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Teaching Strategic Management Online at Arizona State University

With many courses transitioning to online this year we thought it timely to interview Scott Livengood from Arizona State University. Scott has a great deal of experience using our MikesBikes Advanced Business Simulation in his capstone Strategic Management course which he teaches in both face-to-face and online formats.

How do you use MikesBikes in your course?

I use MikesBikes Advanced primarily for my capstone Strategic Management undergraduate course.

I have three “rounds” of play:

  • The first is the Practice Round, where students compete directly against a computer rival in two possible customer segments (Adventurer and Leisure). This round is not graded but gives the students some exposure to the simulation so they can learn about its mechanics and also so they can experiment with and fine tune their strategies.
  • Next comes the Solo Round, where the environment is exactly the same as the Practice Round (i.e. only one computer rival and two segments), except the rollovers occur on my schedule rather than giving the students the ability to roll forward, roll backward, or to reset the simulation. This occurs for five to six rollovers, depending on the length of the course.
  • Last comes the Competitive Round, where students are assigned to “worlds” of approximately eight firms and they compete head to head with other students in the course, also over five or six rollovers. The Competitive Round also introduces three other customer segments (Racer, Commuter, Kids) and a new distribution outlet.
How do you introduce MikesBikes to students?

I have created a Beginner’s Guide where I essentially walk students through the first two years of decisions, using screen shots and references from the simulation itself. I have also created a video with my voiceover using the simulation while following the Beginner’s Guide. I also give some background regarding the purpose and learning objectives of the simulation.

Do students use MikesBikes in teams or individually? If in teams, how do you facilitate teamwork in an online environment?

I’ve experimented with using groups of students, but have found that to be ineffective, mainly due to two reasons: coordination and effort (often students don’t respond to communication and one or two students end up doing all the work and making all the decisions) and learning (students usually use the “divide and conquer” method where one student is in charge of marketing, a different one in charge of new product development, etc. whereas the way I do it, every student has to learn about all the various parts of the organization and how they fit together, which I think enhances the benefit gained). Thankfully, MikesBikes Advanced is complex enough that students have to dive in and learn new things, but not so complex that an individual student can’t make all the decisions.

What simulation related assessments and/or activities do you use?

Students are required to write a paper on External Analysis (Porter’s Five Forces), another paper on Internal Analysis (Resource-based View of the Firm), and another paper on SWOT Analysis and Business-level Strategies during the Practice Round to create a Strategic Plan for their Solo Round.

After the Competitive Round, they write a longer Simulation Reflection Paper on lessons learned from the Solo Round, a Competitive Analysis based on their biggest rivals, challenges with Diversification, exploration of a Merger or Acquisition (why or why not to pursue), and their biggest takeaway from the simulation.

These assessments align with the course material on Business-level Strategies and Corporate-level strategies and count for approximately 35% of their overall grade for the course.

In addition, a small percentage of their grade (5% for Solo and 5% for Competitive, which is mandated by our course coordinator – I would prefer 10% for the Competitive Round) is based on their actual performance on the simulation itself, using final SHV as the measure.

I break the students into “quartiles” based on their final SHV and assign a grade accordingly (top 25% receive 50 points, next 25% receive 40 points, next 25% receive 30 points, and the bottom 25% receive 20 points). This helps to reward students who perform well but isn’t overly strict for those who struggle with the simulation.

I impose a 20% SHV penalty for students who are insolvent during the simulation after providing a cash infusion to help them continue to be able to participate.

What other applications do you use?

We use Canvas as our Learning Management System and I use that as an interface with students. I do use VoiceThread for students to give presentation, but that’s not directly related to the simulation itself.

Do you have any tips for using a business simulation in an online course?

I love using a business simulation, particularly over the typical case study method. Cases are usually obsolete, have students analyzing other people’s decisions, and don’t provide an opportunity for students to practice implementation, assessment, and adjustment of their strategic decisions. However, with a simulation, students are able to make decisions for their own firms, see the results of those decisions, and adjust accordingly, all within a dynamic (and fun) environment. It’s taken me a few years to tinker with different ways to use the simulation, but I like what I’m currently doing and feel the students gain a great experience.

Related Articles:

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Teaching Strategic Management Online at USM

The MikesBikes simulation has been extremely well received by students. Many enjoy the opportunity to work in groups and learn from others, while nearly all love the ability to apply what they are learning in a safe environment.

Lisa Parrott from the University of Saint Mary uses the MikesBikes Advanced Business Simulation in her online Strategic Management and Ethics course.

Lisa has kindly shared how MikesBikes is used at USM and provided tips to others implementing a business simulation in an online course.

Introducing the Simulation & Single-Player Phase

Week 1

Students are introduced to the Single-Player (practice phase) in the first week. They are also required to read the player’s manual and watch the tutorial videos.

