The article below is written by one of our MikesBikes Introduction instructors, Harold Lowe from Nova Scotia Community College in Canada.
When first contemplating writing an article about the MikesBikes Introduction program, I was of two minds. The first, as an instructor, was my experience using the software as a teaching tool. The second was the experience seen from the perspective of the student. Each of you who are contemplating to incorporate a business simulation into your curriculum will have certain expectations and outcomes. All of these will have their own academic merits and each educator can discuss that at length.
Over the years that I have been using MikesBikes Introduction; starting many years ago when McGraw-Hill introduced it to me as an add on to my Introduction to Marketing text, I have noticed one particular point of difference from other simulations that were proposed for our consideration. Each of the competing packages had both points of parity and difference to MikesBikes Introduction. Many of the platforms that were considered had one distinguishing factor that was a nonstarter from my perspective, none were multiplayer. Playing a business simulation against the computer is an excellent way to introduce students to the world of business simulations; but the real learning takes place when the student has to compete against others and the “human factor” comes into play.
How I incorporate MikesBikes Introduction into my course(s)
I currently teach both the first and second year Marketing courses in our 2-Year Business Administration Diploma program.
During the first year, second semester, I will introduce the Marketing Strategy students to the Single-Player version of the program. I find that this is an excellent way for them to apply their knowledge at an introductory level. (They really enjoy the concept of the Rollback feature). During their first year, this provides a sense of continuity to the theory that they are exposed to during the course. They get to see how each of the chapter topics are interrelated and how a decision made in one area, i.e. pricing, will affect sales and inventory levels. As a bonus, they also have to utilize the knowledge they have received in other courses such as Accounting. I find that students who study the many reports that are available, develop their critical thinking skills, which in my opinion are vital in today’s workplace.
During the second year, my students are introduced to the Multi-Player version of the software. This is where the learning and the fun really takes place. Students are set up in groups of 3 to 4 and are allowed to run three roll overs for a practice and refresher. In the past, I have allowed the first year students who have excelled in the Single-Player version to compete with the second year students. At this point, the competitive nature comes to the forefront. The Marketing and Management students have created a great rivalry, each trying to surpass the other. It is amazing how engaged the students become. As I review the log times I have noticed over the years that students will be online up to the last minute prior to the roll over, and then sign back on minutes later to see how their share price is as compared to the other teams, and this takes place at midnight! Then each morning prior to the start of class the bravado is emanating from the team who is currently in first place. I find that the class usually starts with an unofficial analysis of what worked and what did not. Those who made decisions that did not work in their favor will now realize what went wrong and what they will have to do to rectify their situation. Each team looking for the one strategy that will give them the competitive edge.
Once we have completed the competition, the students have to present an analysis of each rollover and what decisions were made, what worked or did not and the reasoning behind those decisions. I find that breaking the evaluation into various components is most useful. First, the team must submit a strategy report on what they plan to do, covering the 4p’s. Then they receive a mark for how they actually did with regards to the SHV (Shareholder Value), based on a matrix of achieving a certain value range. Finally, they are evaluated on the analysis they provide at the end. I find that just because a team did not “win” the competition does not mean that learning did not take place. Teams will often learn from their mistakes.
Since the Nova Scotia Community College has 13 campuses throughout the province, we will often compete with each other for a trophy that the College has provided. When time permits, we will run a competition in the latter part of the second semester of the second year. Teams from each campus are put on a tight schedule of 24 to 48 hour roll over; in the end, the team with the highest Shareholder Value is declared the winner and they get to keep the plaque at their campus for 1 year.
As I indicated earlier, I have been using Mikes Bikes for many years and it has become an essential part of the capstone program curriculum across the College. It allows students to put into practice the learning that has taken place over the two years they have spent at the College. The students become very engaged and competitive, taking pride in their work. I feel that the multiplayer aspect of Mikes Bikes allows students to experience the human factor in business which may not always be logical. As one student indicated to me this year, after another team made a radical change in their strategy, “who would do something like that”? The answer being that often in the business world, the unexpected happens and you have to be ready to react to it. Finally, I would recommend Smartsims to any instructor who wants to engage their students in a process that ties all of their learning into one package.