On the Use of Simulation-Based Training for Project Management Education: Mind the Gap, as One Size Does Not Fit All

Ofer Zwikael, Avraham Shtub, Ying-Yi Chih, Journal of Management in Engineering (June, 2013)


Project management training is a core component in engineering education and in particular, Simulation-Based Training (SBT) is considered a valuable teaching strategy. However, the effectiveness of SBT in project management education has not been empirically examined and it remains unclear in the literature why some trainees benefit from SBT more than others. To address this gap, we conducted two pre/post-test experimental design studies, involving area experts and graduate students with a range of individual differences in two project management courses in the United States and Australia. The results suggest that SBT: (1) enhances trainees’ declarative knowledge only in cases of successful performance in the simulation, and the existence of an appropriate gap (discussed in the paper) between the trainees’ prior knowledge and the challenges presented by the simulator, and (2) energizes trainees’ learning processes only in cases of success in the simulation, high prior knowledge level, and positive prior attitude toward SBT. These findings advance existing theory by revealing the boundaries of SBT effectiveness in project management education and identifying individual differences that, if taken into account, may improve its value. Practical implications suggest that SBT designers should integrate various levels of difficulty into the design and lecturers ensure that trainees possess the required theoretical knowledge prior to the SBT session.

Keywords: project management; simulation based training; simulation based teaching; project team builder; engineering education