Our challenge, your solutions

Use RPG mechanics to teach and learn creatively and interactively

A lack of interaction between teachers and students became even more evident during the 2020 pandemic. Usual business games and case studies restrain creativity and spontaneity. Our RPG offers life-like situations solved through cooperation, improving motivation all along the learning adventure!


Team: Sparkers

Team members

Jérémy ARGUSA, Lucie DENIS, Tristan SALVADORI, Sabina TARTEA

Members roles and background

Tristan SALVADORI is a PhD student in international entrepreneurship and a teacher in international management, innovation and intercultural management. He is our group leader and first came up with the original idea of a Business Role Playing Game.

Sabina TARTEA is a soon to be PhD in Management sciences. She is the finance and business strategy expert of our team and brings rigor and consistency in the project management process. She is also a 'pitch' master and the most fluent speaker in various languages.

Jérémy ARGUSA is a soon to be PhD in cognitive sciences. He is a teacher in this field and sports management and a passionate rugby coach. With Tristan SALVADORI and Sabina TARTEA, Jérémy is the lead-entrepreneur of MaHi, a start-up aimed at training professional rugby players' decision making thanks to state-of-the art Virtual Reality technologies. Jérémy brings a lot of energy to our team, his pedagogical expertise in higher education and his deep knowledge of learning mechanics through gamification and simulation.

Lucie DENIS is a PhD candidate in Management sciences. She focuses on International Human Resources (HR) and Organisational issues in fast-growing international companies. She teaches HR as well as in Intercultural Management. She is the always curious and dedicated soul of the team who enrolled us all for this great pedagogical adventure. She makes sure both know-hows and soft skills development and employability of students stays a priority and brings a pragmatic vision to the group.

Contact details

Solution description

Spark20 convinced the PimpMyCourse Challenge jury, who awarded us the “winning solution” title. Our Role Playing Game answers the 4 topics of the PimpMyCourse challenge: Motivation, Active Online Learning, Employability and Soft Skills

 To tackle students and teachers engagement, creativity and trustful simulation issues, our solution needs to:

  • Keep students active and immersed
  • Bring students to develop soft-skills and capabilities in a professional setting
  • Place the teacher’s own knowledge at the heart of the learning method
  • Allow the teacher to become a learning facilitator

Spark20 is a Business Simulation based on Role-Playing Games (RPG) mechanics tailored to structure and immerse students in life-like situations. Students play as employees and the teacher as the Game Master (GM). Our learning experience takes place on a digital platform, accessible through any navigator.

 This platform consists of a graphic interface with a screen for the players, and one for the GM (See Images for mockups).

 Our experience is based on 4 distinct phases

  1.  The briefing where the teacher introduces the experience,
  2.  The RPG, the heart of our experience, where the students face life-like business situations,

    Students are attributed a specific company role: Human Resource, Business Development, Finance, Marketing, Operations & Logistic, Information Technologies, Audit, Accounting

    The teacher, as the Game Master, will confront students to a scenario with specific situations, engaging them to propose solutions. Players will have to offer several solutions to a specific problem, and then vote on a collective solution.
  3.  The debriefing used to give pedagogical feedbacks and make sense of the experience,
  4.  Soft skills assessment through a chatbot.

For more details on the first scenario see the attached scenario.

Our added-value:

Spark20 only requires a device with an internet connection for teachers and students.

Spark20 values the teachers’ knowledge of business issues and uses their pedagogical expertise by encouraging them to adapt the scenarios. 

Even better, they can develop new scenarios tailored to their needs and aimed learning outcomes!

Solution context

To support our reflexion, we surveyed colleagues, Professors and PhD Students, teaching at various levels in higher education.

Higher-education is facing problems in terms of soft skills development, motivation of both students and teachers, active online learning tools and employability.

The best technical tools would not be motivating if not part of a complete learning process highlighting the learning outcomes.

  1.   Students lack explicit professional outcomes and long-term perspective of their learning. Students tend to focus on short term skills, (i.e. know-hows needed for employability immediately after their diploma), sometimes forgetting long-term soft-skills (Ritter, Small, Mortimer et Doll, 2018).

    Spark20 is a complete learning process, where RPG is only an innovative tool. Our solution allows teachers and students to find balance between both short and long-term learnings to satisfy motivation and employability.

  2.  Teachers feel somewhat frustrated, as they only transmit knowledge, without any personal added-value, especially in the cases of lectures where they feel like they are “teaching to the void”.

    Spark20 allows teachers increased interactivity, creativity and improvisation. The teacher will be developing the story depending on the students’ action, keeping them active all along the course and allowing them to work on the desired learning outcomes.

  3.  Case studies lack flexibility and do not fit the students’ needs nor allow for creativity

    Simulations are known to promote learning through discovery and action since "students are intrinsically motivated to actively seek information" (De Vries, 2001, p. 111). Spark20 has no pre-established decision trees restraining teachers’ and students’ learning experience.

The scenarios need to be credible to help students visualize their future roles in professional settings., that is why we will be co-constructing scenarios with both professionals and teachers to improve realism, therefore impacting students’ intrinsic motivation and engagement in simulation.

Solution target group

Teachers are the main target, as it aims at supporting their pedagogical activity. More than a Role-Playing Game tool, our solution, embedded in a complete pedagogical process, offers them opportunities to create unique management simulations, with several levels of details in provided scenarios.

Our target audience is undergraduate students starting out in higher education in management. Today, we see engineering schools and hard sciences institutions as well as business schools increasingly creating content and pedagogical tools to teach around management of organisations issues. 

Solution impact

Our solution impacts soft skills development, motivation of both teachers and students, active online learning, and employability. Teachers will carry out the core measure of impact during the debriefing session at the end of each simulation where they will give qualitative feedback to students and help them make sense of the experience.

