A study about the role of the instructor in business simulation games by Ana Beatriz Hernández, María Tatiana Gorjup and Rosalía Cascón reveals some interesting facts about the way management training facilitators roles are viewed by their students depending on whether they are present physically or guide the class online.
The Internet and information and communication technologies (ICTs) have dramatically changed the teaching and learning landscape. These new teaching techniques created a window for more people to continue their education through lifelong learning programs, and allow stay-at-home moms to achieve a degree, or a person who is suffering from an illness prohibiting him/her to attend classes physically to become accredited as a financial advisor.
Business simulator games are considered by many to be an excellent e-learning method (the emerged paradigm of modern education). Business games simulate a business environment where teams manage a virtual company, compete against other groups, and aim to create sustainable profitable growth for their make belief businesses.
Among the advantages of business strategy games are:
- Immediate feedback
- Active participation of students
- Learning from experience
- Observation of the key factors in an on-the-job situation
- Preparation for the uncertainty of business
- High motivation to learn
However, an instructor facilitating learning through business games in an online format has a far different job than one who is face-to-face with students. In on-the-job situations, each instructor is able to observe key factors, which allows the teacher to prepare students for uncertainty in a competitive environment. And while the instructor has greater control over handling individual student's requests, she can't be certain that the distant learning technique is effective among her students because of her inability to closely monitor the activities of each student. In response to this, advocates of the ICT approach say the degree to which the instructor governs the business simulators is somewhat unimportant because the computer program governs itself. Other researchers say the instructor is irreplaceable because her involvement is crucial to the degree in which students retain their lessons.
These polar opinions leave a grey area among those participating in business simulations and call for clearly defined lines about the amount of involvement each should instructor have.
In the ICT environment, the instructor is not only a one-way street to learning. She must become a coach, facilitator, collaborator and adviser for achieving competency. She must encourage the group and ease the transition into new e-learning tools. She is the guide who solves problems and motivates students.
The role of the newly-defined teacher opens up a whole set of questions to be answered:
- What is the degree of face-to-face interaction that the teacher should offer?
- What type of experience does an ICT instructor need?
- How does an instructor's teaching style fit with ICT?
- The new role of the instructor has been defined as discrete, but to what degree a teacher should keep to the online style? Often, the degree of each instructor's involvement varies.
In testing the students, each instructor was assessed based on a face-to-face interaction and an online interaction and the study makes it a point to determine the role of the instructor in an online learning environment. Even when the instructor had less involvement in the learning experience, the students appreciated the role. The instructor's functions in facilitating the students' learning and level of work, as well as assisting in overcoming problems while providing active evaluation, motivating, guiding students and orientating appeared to be keyed specifically to business simulation games. Another major finding proved that student involvement in the game depended on the level of involvement committed by each instructor.
Business simulation game used in study: Cesim Global Challenge (international business strategy simulation game)
What is your facilitation style when using business simulations in your class or training program? What challenges have you faced with either the face-to-face or online approach? Let us know!