The OPEQ Simulation: Learning by Doing

A Conversation with Professor Jeremy Yip

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“OPEQ is one of the defining exercises of the semester...”

Jeremy Yip is an Assistant Professor of Management at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business. We sat down with Professor Yip to talk about how he integrates simulations into his class and, specifically, his experience with the OPEQ Simulation.

Recently, Professor Yip introduced the OPEQ Simulation to one of his undergraduate business classes. OPEQ is a highly interactive, team-based simulation that immerses students in the complex world of oligopolistic oil pricing. As member nations of “OPEQ,” players are tasked with setting petroleum production levels with competing countries to maximize cumulative profits. The tension between cooperation and self-interest intensifies with each round of the game; the goal of augmenting oil revenue is complicated by challenges unique to an oligopoly market structure.

OPEQ offers instructors a robust platform from which to explore the dynamics of competition and cooperation. The simulation aligns closely with Professor Yip’s research and provides a platform for linking research and teaching in ways that enhance learning and engagement. Professor Yip shared that the OPEQ exercise was deeply engaging for his students:

OPEQ is one of the defining exercises of the semester, in which students are completely engaged. They enjoy interacting with one another, making real-time decisions, and witnessing the outcomes of their decisions. They absolutely love it!

OPEQ was designed to create uncertainty – decisions are made, and players can’t be sure of the outcome and can’t necessarily predict that outcome. This pushes students out of their comfort zone, and they get into a state of “flow”:

“As a professor, it is invaluable to have an interactive exercise on a digital platform that allows students to work in teams and make decisions under uncertainty. From the time that I clicked play and launched the simulation, students were completely focused on the game. They encountered a number of surprises throughout the simulation, and, as a result, they had a lot of fun, and learned some important lessons about trust and cooperation.”

The post-play debrief is a critical component of the entire OPEQ simulation experience. The simulation provides instructors with real-time analysis of student choices, paving the way for a highly engaging debrief:

What I love about OPEQ is that we can explore many different psychological and organizational behavior concepts, which students experienced firsthand with the simulation. During the debrief, we discuss trust, cooperation, competition, communication, group dynamics, and deception. We often assume that trust is this positive, interpersonal force that binds us together. However, trust is a double-edged sword. We see in OPEQ that people can exploit trust. And this highlights the dark side of trust. It is a terrific exercise to identify some key factors that influence judgment and decision-making. And there is nothing like learning from doing and reflecting on the experience.

There are many resources for instructors about how to conduct the debrief so that students extract meaning from the game and can apply what they learned outside of the game:

When I debriefed the OPEQ simulation with the students, we had the ability to retrace their decision points and communication exchanges. Through discussion, students share insights about what their teams were thinking, why they made particular decisions, and how they reacted to other countries operating in their world. Students were eager to share their experiences. The discussion not only enriches the perspective of the students in their world, but also students who were outside of their world. I could see that students were making sense of their experience and having significant “aha” moments.