Teaching Standardization in Engineering, Science, and Technology Studies

| Tineke M. Egyedi

For the author, Dr. Tineke M. Egyedi, director-researcher of the Delft Institute for Research on Standardization (DIRoS), the challenge to create interest in standardization and communicate the relevance of standards to students and policy makers inspired her to initiate ‘Setting Standards’, the first management simulation game on standardization. In this article, Dr. Egyedi discusses the standardization games she developed in collaboration with United Knowledge, a company with vast experience in developing policy games, in addition to her current work in the field of standardization.

About the Delft Institute for Research on Standardization (DIRoS) DIRoS, founded in 2012, initiates and executes scientific research on standardization-related issues for public and private organizations. The mission of DIRoS is to contribute towards raising societal and policy awareness about, and interest in, the relevance, workings, and consequences of standardization, and furthering scientific insight in this area.

Apart from basic and applied research (e.g., on standardization processes, strategies, mechanisms, impact, and policies), consultancy and policy analysis (e.g., Dutch Court of Audit), and publications (academic, policy reports, and writings to stimulate public debate), DIRoS’ activities include:

  • Raising awareness and interest (e.g., Tales of Standardization and Game Development with United Knowledge)
  • Education (e.g., MOOCs, lectures, and workshops)
  • Contributions towards building an academic standardization community (education and research; e.g., EURAS)

Using Games to Teach Standardization in Technical and Non-Technical Courses and Train Professionals Since 2009, when the management simulation game Setting Standards was launched, it has been incorporated into academic courses worldwide (e.g., safety science and innovation management), by government agencies, policy makers and associations (e.g., NIST, Dutch cadaster, European trade union confederation), and as a tool to train standardizers (e.g. Chinese ISO standardizers). More recently, United Knowledge and DIRoS developed three additional games for the Danish Standards Body (DS) for teaching standardization in different academic disciplines (engineering, business management, law, sociology, etc.).

Setting Standards: A simulation exercise on strategy and cooperation in standardization Setting Standards was developed to show students, practitioners, and policy makers why standardization is highly interesting, important and “fun” to study. The game was originally designed for 12–25 people and to take about 6 hours (lunch included). It can be used as a stand-alone or integrated module. For example, a professor in safety science started out with an introductory lecture on the relevance of standardization in her field before proceeding with the game.

It should be noted that Setting Standards requires no prior knowledge of standardization. Participants learn by doing by means of role-playing. Through the course of the game, they gain hands-on experience in how standardization works, simultaneously gaining insight into underlying mechanisms and dilemmas, the role of procedures, and how these may play out.

After role-playing, the group reflects on what happened and applies theoretical frameworks to analyze the different strategies used. While simulations necessarily simplify reality, experts rate Setting Standards as being highly realistic (see Erik Puskar’s review and participant reviews on the game’s website).

Danish Games for Academic Education on Standardization In 2014, United Knowledge and DIRoS developed the three simulation exercises for the Danish Standards Body (DS) presented below. These simulations were designed to introduce Danish students in engineering, sociology, economics, law, business management, etc. to standardization in a playful but serious way. The exercises set out to raise student awareness, trigger interest and increase understanding of what standards are, how they are developed and their possible effects. Each simulation game takes between one and two and a half hours and can be played with up to 25 (sometimes 50) participants. These simulations also require no prior knowledge of standardization.

Good teaching! – the meaning of standards With the learning goal of understanding what standards are, what they are for, and how they are developed as a consensus building processes, participants work in groups to develop a standard for ”good teaching.” A framework is employed to help participants understand the conceptual differences between various kinds of standards and different approaches to standardization. For this activity, 60 – 90 minutes is traditionally allocated.

The Sky’s the Limit – standards and innovation In this game, next to understanding what standards are and how they are developed, the learning goal shifts to an understanding of how standards in general—and regulatory standards in particular—may hinder or enhance innovation. Participants negotiate a few simple rules that would be needed if a new invention, the Autocopter, became a commodity. An analytic framework is used to help understand the conceptual differences between prescriptive and performance standards and an exploration of their effects on innovation is explored. For this activity, 90 – 120 minutes is traditionally allocated.

Allprod Incorporated – standardization as a business strategy The final simulation game challenges participants to understand how standards may influence the competitiveness of a business as well as competition in the market. Participants play the role of board members of a company active in diverse markets. Working in small teams they make and discuss a series of business decisions. Each decision is evaluated on how it may impact the company’s future. For this simulation, participants are allocated 120 – 150 minutes.

While the three games above were designed for a limited number of students, Tineke recently experienced that it was appropriate to include The Sky’s the Limit with slight adaptations as part of a lecture series for 120 masters students (Tilburg University). Whether this is also possible for the remaining games, has yet to be assessed in formal application.

Evaluations by game participants indicate that, apart from being a useful and involving learning tool, the games are a powerful vehicle for creating interest in and communicating the relevance of standardization. Tineke also believes that they can be a powerful tool for disseminating novel research insights, and feels challenged to translate her research findings into innovative simulation games.

About the author Dr. Tineke M. Egyedi is founder and director-researcher of the Delft Institute for Research on Standardization (DIRoS). Her current activities focus on how standards and regulation affect innovation and include, for example, a study on the valuation of patents in standardization (Intel research grant) and on the constraints of standards, rules and regulations as perceived by people working in care for the elderly (Magentazorg). With dr. Roland Ortt she developed a new functional classification of standards for the Handbook on Innovation and Standards (edited by Hawkins et al., 2017). Her most recent lecture was for students at the Tilburg Institute of Law and Technology.

From January 2000 to March 2015, Tineke worked as a senior researcher at the Delft University of Technology. She has published in journals ranging from IEEE Communications Magazine to International Journal of Hydrogen Energy. Tineke developed MOOC modules on “Inverse Infrastructures” (DelftX: NGI101x), based on the book Inverse Infrastructures: Disrupting Networks from Below (2012; co-edited by Donna Mehos); and on “Standards and Infrastructure Flexibility” (DelftX: NGI102x). She is a former board member of the European Academy for Standardization (President 2005-2011), and currently associate editor of the International Journal of Standardization Research, fellow of the Open Forum Academy and expert to the UNECE WP on ‘Regulatory Cooperation and Standardization Policies’.