Let’s face it, while the format of higher education hasn’t changed significantly since the industrial revolution, what students expect from your class definitely has. The 21st century digital learner has more options than ever when it comes to how and when she consumes materials, making this generation of pupils one of the most sophisticated and challenging to teach.
When you have students who are always plugged in, and have all the information in the world at their fingertips, the focus of education unavoidably needs to shift to the effective usage of said knowledge, in a way that is engaging, practical and unique to the particular program.
So how do business simulations fulfill these criteria?
1. Hands-on learning
There are a number of ways to introduce practical elements into your course, including case studies, board games, and internships. While all of these are inarguably useful, business simulations provide an interactive and dynamic learning environment. It allows students to draw on what they’ve learned during the course and test their mettle against their peers regardless of time and location.
2. Risk-free experimentation
Making mistakes is an integral part of learning a new skill, and this is as true in business as it is in any other domain. Business management simulations let learners experiment freely with novel strategies without any real world repercussions. Indeed, students are encouraged to pay close attention to the likely development of the markets in which they operate, and devise ever-innovative ways to beat their competition. Sometimes a bold play can pay off in unexpected ways, other times it can bring ruin to a team, but the lessons learned are invaluable either way.
Competition is at the heart of every business simulation, not only because it helps simulate a real world market situation, but also because the dynamic nature of friendly rivalry and teamwork can create a highly engaging learning environment. Competing against other teams in this manner prompts students to develop a sense of responsibility for the success or mistakes of their virtual companies, and allows them to see the importance of communication, strategy, and knowledge sharing.
4. Discipline specific
A business simulation game wouldn’t be of much use if it weren’t also relatable to the subject matter of the course. This is why a good business simulation will deal with discipline specific decisions in a controlled scenario, for example marketing management, hospitality management or international business. Keeping the simulation focused on a certain set of tasks helps students apply their learning effectively, and makes the game a unique part of any business course.
5. Completely online
Students already do everything online, it is time their learning materials followed suit. Modern business simulation games are entirely web-based and make it easy for both students and teachers to access from anywhere in the world. With multitude of universities offering blended or completely online classes to people around the world, it is easy to see how the convenience of such accessibility would be of importance to the new generation of learners.
6. Big picture thinking
A common complaint of students is that while they learn a lot about individual business topics in separate courses, there is little to no possibility for them to connect these interdependent subjects in any meaningful way. Business simulations are designed to help the holistic understanding of various business disciplines by putting teams in charge of all relevant company functions including production, marketing, logistics, finance etc., allowing learners to see the relationship between departments, and how decisions within them affect bottom line performance.
In summary, using business simulations in your course will:
- Give you the ability to better illustrate theoretical business concepts
- Increase student engagement and enjoyment
- Improve student knowledge retention, decision making and teamwork skills
- Allow you to run all of your simulation based courses online in any format (classroom, blended, online)
- Give you a powerful tool to test the hands on skills and strategic thinking of students
"As someone with no marketing background, I found the Cesim SimBrand marketing simulation a very useful tool. The most important thing for me was that it gave me some ´experience´ on which to hang the marketing knowledge from the lectures. For example, when discussing advertising and distribution channels I could think about how the theory affected SimBrand. Being able to apply the material to my new ´experience´ allowed me to understand more of the subtleties than I otherwise would have been able to", says Louise Elliot, MBA, University of Leeds, UK.