Leaders Test Themselves

Leadership VR Game Wins Silver Medal

London (UK), June 2019 - Leaders work in challenging circumstances: staying focused under pressure, dealing with complex and conflicting priorities, and pivoting when needs require. The serious game Earth-to-Mars uses virtual reality to simulate such pressures in a learning experience co-developed by eLearning Studios and Headspring. Headspring is the executive development joint venture of the Financial Times and IE Business School.

Serious Play, an international learning conference, awarded a silver medal to the leadership game, which will be announced at dual conferences in Orlando, FL, USA and Montreal, Canada this July. Earth-to-Mars is the first of its kind in the executive learning space, allowing leaders to test themselves in formidable situations.
Customers include organisations in the UK, USA, and India. The game is designed for two players connected wirelessly. One player experiences the Mars base camp in virtual reality; the other runs Earth’s Mission Control using an interactive tablet. Gameplay is estimated to take 30-45 minutes.

"Together, players navigate a number of incidents requiring them to lead, collaborate, and negotiate. As with life, things are not always straightforward, and they must cope with problems, twists, and surprises along the way," says Nitin Thakrar, CEO of eLearning Studios.
Headspring’s Learning Architect, Ian Shakeshaft, says, "Serious games take on different meanings when used across different groups. That’s why Earth-to-Mars is designed to be flexible.  Learning doesn’t depend on ‘winning’ the game; rather in how the players deal with challenges. We don’t learn from experiences per-se, but from reflecting on those experiences."
He adds, "Depending on how the facilitator wants to use it, the game’s learning outcomes include perseverance, keeping focused under pressure, evidence-based decision making, negotiating in the moment, and dealing with the unknown."

To validate his point about flexible design, one customer has already adapted it. Gertrude Mandeville, CEO of TCP Learning in Smithfield, RI, USA, uses Earth-to-Mars in teaching business people how to learn more effectively. “We use it in our Cultivating Learning course. The game hits on all the aspects of good learning design in that it’s immersive so that it focuses attention; memorable so that it aids in long-term memory thinking; and experiential so that it develops higher-order thinking.  Together, these elements demonstrate the difference between routine expertise and adaptive expertise.  I also like that all the pedagogy was included!”

Mandeville is referring to the support materials developed by Claire Masson, Headspring’s expert for measuring learning impact, and Ian Shakeshaft. Masson says, "We have so many instructor aides that Ian and I had to create a visual guide on how and when to use these tools. The instructors are the linchpin in the successful deployment of any serious game. They have to take on different roles before, during, and after gameplay. We created a teacher’s manual, debriefing presentation questions, tech support quick start guides, and so on."
She says, "When we were storyboarding the game with eLearning Studios, the role of the instructor was an intricate part of every discussion. Game design decisions were informed by both educational research and work-based research. For us, it would only be considered successful if the game had a positive impact on people’s workday lives."