the quality of being good at communication. The key aim at a simulation is to ensure that at the end of it, decisions reached must reflect the fact that, all the available alternatives were analyzed and the best were chosen. This is exactly what we did. We ensured that we meet regularly to update each other on the progress we are making on the issue. The meetings were also aimed at ensuring that any other matter that may arise is solved amicably. As suggested by Simon, H. (1997), for any leader to be successful in leadership, one must ensure that any task he does or delegates must be accomplished perfectly. This is one of the key strengths we have as a team in the education sector in Centerville. Albeit all the hurdles we faced as members as we continue to carry out this task, we are determined to complete all the tasks and assignments for each period.
For anything that has strengths, having weaknesses is guaranteed. The fact that we do not communicate one on one led to slight communication breakdown. This was because face to face communications allows the individuals involved to able to catch a glimpse of other indicators of communication that are very important such as facial expressions and body movement. Flexibility as one of the key principles of decision making was absent in our case. This became serious more especially when every member wanted to suggest a meeting day that was convenient only to him/her without considering the needs of the others. This leads to confusion hence making it difficult for the group to work effectively. We eventually decided that, the one and only way to deal with this obstacle, was to exchange phone numbers for easy communication within the group.
More often than not, simulations open many avenues even those that were not expected from the start. These avenues can be referred to as opportunities. For, instance, this simulation offers me and other team members an opportunity to work as team with an intention of achieving a common goal. This is referred to as collective responsibility by Valesky, T. (2003). He further points to the fact that participants in a simulation must cultivate a sense of trust in each other. We realized that it is not very difficult to accommodate the views of each of the member. This fact is supported by Valesky, T. (2003), sentiment that individualized thinking leads an individual to develop selfishness unconsciously. For instance, when we present the final decision in the case of Centerville, all the options presented must have been agreed upon by all the members of the group. This team spirit will also make it easy for us to get what we want for the education sector.
Some issues were threatening to the effective working of the members in our simulation. One of the threats evident is that since the members find it difficult to work under the same schedule, it is very difficult to accomplish the tasks assigned. We decided that the flow of information within the group should be improved by the use of electronic media such as emails. Lack of concentration among members was also a very significant threat. This was made worse when members relaxed in their duties with time as physical meetings became lesser and lesser. To deal with this threat we decided to ensure that everybody was updated either verbally or electronically from time to time.
In conclusion, the decisions made in a simulation are by consensus not through dictatorship. This is why (Vroom 1973), points out that for a problem to be amicably solved, the leader involved should obtain information from the other participants concerning the problem at hand and then, decide on which decision to make depending on the information availed. In line with this, Lisa Starks, as a representative of the education sector to the City Council in Centerville concluded that, communication as opposed to commanding, will go a long way in ensuring that a school or an organization realizes its goals. Accordingly, decisions that are made as a group tend to be more agreeable than decisions made individually. Katrina King supported this fact, by saying that opinions made by others are essential in making other people shape their opinions. Simulations therefore are very important for they make leadership very easy because they allow an individual to experience leadership challenges before meeting them head on.
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