Just like some of the Cesim business simulation games experts and staff, Manisha Kumari, Curriculum Developer at Aston University, discovered her enthusiasm for business simulations back in her student years. With previous first hand student experience in business simulations, Manisha took on the role to redesign the Business Game Module at Aston Business School. Let's find out how she revamped the module with an employability focus to boost the job placement rate of Aston Business School students.
"You will struggle to find a university more keenly attuned to the needs of business and industry." - The Sunday Times University Guide
Aston Business School is among the 69 institutions worldwide and the first institution in the UK to be granted triple accreditation by AMBA, AACSB and EQUIS.
- 84% of graduates go into employment with a further 9% continuing their education
- Ranked 12th out of all UK universities and top 80 in the world for graduate employability
- Over a third of placement students are offered graduate jobs by their placement employers
"Our goal is to have 100% of our students on placement by 2020." - Aston University
With an ambitious goal of achieving the perfect placement rate, the role of the Business Game Module has become more prominent at Aston, as the module offering is set to expand from undergraduate to postgraduate programs in the coming academic year. How did Aston establish this module and what did the staff do to ensure the successful outcomes of the module?
1. Picking the right teaching tool
As a Curriculum Developer who is responsible for an undergraduate module consisting of at least 800 students every year, the biggest question that is always at the forefront of Manisha's mind is, "How can students experience the real world of business?"
With this question in mind, Manisha chose Cesim simulations, as she believes in the value of business simulations, especially in how they deliver the real business experience. "The actual name, simulation, it can simulate things that we cannot possibly do in real life in education. So in context of the business management games, we are trying to get students to run a business, and they cannot realistically do that within the second year. We cannot take them out to the industry and say, 'Right, get going', and that's what the simulation is for." She commented on the risk free simulated business environment, "It provides an opportunity to make some decisions, see what your results are, without students having to worry necessarily, 'Oh I've just lost a billion pounds.' So it's that practice opportunity and giving students experience as well."
How did it all begin?
When Manisha was a student at Aston University, studying business and mathematics, one of her second year core module was business strategy game. "From my student experience, I realized there are a lot of bugs and issues and problems with the current simulation, which is why part of my placement was to redesign the business game, find a new simulation that is a bit more modern and up-to-date."
2. Picking the suitable simulation
Having embarked on a mission to find the best simulation, Manisha narrated her journey, "It was my responsibility to have a look at the simulations that are currently being offered. I found the top 100 simulations, and started to filter it down to see which ones are used for education purposes, as some are not suitable for education." She carried on to describe the most important factor that determined Cesim to be the best business simulation for Aston Business School, "In the end, Cesim was among the top 5 that were chosen, and it was between Cesim and another simulation, but one of the great things about Cesim is that it does have a much more friendlier user interface, and Cesim offers that customization into having certain key areas that we could look out."
Why is Aston interested in the customization that Cesim provides? "Because a lot of Aston students are Aston Business School students, they come from a lot of courses, so they may be studying business and management, accounting and management, so there are a lot of key business areas that they may not necessarily look out, which is why we went for Cesim Global Challenge."
Manisha went on to explain how the customization of Cesim Global Challenge suits the teaching need of Aston. "The problem we have with different simulations is that we may not be able to touch upon key areas, such as corporate social responsibility, ethics, or the importance of human resources, which is why the many scenarios and challenges that we implement into the Cesim simulation are key topic areas that we can concentrate on in classroom, like finance, marketing, human resources and transfer pricing."
4. Connecting simulation learning with the corporate world
The Business Game Module at Aston is designed with an employability focus with aims to develop career skills, such as developing proposals, working in teams, problem solving and conflict resolution, as well as to help students to obtain placement and graduate positions. As a result of the integration of a professional presentation at the end of the module, Manisha has a great achievement of having 10% of students secure placements.
Methods of Assessment and Weighting of the Business Game Module at Aston
|Assessment Type||Details||Assignment Category||Weight|
|Portfolio||Up to 12 entries and a reflective account||Individual||30%|
|Report||Consultancy report detailing the group's response to a problem that arises during the simulation game||Group||15%|
|Group Work||Performance in the simulation game and the way in which the team played||Group||10%|
|Log Book||Group engagement activities||Group||5%|
|Log Book||Individual engagement activities||Individual||5%|
|Report||Business plan written and presented to a professional standard||Group||20%|
|Presentation||Presentation delivered to a professional standard to a panel made up of academics, industry experts and others||Group||15%|
In an effort to connect the simulation learning with the corporate world, Manisha recruited employers and professionals from a wide variety of major companies to voluntarily deliver workshops, participate as an assessor on the panel for the presentation and offer prizes for business simulator games winners. The regular corporate participants include Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Nestle, Unilever, Viva Aspire and Pinewood Technologies, while Ernst & Young provides prizes for both the best presentation and the overall winner of the business simulation game.
At the end of the module, even for students who fall a bit short in securing a position, they still walk away with better presentation skills, an awareness of ethics and sustainability and a keen entrepreneurial spirit which will lead them to brighter career prospects. Upon completing the module, students will also have kept a portfolio as a proof of business management simulation experience for job interviews, which, according to Aston, often impress the employers.
5. Making improvements
Despite the achievements accomplished and being ranked 11th in the UK for student experience and having the overall student satisfaction levels up to 90%, Manisha is constantly evaluating the module and looking for improvements. "It is a learning curve for everyone. In terms of feedback, it varies from people who get really into it, it can be quite technical, you can get a lot of technical feedback and then you realize students are more of a simulation expert than you are. We normally ask for feedback in relation to the overall module. When we ask certain students, 'What are the three best things about the module?', they do sometimes comment that the simulation is one of them."
On a final note, concerning tips for instructors who are new to simulation games, Manisha believes having that student experience with previous simulations helped her the most. "My advice would be, try and get a student in access, see what it is like from the students' opinion, have some time to actually play with the game yourself to get that experience as a student, to see what decisions they would make. Then when you are an instructor, you have all these questions coming, you are more familiar with it. Have a look at the videos and webinars that Cesim offers and try to read the manual if you can."
Watch Manisha Kumari's Expert Interview
Interested in finding out more about how to use simulations in your course or training? We have other case studies on our blog >>