Session management

A very important task when using a microworld in training or research is to create good tasks for the trained organisation. The dynamics in the organisation and the target environment (in C3Fire the fire) makes the evolution in a session hard to predict if the microworld is not clearly tuned to the desired goals. It is therefore very important to clearly define session goals in terms of the subjects work tasks and wanted work behaviours.

When designing a C3Fire session a large number of parameters can be used to control the settings. These parameters are defined by the session configuration and session scenario. The configuration consists of static parameters for a session, while the scenario defines time stamped event that should happen during a session.

Organisation and Information Flow Configuration
Simulation configuration
Scenario
Session Planning


Organisation and Information Flow Configuration

The configuration of the organisation and the information flow will define how the subjects can collaborate during the session. In the C3Fire environment all users' work and collaboration tools can be configured. The task for the session manager is to configure the system so that defined type of decisions will take place in the seatrain locations in the organisation.

When collaboration is mediated via computer systems, the system design impacts on the collaborative process. This mediation has methodological advantages: the session controller may have explicit control over some aspects of collaboration. The effects of the computer as medium also involve pedagogical issues: to support the type of interactions that are expected to promote learning. Computer-mediated collaboration also makes it possible to monitor the collaboration.



Simulation configuration

The simulation configuration will define the properties of the geographical environment, the target system (the fire) and the simulated resources that the emergency organisation can use to solve their task.

The main parameters that can be specified:


Geographical Environment The geographical environment is defined by the positions of the geographical objects. In the standard settings the objects are houses and normal trees, fast-burning young pine trees, and slow-burning birch trees.
Fire Forest fire behaviour is defined by the propagation velocity, the burn-out time, and the relation between wind and the fire propagation velocity.
Fire-fighting Units For each fire-fighting unit the configuration defines moving speed, fire-fighting time, mobilisation time, demobilisation time, start position, and communication facilities. The moving speed is defined in terms of the number of squares moved at each second, for example 0.5. The fire-fighting speed, mobilisation and demobilisation speed are defined by the number of seconds needed to perform the activity. The total time for a fire-fighting activity at some certain position is the sum of the mobilisation, fire-fighting, and demobilisation time.


A small change to some of the parameters that control the fire or the fire-fighting unit's behaviour can result in a large change in the dynamic behaviour of the whole system. It is important to verify the dynamic behaviour of the system with some complete game sessions after changes have been made to these critical parameters.


Scenario

The scenario describes the dynamic characteristics of the session settings. It consists of events that will effect the session at some specified time. The events are of two different categories: the events that affect the behaviour of the fire, and the events that affect the computer-simulated actors.

The following events can be specified:


Fire Start positions for new fires
Wind Wind speed and direction.
Static mail messages Textual mail messages that will be sent from some reconnaissance person or some external actor outside the fire-fighting organisation at some specified time.
Pause and Stop Events that pause or stop a session.



Session Planning

The important task when defining the simulation configuration is to have a proper difficulty level and some strategy to keep the difficulty level as long time as possible during the session. A problem in forest fire fighting emergency tasks is that bad decisions in the beginning of a session can make the task impossible to solve if the fire evolves too much in the beginning of the session. In a training situation the strategy can be to define the configuration and scenario so that it helps the teams that performed bad in the beginning and makes it harder for the ones that solve the task at the beginning of the session.

The main properties that define the target system are the vegetation, fire and wind properties. Fire evolution cannot totally be controlled by a configuration, because it is strongly dependent on the fire-fighting unit's activity. What can be done is to define the main evolution of the fire, which can be controlled by the configuration data that defines the forest type, and by the scenario definition of the wind strength and direction. Example on basic fire evolution goals can bee seen in figure 1 where the large arrow is the fire head movement and the small arrows are the flanks.




Figure 1. Example on fire development goals



In C3Fire the training or experimentation goals for the subjects work and decision making processes are usually connected to some of the steps in the tactical reasoning process model, see figure. This means that the work goals are defined on a user-based information processing level. The work situation for the subjects are mainly defined by the properties in the emergency organisation and the properties in the simulation.





Figure 2. Tactical Reasoning Process Steps.