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URLwire for Tuesday 5/27/03- Online news headline linking services are welcome to link to this story.
Higher Ed Simulation and Learning Tool Launches Virtual U 2.0
Virtual U 2.0, the cutting-edge simulator of the American university, was released today and is now available as a free download. Graduate programs for future leaders in higher education management at more than 35 universities already use the software. More than 15,000 faculty members and other representatives of more than 800 universities around the world have downloaded and used the first version of the software, which was recognized as one of the year's 10 best independently produced games at the 2001 Independent Games Festival..
Virtual U 2.0
Virtual U's sophisticated design is driven by a state-of-the-art simulation engine built by renowned game developer Trevor Chan of Enlight Software, creator of Capitalism, an award-winning series of simulation games about corporate America.
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"The new release of Virtual U accomplishes two great things," said Jesse Ausubel, Program Director for the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation (, which sponsored the original and updated development of Virtual U. "Users get a dramatically enhanced program and they get it free. The power of Virtual U is now available to anyone with an Internet connection and an interest in learning about university management."

In conjunction with the launch of Virtual U 2.0, the University of Pennsylvania's Institute for Research on Higher Education conducted a Virtual U workshop during the first weekend of February 2002 with more than 20 leading higher education administration professors who have adopted Virtual U as part of their curriculum during 2002.

Virtual U is part of a new breed of game-based learning tools that enable people to learn about complex systems through hands-on interactive software. The new version of Virtual U has many improved features:

* An improved interface with several new university performance reports
* A more challenging game, including more risk of being "fired"
* An improved model for public universities, including "performance-based budgeting"
* A new and expanded distance learning model
* Increased control of facility construction
* Ability to output all data to spreadsheets for later analysis
* Ability to weight the factors that make up the game score

"Virtual U 2.0 improves an already realistic simulation," said Virtual U designer William Massy, a professor and university administrator for more than 30 years and president of the Jackson Hole Higher Education Group. "Using feedback from professors and students who have used Virtual U, we've created a better, more helpful product."

Virtual U's sophisticated design is driven by a state-of-the-art simulation engine built by renowned game developer Trevor Chan of Enlight Software, creator of Capitalism, an award-winning series of simulation games about corporate America.

"All good software deserves improvement, and it has been great to get a chance to improve Virtual U," Chan said. "Enlight is becoming a leader in both commercial and public-policy based simulations and with the recent release of Capitalism II and Virtual U 2.0, we are showing how games can help us understand complex systems."

Virtual U is designed to foster better understanding of management practices in American colleges and universities. It provides students, teachers, and parents the unique opportunity to step into the decision-making shoes of a university president. Players are responsible for establishing and monitoring all the major components of an institution, including everything from faculty salaries to campus parking. As players move around the Virtual U campus, they gather information needed to make decisions such as decreasing faculty teaching time or increasing athletic scholarships. However, as in a real college or university, the complexity and potential effects of each decision must be carefully considered. And the Virtual U Board of Trustees is monitoring every move.

Virtual U models the attitudes and behaviors of the academic community in five major areas of higher education management:

* Spending and income decisions such as operating budget, new hires, incoming donations, and management of the endowment;
* Faculty, course, and student scheduling issues;
* Admissions standards, university prestige, and student enrollment;
* Student housing, classrooms, and all other facilities; and
* Performance indicators.

Virtual U players select an institution type and strive for continuous improvement by setting, monitoring, and modifying a variety of institutional parameters and policies. Players are challenged to manage and improve their institution of higher education through techniques such as resource allocation, minority enrollment policies, and policies for promoting faculty, among others. Players watch the results of their decisions unfold in real- time. A letter of review from Virtual U's board is sent every "year," informing players of their progress.

The development of Virtual U was made possible through a partnership that includes the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, the Jackson Hole Higher Education Group, the Forum for the Future of Higher Education, the University of Pennsylvania's Institute for Research on Higher Education, and Enlight Software.

Virtual U is available as a free download on the Internet at The boxed version, which includes printed game materials, and all electronic materials on CD-ROM, is available for $40 plus shipping at or by calling 1-888-286-3540.

Media members can request a full copy of Virtual U 2.0 and a press kit for review or feature articles by contacting Beth Bryant (bbryant(- a t -) of Digitalmill at (207) 773 3700.

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