Introducing ‘Dissertation Situations’ – a discussion-based game for online supervisors

2016-02-02 17.11.16‘Dissertation Situations’ is a scenario-based board game designed for academic staff who supervise or will be supervising online distance masters students. It aims to provide opportunities for discussing the potential situations and challenges a student may face in the dissertation process, and for exploring a range of responses to these situations. The game situations are drawn from data generated during the Dissertations at a Distance project at the University of Edinburgh in 2015-16.

The game can be played with 2-4 players, but works best with at least three. Players can pair up if there are more than four in a group.

The game was played for the first time at an academic development workshop in February 2016, where online supervisors from across the University gathered together to discuss supervision at a distance. The feedback from the game was extremely positive, with participants generating a lot of new suggestions, for an online version, a student-facing version, and ways of using it to generate resources and other discussion spaces for supervisors.





Here’s how the game works:

Goals: Each player’s goal is to help their student get from dissertation enrolment day to graduation day. The player whose student arrives at graduation day first, wins.


Rules: Each player begins with their playing piece (representing a student) at the ‘enrol’ position that matches the colour of their piece. Players also each receive two ‘resource’ cards. At each player’s turn, one dice is rolled. The active player moves their piece ahead the number of squares indicated on the dice.

situation cardSituations: When a player (Player A) lands on a blank square, they draw a situation card, and read this out loud to the other players. Each situation card describes an aspect of the online dissertation experience that a student or supervisor might encounter. Once all the players have heard the situation, a timer is set for 3 minutes, during which time Player A can discuss their response to the situation, and other players can ask questions or offer suggestions. Once the 3 minutes are up, it’s the next player’s turn (Player B). Some situation cards are blank/wild cards. The player who draws one of these can either share a situation of their own or ask another player to share a situation. This is then discussed as above, with the timer set for 3 minutes.

screenshot_390Events: There are several ‘event’ squares on the board. A player who lands on an event square draws an event card. An event card describes an incident that will require the player to move backwards or forwards, or to skip a turn. Take the action required, or use a resource card to cancel the event.

Resource Cards: A resource card, if applied to a relevant event, can cancel out a skipped turn or backwards move. Relevance is decided by a vote from the other players. A tie goes in favour of the player.

Game ending: The game can end when someone reaches graduation day. Time permitting, players can alternatively continue to play until everyone reaches graduation.

Optional extra: If workshop organisers want to add an extra dimension to the game, they can create small ‘prizes’ (in the form of chocolate or something else) – each player starts with one or more prizes that they can choose to award to other players at any time during the game, on the basis of interesting stories, insights or suggestions.

How to get the game? There are up to ten copies of the game available to borrow, free of charge. Contact if you’d like to borrow copies of the game!

Credits: With thanks to the Principal’s Teaching Award Scheme at the University of Edinburgh for funding the ‘dissertations at a distance’ project.

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