Play and Learn with GaneshAID’s Simulation Game!

Since 1950, the field of cognitive science has experienced great growth. The numerous scientific research that flourished from cognitive science initiated the search for new learning methods, far from the conventional lecturing methods. Learning through playing is one such learning strategy explored. GaneshAID has applied such strategy to develop different serious games as a stress-free learning solution.

Simulation games can be defined as experimental, rule-based, interactive environments, where players learn by taking actions and by experiencing their effects through feedback mechanisms that are deliberately built into and around the game.

Igor S. Mayer, 2009

The Importance of Staff Training in Country Preparedness for Deployment of Pandemic Influenza Vaccine

In the event of an influenza pandemic, vaccines are key to the countries’ response. Their availability at the right place, in the right condition, to the right target is crucial. Countries need preparedness to integrate pandemic influenza vaccines into their routine vaccination activities for deployment, and this requires effective collaboration and coordination of different stakeholders, and established procedures. With these procedures comes the regular training of the staff to understand, implement and achieve an efficient introduction of the vaccine considering uncertain factors that such situation often entails.

GaneshAID’s Simulation Game: Stress-free learning solution

The WHO contracted GaneshAID to instructionally design, develop and pilot-test a simulation game in two WHO regions: The Pan American Health Organization, Regional Office for the Americas of the WHO (PAHO/WHO) and the WHO Regional Office for Europe, with a total of 17 countries and approximately 90 participants. The PIPDeploy game was developed to reinforce the preparedness of various managers at national, regional and district levels (e.g. managers responsible for immunization campaigns), Incident Commander, Chief of Logistics, Chief of Vaccination, pandemic preparedness planning committee members including officials from all appropriate government agencies, legal offices in appropriate agencies, communication team, and private sector representatives which may be involved in deployment operations. The objectives of the table-top game are to:

  1. Provoke discussions on key gaps in preparing for or updating national pandemic influenza deployment plans;
  2. Enable conversations on best practices on in-country pandemic influenza vaccine deployment governance and operations; 
  3. Better understand country training needs and barriers to future participation in simulation exercises.

The simulation of an emergency enables practicing and developing skills in an informal, stress-free environment that provokes discussion guided by a facilitator around exercise scenario or narratives. It involves experts on pandemic vaccine response who give inputs in knowledge exchange among teams.  In many respects, the PIPDeploy game is similar to a problem-solving or brainstorming session. As a training tool, it allows participants to learn and practice emergency response procedures in a safe and controlled environment. As a quality assurance tool, players test and evaluate emergency systems, policies, plans and procedures.

Overall mechanism of the game

The PIPDeploy game uses a progressive simulated scenario, together with series of scripted injects, and questions to make participants consider the impact of a potential health emergency on existing national plans, procedures and capacities. It is organized into five themed missions that serve the learning objectives of the game, and each of the missions includes different sessions, among which video screening, brainstorming and sharing on specific challenges, earning resources for Timoa’s preparedness when playing on the game board, and a “hot-wash” discussion to synthesize the key concepts and knowledge covered.

A team competition aspect is included in the game with a dashboard that enables team’s achievement comparison and collaboration in striving to get the most resources for the country’s preparedness. The “winning” team is identified in regard to the number of resources collected.

The measured impact of the implemented solution

The tabletop game revealed that:

  • Participants were attracted by this new format of stress-free simulated environment for learning. The game setting together with a strict time management fostered intense problem-solving sessions and collaboration within teams.
  • The near to real setting of Timoa country enabled the participants to relate to the scenarios, encourage them to reflect on their own national situations and possible concrete actions to be taken, and even venture into proposing innovative solutions.
  • The collaboration within teams and between teams allow participants to better understand the roles and responsibilities of each stakeholder as well as the benefits of their strong collaboration.
  • The participation of different countries as teams in the game enabled the sharing of various countries experiences and allowed to envision new ways for solving-problems, and strengthening existing national response systems.
  • At the end of the PIPDeploy game, revision of the countries’ National Deployment and Vaccination Plan was planned so to encourage the countries to apply lessons learned during the game.

Participants’ experiences have catalyzed further work towards improving influenza pandemic preparedness at the national level as countries have established working groups for development of NDVPs, reviewed their regulatory systems for influenza vaccine products, bolstered training of relevant personnel on NDVPs that did not have a revised NDVP.


Simulation games provides numerous learning opportunities for participants in a safe and controlled environment. Simulation games are not designed only for emergency situations but can target any working environment where organizations and procedures need to be tested and prepared.

What do you think about simulation games as a learning method? Has your country’s health programme implemented such solution in their Capacity Building and Learning strategy? Please share with us below in the comment section. We would love to hear different professional ideas around the world.


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