The terms business simulations, serious games and experiential learning tools are sometimes used interchangeably by educators and even the developers themselves. An understandable hiccup considering the similarities, but when attempting to discern which methodology is the right choice for your course, it's important that you know the differences between them as well.
In this article, we will help you understand what sets these educational tools apart, and how to decide when are they appropriate to use.
This theory of education is based on reflecting on what you as the individual have been doing, and learning from it. As such, it is a theory that emphasizes actively partaking in an experience instead of simply reading about it. A common example in higher education may be job placements, where the student learns first hand what a particular work entails and absorbs valuable information through a process of observation. While this theory, similarly to business simulation games, incorporates the element of learning by doing, the important difference is that it is done in a real-life situation as opposed to a simulated business environment. For this reason, experiential learning methods can be extremely valuable in instances where the situation can be easily replicated in real-life and where participants cannot come to harm (examples of the latter may be military or flight simulations).
Serious games however, are one step closer to business simulations, in that they take place in a virtual environment and are aimed at educating participants about a subject matter. As opposed to video games, their purpose is typically not to entertain (except in the case of edutainment) but to teach through a carefully crafted scenario around, for example, poverty in Africa or surgical procedures in an operating room. In fact, 'serious business games' are really an umbrella term for several sub categories, such as advergames, newsgames, games for health, and indeed business simulations as well. Since serious games can vary significantly in scope and topic from one another, it is important for you to think carefully about the overall goal of your course before selecting one.
On the other hand, business simulations are entirely focused on illustrating a particular corporate situation. This can be anything from organizational behavior through project management to global strategy development for a mobile telecom company. The overall goal of economic simulations is to allow participants to practice in a risk-free simulated environment (often together with team mates), and learn through reflection and repetition over a number of business strategy game rounds. These tools are typically less visually distracting (they rarely have 3D graphics or animation), and instead focus on describing the case in a written and numerical format. Business simulations have been developed for a wide range of subjects including hospitality simulation, marketing simulation, and international business and strategy simulation. Choosing one entirely depends on the type and level of course that you are running, and whether you are interested in incorporating a hands-on element into your curriculum. Business simulations (used interchangeably with management simulations, corporate simulations, or economic simulations) are an excellent way to turn theory into practice and help your students learn how to use their business, teamwork and decision-making skills in a "real life" situation.
Interested to find out how active learning tools like business strategy games can be used to augment business theory for maximum effect?