Using Simulations in Higher Education

A simulation stimulates active engagement of students. They are playing a role, not just reading and analyzing. They make decisions and see the results of their decisions in the response of other players and the outcome of the sim. Simulations generate much more energy among students than traditional lectures or case discussions.
- Professor Timothy A. Luehrman, Harvard Business School

Online business simulations are great learning tools that allow learners to engage with the instructor, team members as well as with the learning materials. With the evolution of technology and computers, simulation in education and training have found wide popularity.

Unlike the traditional teaching methods that consisted of only lectures or the presenter talking into the camera or using slides to demonstrate the concepts, simulations can significantly enhance the learning experience through learning by doing.

The most reputed institutions across the world, vouch for the use of business simulations as an effective way to teach different concepts to students.

The power of using Simulations in the classroom
Harvard Business Publishing
Generating a highly interactive learning environment
MIT Sloan
Using Simulations as an effective teaching method
Stanford Business School
Game, Simulation & Achievement in classroom
TEDx Denver

Why are Business Simulations such a favoured pedagogy?

This is what the folks at Harvard have to say about it:

From a Teachers Perspective:
1) Students can explore the impact of multiple decisions at the same time.
2) Simulations allow students to validate their common sense relative to a particular situation.
3)A simulation forces students to synthesize and integrate what they read and make actual decisions based on facts or data presented in the case.
4) Simulations give students an opportunity to experience outcomes that change based on their inputs over time.
5) Simulations provide one way to provide some variety in pedagogy. They also provide that rapid feedback on student decision-making which is so critical for their learning.
6) A simulation allows students to be in their own skin and directly experiment with ideas. It's very different from a standard class.
7) A sim requires action, and decisions. Students are right in the mix, having an experience as opposed to reading about an experience. Team-based sims have the added value of getting students to deal with team dynamics-just like in real life.

From a Student’s Perspective:
1) Students don't want to stop playing. They play very differently. Some crash ahead, make mistakes, run through a scenario many times quickly. Others move much more slowly, deliberately, thinking carefully, studying what happens.
2) Students enjoy winning. A well designed simulation includes an element of competition that encourages them to strive and to impress their classmates (and the faculty) while learning!
3) Students have told me that sims force them to integrate and apply material that they have learned. The opportunity to try things—test a hypothesis and receive immediate feedback—gives the sim a dimension that you can't get from a case alone.
4) The level of discussion is different than with cases—students get much more emotionally involved and competitive—they get hooked and their understanding of the learning points increases.

Simulations versus Webinars or Self-Paced Learning
For a long time, many online courses consisted only of lectures, with an expert talking into a camera, sometimes supplemented with slides. The process by and large was one-way with the engagement it inspired being directly dependent on the quality of the teacher delivering it. The other end of the spectrum is when students are directed towards self-paced courses that they can take independently by themselves. The challenge with this though, is that learning becomes directly dependent on the motivation of the student, which unfortunately can waver.

Source: National Training Laboratories, Bethel, Maine

Today, this approach is neither necessary nor helpful for your students. Research indicates that experiential practice such as what is inspired by business simulations result in the highest level of retention (short of teaching others).

How to teach your courses with Business Simulations?
At FocusU we are committed to helping educators in bringing meaning and engagement to their sessions through using Online Business Simulations.

There are multiple ways you can do this:
1) Integrate the simulation into the course
2) Deliver a lecture on the theory and use the simulation to bring theory to life
3) Use a computer room to explain and practice
4) Cross link different courses (For ex: Marketing and HR maybe)
5) Divide larger classes into smaller groups competing against each other
6) Run practice rounds
7) Don’t need to motivate – focus instead
8) Let students propose their ideas. Help them learn from their mistakes
9) Have students develop reports
10) Use peer review to avoid slackers within a group
11) Have team meetings at the end of the session for feedback & learning

Want to know more?
We would be delighted to guide your institution towards the use of Business Simulations.

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Download the definitive guide to Online Business Simulations