To ensure they have completed these tasks they take a 20-question introductory quiz where they must achieve at least 80% to pass. They are given three opportunities to obtain a passing grade, otherwise they must work with the instructor to determine if they can continue in the course. It is critical students understand how to participate in the simulation before they are put into a team environment.

Students are also asked a brief strategy questionnaire to help the instructor formulate groups.

Finally, students are asked to translate their learning into an individual analysis that looks at the lessons learned, elements of the simulation that are still unclear, and reports used to evaluate performance.

Multi-Player Phase and Assessments

Week 2

The second week moves students from the individual experience into teams. Teams are free to use any means to work virtually; Google Hangouts, Zoom, Facetime, etc.

Students first complete a team contract to establish methods of communication, meeting frequency, workload, steps for resolving conflict, and deadlines.

Before starting Multi-Player phase they create a strategic plan. This includes building a mission statement, vision, values, performance objectives, and a plan for weekly evaluation of results and decisions.

Week 3 to Week 6

Rollovers (decision deadlines) begin in week three, with two rollovers per week until week six.

Each week students conduct an individual analysis examining the decisions made by their team, explaining their performance using data from reports within the simulation and to apply the weekly learning objectives to their team performance. This presents a knowledge check at an individual level each week.

After Rollover 4 a consultation meeting is held between each team and their instructor. This provides teams the opportunity to discuss their strategic implementation and evaluate progress to determine if change is needed. Teams can also use this time to ask questions.

Week 7

Teams prepare a video presentation covering elements from their strategic plan, a SWOT analysis, best practices, analysis of overall performance, and recommendations for future directions of the company.

Week 8

The video presentation from week 7 provide the opportunity for students to see “behind the curtain” of the other companies. In response, they are required to evaluate the strategy of their competitors.

Students also complete an individual evaluation of the performance of each of their team members and how they will use skills learned in their next group experience.

The final assignment for the course asks students to write an individual analysis of the entire experience. They are asked to evaluate team performance, consider whether they would expand globally (and where) and reflect on the entire experience. The paper also addresses the ethical performance of their team, effectiveness of their strategy, and highlights three lessons learned. Students are asked to incorporate scholarly articles into this assignment to support their assessment.

Tips for using a business simulation in an online course:

  • The first few weeks are often more time consuming than normal, and it may require multiple reminders to read the manual and watch the videos!
  • When introducing the simulation, it is best to focus on one area of development at a time, and build on concepts each week. Students get overwhelmed in the first few weeks using a simulation, especially if this is their first experience. As they become more familiar with how their decisions impact multiple elements of the business they will begin developing more complicated analysis of their performance.
  • Team design is extremely valuable for a successful Multi-Player experience. Too many risk adverse students will create problems with overall performance and this should be avoided.
  • The ideal team size is three. Two will often result in group-think and passive agreement, four often yields social loafing by at least one member who may not feel they have a voice. With three there is a tie breaker for any decisions when the team is split on how to move forward.
  • The more students know how to read the reports available to evaluate the effectiveness of their decisions, the better their team will perform and often understand how different areas are connected.
  • Each team will develop at a different pace, be sure to push them forward based on their unique needs. Some may reach a higher level of understanding faster than others.

View the course syllabus: Strategic Management and Ethics Syllabus

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King's Own Institute instructor

MikesBikes Introduction Simulation in a Business Project Course

King’s Own Institute (also known as Australian Institute of Business Management) instructor, Rex Walsh (pictured above) was over the moon when he found out that one of the teams in his class achieved the top spot in the MikesBikes Introduction Hall of Fame. A big congratulations to Dashcycle and Rex for this amazing achievement! 

We interviewed Rex to learn more about his course and how he prepares students to succeed in the simulation. 

Tell us about your experience with MikesBikes Introduction.

Wonderful.  Players universally rate this unit as the most relevant, rewarding and personal development based course they complete and this is incredibly rewarding for me.

Players have even made their own customized bike and accessories! It’s mind-blowing!

How does MikesBikes allow you to engage with your students?

MikesBikes allows me to engage with my students in the most rewarding way.  The players develop competence, skills, confidence and learn to relate to me simply as a mentor. They grow up quickly in my course!

How is your course designed?

We operate the course as a practical real life program.  The simulation is the vehicle for which students must then adjust to be business ready in a real world sense.

How is your course assessed?

Assessment is based initially on the position achieved in simulation.  Based on this grading, students must then present various supporting assessment materials.  This includes reflection journals, business reports, business presentations, including a startup for venture capital and at completion a business ready presentation to launch in the real world.

How do you prepare students for the MikesBikes simulation?

In the first few weeks, they go through the Single-Player practice version of the simulation. The students must survive on their own with my role purely as a mentor.  They are challenged to experiment and explore various decisions, and strategies.

Tell us about unique activities used to complement the simulation.

Players are asked to develop webpages, social media pages such as Facebook, Instagram, etc.  Students also use video editing software to make presentations and advertisements.

What do students take away from the simulation? For example, did the simulation improve their academic performance and/or assisted in securing a job?

