History

Founded in 1982 by University of Maryland professors, Dr. Jonathan Wilkenfeld and Dr. Richard Brecht, the ICONS Project (International Communication & Negotiation Simulations) has grown through the years to include thousands of simulation participants and clients throughout the United States and the world. We continue to be based at the University of Maryland, where for the past 30 years ICONS has been a leader in the design and delivery of online role-play simulations for use in a variety of educational settings, including graduate-level courses, undergraduate classes, and programs for high school-aged youth.

For over two decades, ICONS' core simulation work consisted of coordinating and facilitating a series of online multi-week simulations, known as distributed simulations. These simulations were scheduled for specific times each semester and involved students from schools around the world in negotiations on pressing global issues. These shared online simulation experiences formed the foundation of ICONS' education program.

In response to instructors' requests for a flexible simulation option to fit wide-ranging course schedules, the ICONS Project expanded in the early-2000s to offer a limited number of online, instructor-led simulations on various domestic and international topics. These simulations typically involve students from just one class and can run at any time during the year. The instructor, rather than ICONS staff, plays the role of the simulation facilitator, and a package of tools and resources accompany each simulation. The growing popularity of these simulations among educators led us to continue to build our portfolio of simulations, which now includes numerous simulations on a wide range of issues, from African politics to U.S. Senate committee procedures. We develop new simulations each year for our catalog, and offer custom simulation design services for clients seeking a tailor-made simulation.

High demand for our simulations from government agencies led to the development of an ICONS professional training division in the early 2000s. This division is committed to bringing the benefits of simulation-based learning to government and private sector clients through leadership, negotiation, and conflict management training.

Through the creation of an ICONS policy and research division in 2012, ICONS affirmed its commitment to supporting the policy community and researchers through a range of simulation development and facilitation services, including use of our custom-built online simulation platform, ICONSnet.

Throughout its history, the University of Maryland has been the institutional home for the ICONS Project. For many years, ICONS was part of the Governmental and Politics department and its Center for International Development and Conflict Management (CIDCM). In 2016, ICONS became an affiliated unit of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), a research and education center based at the University of Maryland. While ICONS continues to maintain and pursue its mission to develop simulations on a wide range of topics and skill sets, the partnership with START has created further opportunity to collaborate on educational simulations and materials.

Today, ICONS serves the online simulation and experiential education needs of our clients through three divisions (Education, Training, and Policy and Research).

ICONS Project