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    June 2014

    Advancing Risk Management Skills Through Learning Games

    Risk management and playfulness don't typically go hand in hand, especially when it comes to the nature of risks at schools and campuses. The crises that can occur at educational institutions are serious matters. So why did United Educators (UE) just release a learning game on crisis management?

    Because crises are a serious matter. United Educators (UE) is committed to helping our members prepare for critical incidents that can damage your institution's reputation or financial strength. And our new crisis response learning game can help prepare your staff for an internal crisis—a more frequent occurrence than large-scale incidents that can be just as damaging to your institution.

    Learning games are more than just a hot trend. Well-designed "serious games" have been proven more effective than traditional online learning in improving job skills, honing response times, and increasing learner engagement. Embedding elements of fun, competition, and humor in teaching serious subject matter enhances learners' ability to absorb and remember key points.

    Crisis Within: The Game, on, invites each learner to become the chair of a crisis response team. The game begins with a challenge: "Can you keep your head in a crisis? Can you handle communications, consult with experts, and make wise choices?" Once learners enter their name on the Dangerous Creek College business card, the challenge begins.

    As in real life, the crises scenarios that unfold in the game happen quickly. Urgent emails pop up. Phones ring. And bad decisions can have consequences. You didn't consider food allergies or restrictions when you ordered in food for a shelter-in-place? Angry parents are on the phone. Ignored the press a little too long? That journalist now has a "campus refuses to comment" story. You chose the low-budget solution of buying bug bombs instead of calling an exterminator? One of the students used it incorrectly and is now in the emergency room—and the head of HR wants to see you.

    The Crisis Within game provides valuable lessons that can apply to any crisis, such as liaising with communications professionals, knowing when to consult on-campus and off-campus experts, and recognizing the importance of having back-ups for crisis response team members. Making mistakes is educational instead of costly: in the game, learners can hit the "Replay" button and start over, resetting the clock and applying the new knowledge to make better choices.

    The game can be played by anyone who might take part in crisis response: staff, administrator, faculty, or student. While it's particularly helpful for members of a crisis response team, the game's lessons can be valuable to a much wider group of stakeholders.

    The game is designed for individual play but can easily be adapted to a group situation. Incorporate it in instructor-led training situations by projecting the game onscreen and inviting participants to discuss the many choices that are presented as the crisis unfolds. Minimizing the screen will freeze the clock, allowing discussion to happen as needed.

    If you'd like personalized recommendations on implementing the learning game at your school or campus, a risk management advisor would be happy to assist you. Contact us at

    By Terry Mackey, director of learning design


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