The use of Business Simulation Games can make learning goals more achievable for higher-education students according to a meta-study by researchers of the University of Utrecht (Netherlands). Simulations have become a vital part of academic courses in different business and management fields, the researchers from the Dutch university point out, and after reviewing a series of studies on Business Simulations, they have also identified 3 best practices for their successful use: specificity of the game, integration in the course, and role of the instructor.
Which learning objectives work best with a Business Simulation
The authors describe two different kinds of learning goals, knowledge and skills, and point out that Business Simulations work best to achieve the latter. In other words, Simulations help students to put in practice the theory they've learned in the classroom.
Moreover, the researchers propose that the body of academic studies on Simulations suggests that they are significantly useful to engage students in deep-learning skills such as collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving.
Best practices when using Simulation Games
The meta-study also describes how Business Simulations are being intensively used by education institutions to "develop a diverse range of cognitive and communicative skills" of their students, which include productive cognitive skills, procedural knowledge and productive interactive skills.
The success in achieving these learning goals is based on three factors according to the authors. First and probably the most important of all, the role of the instructor is cited by most of the studies reviewed by the researchers as "vital for achieving learning objectives through simulations and games." The effectiveness of Business Simulations decreases without "instructional support [...] since players may use their capacity for ineffective activities such as focusing on irrelevant information".
Another key factor for maximizing learning by using Simulations is the specificity of the game, i.e., that a Simulation must have "clearly defined learning objectives" to make the best out of it, according to the researchers .
Last but not least, course integration is another important factor mentioned in the meta-study as necessary to get the most positive effect from using Business Simulation Games. The researchers enumerate "clear guidelines on coursework, realistic complexity, incentives for interaction and face-to-face contact with the course leader" as key elements that must be considered when including Simulation as part of a course.
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