Difference between Role play and Simulation

22/09/2022 0 By indiafreenotes

Simulation and role-play are effective teaching methods that simplify learning for students. Simulation refers to the method where an individual acts or imitates a role in a play whereas role play refers to when an individual portrays a role in a play. The simulation method of teaching refers to a model that represents a real classroom but the learning takes place in a virtual atmosphere. It tests the knowledge and skill levels of the participants by placing them in situations and scenarios where they must solve problems actively. To create a safe environment, the parameters are defined by the instructor to foster hands-on learning experiences.

The terms “role play” and “Simulation” are sometimes used inconsistently or interchangeably. However, “simulations” often involve a familiar or realistic situation in which a participant’s role may not be as prominent or distinctive as it would be in a role play. Frequently simulations incorporate role play, leading to the term “role-playing simulation”. The difference is generally one of degree rather than kind.

Role plays and simulations function as learning tools for teams and groups or individuals as they “play” online or face to face. They alter the power ratios in teaching and learning relationships between students and educators, as students learn through their explorations and the viewpoints of the character or personality they are articulating in the environment. This student-centered space can enable learner-oriented assessment, where the design of the task is created for active student learning. Students are actively involved in both self and peer assessment and obtain sustainable formative feedback.

  • Role play has an edge over simulation when it comes to empathy. Learner is actually getting into the shoes of the ‘role’. Simulation has an edge over role play in terms of getting closer the learners’ context. One can simulate the entire cycle of the business/project with all roles as in real context!
  • In role play managing time dimension of the scenario can be cumbersome – The time dimension which might be long periods extending two years can be compressed in simulation
  • Roles are given in role play. In simulation roles are taken unless specified.
  • In Role play, many times the learner has no clue of the role and is unable to play. Learners’ natural behaviour is visible in simulation.
  • In role play resources required are very less in simulation resources and space will be required


  • Opportunities to reflect on the way knowledge will be gained in real life
  • Activities that are authentic in nature
  • Modelling of expert performances and processes
  • The opportunity to learn about new perspectives and roles in life
  • Opportunities to reflect on learning.
  • Opportunities to see how tacit knowledge can be made explicit
  • Scaffolding and coaching at critical times in the learning and assessment process
  • Assessment that is aligned with learning objectives within the task.

Challenges of assessing by role play

  • Role plays are resource intensive and both costs and available time will constrain them. Constraints can be reduced by developing a bank of role play scenarios and sharing role play resources. Many universities utilize shared training and evaluation centres in the fields of medicine and allied health. You can reduce the setup cost of role plays by utilising the university platform. You can also use many learning designs that are distributed online at no cost.
  • A new platform for learning, requiring students to learn new skills just to participate in the learning, can distract them from the conceptual learning the role play was intended to promote.
  • Institutional Learning Management Systems that require students to tick a box to ensure that each of their posts is anonymous can compromise student anonymity.

Challenges of assessing by simulation

  • For students who struggle with public speaking or group participation, simulation assessments can create so much anxiety that it affects their performance or participation.
  • It is impossible to genuinely recreate authenticity in a simulated environment. The most you can do is use different aspects of simulation to cater to the assessment needs of the students.
  • Students need to be guided throughout a simulation, and learning must be scaffolded.
  • It is advisable to flag the timing of simulations with your colleagues, as preparing for a simulation can prevent students from completing other learning and assessment work.
  • Setup costs can be significant.
  • Staff and students’ accessibility can present challenges during simulation setup.
  • Facilitators sometimes need to invest significant time learning the tools required to develop a simulation, to track and structure activity and to monitor and communicate with students during simulations. This investment can only benefit their teaching, but expect time-pressed teachers to be resistant at first.
Type of learning activity What is it? Media forms Technique Technologies Tools
Assimilative Processing narrative media—managing and structuring information Lectures, DVDs or reading texts Concept mapping, brainstorming, buzzwords, crosswords, defining, mind maps, web search Word processing software, presentation software, text, image, audio, video CMAP, Hot Potato, Google, MS Office products, social bookmarking, blogs, wikis, pageflakes, Google reader
Adaptive An environment that changes according to learner input Simulations, games Modelling Virtual worlds, models, simulations, games Second Life, MMORPG
Communicative Discussing Asynchronous or synchronous discussions, chats, text messages Reasoning, arguing, coaching, debate, discussion, negotiation, performance Electronic whiteboards, email, discussion boards, chat, instant messaging, VOIP, videoconference, web conferencing, blogs, wikis Online bulletin board, Skype, IM, Facebook, social bookmarking, blogs, wikis
Productive Learners producing something Creating, producing, writing, drawing, composing, synthesising, remixing, mashups Artefact, book report, thesis, essay, exercise, journalling, literature review, multiple choice questions, puzzles, voting portfolio, product, test Creative applications (image editing, CAD, design software) computer-aided assessment tools, electronic learning environments Indesign, Photoshop, YouTube, Google Video, Office software, Sketch
Experiential Interactive activities that focus on problem solving Practising, applying, mimicking, experiencing, exploring, investigating, performing Case study, experiment, laboratory, field trip, game, role playing, scavenger hunt Virtual lab, 3D immersive environment Google Earth, MMORPG, Second Life