Using Computer-Based Simulation Games to Improve the Competencies of MPA Graduates
Computer simulation, an active learning technique, is now one of the advanced pedagogical technologies. The use of simulation games in the educational process allows students to gain a firsthand understanding of the processes of real life. Public administration, public policy, and political science courses increasingly adopt simulation games in universities worldwide. Besides person-to-person simulation games, there are computer-based simulations in public administration education. Currently in Russia the use of computer-based simulation games in Master of Public Administration (MPA) curricula is quite limited. This paper focuses on computer-based simulation games for students of MPA programs. Our aim was to analyze outcomes of implementing such games in MPA curricula. We have done so by (1) developing three computer- based simulation games about allocating public finances, (2) testing the games in the learning process, and (3) conducting a posttest examination to evaluate the effect of simulation games on students’ knowledge of municipal finances. This study was conducted in the National Research University Higher School of Economics (HSE) and in the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA) during the period September to December 2015, in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Two groups of students were randomly selected in each university and then randomly allocated either to the experimental or the control group. In control groups (n=12 in HSE, n=13 in RANEPA) students had traditional lectures. In experimental groups (n=12 in HSE, n=13 in RANEPA) students played three simulation games apart from traditional lectures. This exploratory research shows that the use of computer-based simulation games in MPA curricula can improve students’ outcomes by 38%. In general, the experimental groups had better performance on the posttest examination (figure 2). Students in the HSE experimental group had 27.5% better scores than students in the HSE control group. Students of the RANEPA experimental group had 38.0% better scores than students in the RANEPA control group. Research indicates that lecture-based courses are less effective than courses with more interactive approaches. Therefore, our study highlights the need to implement computer-based simulation games in MPA programs in Russian universities. Computer-based simulation games provide students with practical skills for their future careers.