XB (Experience-based Learning)


Elyssebeth Leigh | University of Wollongong | elyssebeth.leigh@icloud.com


Key Features

  • Simulator: XB (Experience-based Learning) (used at the University of Technology, Sydney)
  • Students: Organisational behaviour and adult learning context; undergraduate and postgraduate units
  • Class Size: 20-40
  • Assessment: Participation (30%), Weekly Memos (40%), 3D Representation (30%)
  • Pedagogy: Blended Learning model based on a manual


The XB simulation has been used in both undergraduate and postgraduate courses to assist in adult learning. The subjects that used the program were called Organisational Behaviour: an Experiential Approach  T he XB training manual says:

Our structure, for instance, is a tool you will find nowhere else. It doesn’t replicate the structure of a typical business. It shuns the structure of a typical classroom with the requirement of the participants reflect on and analyse what they see and do, and actively consider how to apply new understanding to existing contexts (Putzel, 2001).

Elyssebeth additionally has written that ‘as a simulation, XB exists as a manual containing job descriptions, rules of behaviour, detailed theoretical analysis of relevant topics and instructions for completing specific tasks towards achieving specific outcomes and goals. A workplace-like scenario and an emergent set of records create the elements of a shared experience. The knowledge content of XB is current theories of organisational behaviour’. XB was developed by Dr Roger Putzel at St Michael’s College, in Burlington, Vermont and he is the copyright owner of the ‘XB Manual’.

Learning Aims

Elyssebeth devoted part of her Doctoral study to analysing XB and says:

XB is an open, infinite chaordic simulation designed as an interactive, if over-simplified, experiential introduction to theories or organisational behaviour....Participants find they must ‘invent’ knowledge for themselves, rather than being passive recipients of someone else’s. They have to establish their own parameters for the process in order to develop capabilities for arguing a case with their peers, in a manner that is surreally unlike – yet strangely reminiscent of real work, while totally alien to much of their prior education experience.


The unit includes structured workshops, tutorials, discussions, webinars, individual research and engagement in assignments which critically examine and apply current thinking in the area. It is possible for educators to regularly update theoretical references, as long as they do so within the overall structure of the simulation design. Students participate in independent action learning teams to share and scrutinise ideas and experiences. A range of online and face-to-face activities are used to support learning. Students undertake extended inquiry to investigate problems and issues in a scenario-based setting and they participate in ongoing (face-to-face and online) dialogue in a networked, connected learning environment.

XB can be used in a blended environment drawing on both face to face and online resources. Students must work in teams and also complete individual tasks depending on the nature of the role they adopt. The lecturer takes on the role of Senior Manager  to help facilitate the establishment of weekly routines and guide participants as they develop the 'Learning Organisation' that can emerge from the combined efforts. There is no 'teaching' as such by the educator.


Active simulation participation is worth up to 30% since much of the activity is based on teamwork. This includes discussion of issues, planning the means of summarising and presenting information (organisational behaviour theory) to their peers and making decisions about timing, Baird priorities and communication strategies. All individuals are expected to contribute. A mandatory weekly memo must include a page or two of reflecting writing using an action learning cycle mode to report personal decisions and consequences. The third part of the assessment is unique. Students are encouraged to be creative in their thinking and design of a 'three-dimensional representation of their learning'. Simulating an arts and crafts fair, students display this as a summary of their overall experience and engage in a final discussion about what each considers to be their most important learning.

Assessment Responsibility Weight
Participation Individual/Team 30%
Weekly Memo Individual 40%
3D Representation Individual 30%


Elyssebeth suggests that using XB is ‘cost neutral’. The only resourcing requirements were student access to the online LMS provided by the university, in this case Blackboard, a teacher or facilitator, and the text book (XB manual) which cost $40 as an additional fee passed onto the students.


As models are static and simulations are dynamic, the learning outcomes include constantly evaluating the decisions that have been made and looking for improvement. The manual provides a variety of ways for student teams to develop and then share insights and understanding about such organisational issues as planning, controlling and staffing and help each other extend their ability to understand and apply formal and informal management theory. Additionally, Elyssebeth mentioned that ‘students learn engagement, immersion, ability to cope with complexity, ability to think in real time about their actions rather than just automatic reaction, situational awareness, situational sensitivity, interpersonal sensitivity, asking good questions, recognising that questions are often more important than the answers’. When asked are simulations fun? The response was ‘they are absolutely fun, but can be the kind of fun that is both challenging and demanding and very valuable learning environments, because of that.'


Participants find they must ‘invent’ knowledge for themselves, rather than being passive recipients of someone else’s
Elyssebeth Leigh