Client-Based Pedagogy Meets Workplace Simulation: Developing Social Processes in the Arisoph Case Study


Case study, client-based projects, immersive pedagogy, simulation


Teaching problem: Immersive pedagogies-including real-world or client-based projects, case studies, and simulations-have long been used to encourage student problem-solving, analytical thinking, and teamwork in professional communication. Building a connection to the real world has real challenges, however, for both instructors and students. How can we better prepare students for their future careers in our technical communication courses? Situating the case: This paper draws on three areas in the literature to situate the Arisoph case study: First, we discuss the work that has been done with client-based projects and the problems and challenges researchers have found with incorporating these projects into the classroom. Second, we discuss a newer model of workplace simulations, particularly focusing on the work done by Fisher and Russell. Third, we discuss the psychological theories of attribution and reattribution, which provided a foundation for our development of the Arisoph case study. How this case was studied: This paper describes the development of the Arisoph case study, an online client-based simulation course designed for engineering students to learn and practice technical communication. Course development and collection of instructor and student responses took place from 2010 to 2014. About the case: This paper details the development and implementation of the Arisoph case study, which brought the workplace realities of a variety of engineering professions into a classroom filled with engineering majors. The Arisoph simulation was designed to manage student attribution and reattribution, particularly to help engineering students connect the principles and skills learned in technical communication courses with their future careers. The Arisoph case study is a full-semester simulation, where students apply for work in a fictional company and fulfill different roles on professional teams. Each assignment during the semester is situated in the context of the simulation. The major projects for the simulation, however, come from a real client in the engineering field. This unique combination of simulation and client-based projects provides students with greater opportunities for successful reattribution. Conclusions: Initial student reactions to the course show an increased understanding of workplace communication and a greater motivation to produce the best possible product for the client. We hope that long-term studies will show significant carryover of those attitudes into students' careers.

Original Publication Citation

Balzotti, Jonathan, and Jacob D. Rawlins. “Client-Based Pedagogy Meets Workplace Simulation: Developing Social Processes in the Arisoph Case Study.” IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication 59/2 (2016): 140–52.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date










University Standing at Time of Publication

Assistant Professor