Complexity: Is it Really that Simple

Jeremy J. S. B. Hall, Benita M. Cox


"This paper challenges the assumption that complexity is necessary for educationally effective computerized business simulations by demonstrating, for a sample of proven simulations, there is a correlation between complexity and the duration of the simulation. It discusses complexity in terms of two mechanisms. The first mechanism gives rise to the assertions about complexity by suggesting that realism is a key determinant of educational effectiveness and that realism is produced through complexity. However, there is a second mechanism where the amount of cognitive processing performed by participants relates to the simulation’s complexity. In turn, the simulation’s duration relative to cognitive processing produces cognitive pressure that may lead to role overload. With role overload producing a negative influence on andragogic effectiveness. When combined, these mechanisms produce a peak in the function linking complexity with andragogic effectiveness and, the position of this peak is determined by the simulation’s duration. The peak in effectiveness is shown using data from several business simulations that have been used extensively on short courses by practicing executives. Finally the findings are discussed in terms of the design and use of business simulations for Executive Short Courses. "

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