Soft skills & Employability: 

This solution develops social, personal, methodological and digital skills. These skills are necessary for employability, and their development is our main goal. For example, during the experience, students coordinate to find solutions to the simulated business issues. Social skills such as communication, teamwork and leadership are required to succeed. 

Measures: The impact on soft-skills is mainly measured through live-feedback with teachers but also thanks to monitoring, and students’ 360° assessment (themselves and others) with a chatbot. For more details, please check the document “Soft-skills & Monitoring”.

Motivation & active online learning:

Games are often considered the main driver of natural learning (Geary, 2008) and simulations use the same cognitive channels as real-life situations (Panchuk et al., 2018) confirming the usefulness of Spark20 to increase students' motivation and engagement. Motivation and active online learning are ”the two faces of the same coin” (Cantara, 2008).

Measures: Motivation is successful if the game:

  • Keeps students active while learning online: monitoring (cf “Soft skills & Monitoring” on a separate sheet)
  • Challenges students: game evaluation
  • Creates social interactions and a benevolent atmosphere: number of messages sent, feelings are shared through an interactive “atmosphere gauge”

Solution success’ measures:

  • Number of users (teachers & students)
  • Number of new scenario created by the community

Solution tweet text

Spark20, our #BusinessSimulation #RolePlayingGame, immerses #students in life-like situations. Students play as employees and the #teacher as #GameMaster (GM). Teachers finally have a solution to help students develop #skills while actively #learning online

Solution innovativeness

At the moment, teachers use case studies and business games such as Simuland, Kapilands or Gamelearn, to develop know-hows and soft skills. Their primary focus is centered on know-hows development, soft skills being only a secondary result. Moreover, these platforms do not offer support for the teacher which remains key in learning processes (Lentell, 2004).

Traditional business games do most of the teachers’ creative job, providing them with all the decision trees in which little room for change is possible during a simulation.

Our difference:

  1.  Works in real-time and offers more flexibility and room for improvisation,
  2.  Prevents the teacher from being stuck in decision trees,
  3.  It keeps both students and teacher immersed and active,
  4.  It can be used both in classroom and virtual settings,
  5.  Community members can access the new scenarios and get inspired by others’,
  6.  A community of practice allows a wide range of subjects and transferability.

Solution transferability

Nowadays most areas (STEM, human sciences and more) integrate management courses and would benefit from this solution.

The flexibility of Spark20 allows its adaptation to higher education publics.

Our platform is first developed in English, but it is worth pointing out that the web platform itself remains an interface, allowing language translation by the teacher-user in the settings. The translation in other languages does not require much effort to the interface developing team as the platform will only include words and shorts sentences. The basic business scenarios will be provided in English-French-Spanish.

Solution sustainability

In the short term, the first scenario around the organisation “MaHi”, will be detailed by the core team after the challenge to help less experienced teachers in their adoption process. However, the solution here aims at allowing more advanced teachers to write and deploy their own scripts, based on learning outcomes. Our goal is to let teachers add non-forecasted events during the simulation.

Our solution is based on a web-platform. Our Minimum Viable Product consists of the RPG platform (chat, game mechanisms), the back office for the Game Master to prepare game simulations, and pre-established scenarios. This first solution will be based on a short questionnaire to substitute to the chatbot. From our first estimation, made thanks to developers and after a first benchmark, such a development costs around 2000€ (5 days development with one developer). 

In the mid-term, the next scenarios will be created through a community of practice, involving willing teachers (existing ones and an additional one focused on Role Playing Games involving researchers and teachers from different disciplines and backgrounds).

A second phase of development will allow:

  • an improvement of the platform ergonomy and flexibility for teachers and students, 
  • a creation of new games interaction (brainstorms, word cloud), 
  • media use (such as videos).

At this time, we plan a 5 days development with a developer and a graphist for 4000€. 

In order to maintain the web platform, we plan an annual subscription fee which will allow Spark20’s core team to cover its spendings (time and money invested including content design and potential development updates on the pedagogical web tool itself).

In the long term, further development of the platform, such as the addition of the chatbot and with new functionalities would allow even more replayability and transferability. New game mechanics and game modes will be added based on the users’ feedback.

Solution team work

Not only could we work as a team, but we will.

Our team members are life-long friends and colleagues as teachers and researchers. Three of us are launching a start-up together, and we all share the pleasure of coaching our students to help them grow both personally and professionally.

During the two-days challenge, each one of us found a specific role, roles that we will keep in the future, as we will be developing the tool mechanims and scenarios for teachers, including for us.

Tristan SALVADORI is the group leader and first came up with the original idea of the creation of a Business Role Playing Game.

Jérémy ARGUSA brings a lot of energy to our team and his pedagogical expertise in higher education as well as his deep knowledge of learning mechanims through gamification and simulation.

Sabina TARTEA is the accounting, finance and business strategy expert of our team and brings rigor and consistency in the project management process. She is also our 'pitch' master and the most fluent speaker in various languages.

Lucie DENIS is the always curious and dedicated soul of the team who originally wanted to enroll us all for this great pedagogical adventure. She makes sure both know hows and soft skills development, as well as students’ employability stays a priority and brings a pragmatic vision to the group.

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DigiEduHack 2021 partners & supporters

DigiEduHack is an EIT initiative under the European Commission's Digital Education Action Plan, led by EIT Climate-KIC and coordinated by Aalto University. In 2021, the main stage event is hosted by the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the European Union in cooperation with the International Research Center on Artificial Intelligence (IRCAI) under the auspices of UNESCO.

EIT Climate-Kic

Aalto University

European commission

Slovenian Ministry of Education, Science and Sport

International Research Center on Artificial Intelligence

EIT Community: Human Capital