Students are able to launch their own businesses after and during completion of the simulation.  My approach is very much based on simulating real world application.

Why do you like MikesBikes?

The support offered by Smartsims is terrific and the lasting relationship is very rewarding!!

Comment on your experience with the staff.

The staff are terrific and very responsive, not just to me, but also to the students. I cannot recommend Smartsims staff more highly!

 

Dan Bielinski Madison Area Technical College

MikesBikes in an Introduction to Business Course

Dan Bielinski Madison Area Technical College
The article below is written by Dan Bielinski, business instructor at Madison Area Technical College.

As a relatively new Business Management Instructor (in my third year) after a nearly 30 year career in industry and consulting, I have found MikesBikes Introduction an extremely helpful tool for teaching real-world business concepts. In the spirit of sharing among educators to benefit students, I am privileged to discuss some of the approaches that have worked for me.

We utilize the MikesBikes Single-Player in our Intro to Business Course. Students work in teams and compete against the computer. There are two practices I have found very effective:

1. I cover course material on Strategy, Marketing (the 4 P’s), Operations and Finance, primarily through case studies and other active learning techniques. I then use MikesBikes and help students “connect the dots” and apply these concepts in the simulation.

Both direct student feedback, and the kinds of questions they start to ask, tell me the simulation is taking student understanding to a deeper level. Much like moving toward case studies and away from lectures deepened learning, the simulation took learning provided by the case studies to a deeper level.

2. I have students work in teams of three. Each Team designates a VP-Sales & Marketing, a VP- Operations, and a VP-Finance. Each of their “bonuses” is based 50% on maximizing a specific departmental metric, and 50% on Shareholder Value growth. All three have to agree on all decisions.

The bonuses take the form of hefty extra credit points. For example, the VP-Sales with the best sales growth rate wins extra credit points; similar for the other positions. However, EACH member of the Team with the highest Shareholder Value wins extra credit points.

This simulates the dynamic that happens in actual businesses between Departmental Managers. It gets pretty real— in one case, a student was still yelling at a teammate 20 minutes after the simulation ended—“You hosed us; all you cared about was your Department.”

Last semester, we started using the MikesBikes Multi-Player in our Capstone Leadership Course. Students still work in teams, but now compete directly against each other to maximize shareholder value. The experience exceeded my high expectations. Key learnings we were able to drive home included:

  • The business mindset of always continually looking for an advantage or edge. Since all Teams start out identically, if they all follow similar strategies, no one will stand out. However, since the reports allow you to figure out- and copy, others’ strategies, you must continually look for a new angle.We connect that to running your Department—for example, if you run a Customer Service Team, how can you give your Sales force “something to sell” that your counterparts are not doing. And since your counterparts can probably copy you if it works, are you thinking about the next improvement? Etc.
  • Since all Teams start out with identical positions and decisions to make, and the end results vary wildly, the core source of differences in results is the members of each Team. This leads to a discussion of team makeup— complementary skill sets, depth of understanding of the “business”, ability to work together, etc. It is the most powerful way I have seen to teach the importance of teamwork.This easily transitions into how you build your department’s team— hiring into your weaknesses, knowing that both deep skill sets and ability to be a team player are vital, etc.
  • The simulation allows us to help students develop a broader business perspective, and to drive home the importance of such a perspective. For example, most companies do not want a marketing expert running Marketing; they want a business person who has deep knowledge of marketing. Same for Operations, Finance, and so on. Being able to “see the big picture” and have “your world” be bigger than just your department is vital.

I looked at other simulation packages, and concluded that MikesBikes had an optimal level of complexity. It is not simplistic-all the lessons above can be taught, yet it is not so complex that it takes students a long time to learn. I was able to do a self-paced tutorial of a five year simulation using a screencast (35 minutes total run time), that enabled students to learn the basics on their own outside of class (using the online version of MikesBikes).

The service and support from Smartsims has been absolutely exceptional- and I say this as a former Customer Service VP. I was comfortable recommending to our Dean that we expand our relationship to the Multi-Player only because of the 18 prior months of phenomenal support.

Professor Teaching Business Simulators

An Instructor’s Experience: From MikesBikes Critic to True Fan

Written by Russell E. Holmes, a business and law instructor, at Des Moines Area Community College.

It All Began…

A few years back my business department decided to incorporate a business simulation game into our Introduction to Business course. The college felt our introductory business course would become more acceptable as a transfer course to a larger number of universities if we did this.

I was adamantly opposed to requiring a simulation in the course. I had taught the course for many years, was comfortable with the variety of assignments and activities I had developed over the years and had no interest in having to deal with what I perceived to be an activity that would take a lot of time and, in my opinion, be of minimal value.

What really upset me was when I was told we would be required to take students through chapters that dealt with accounting, financial management, securities and marketing at the beginning of the course so they would be able to understand the simulation better. I was beyond angry as I had always done those chapters at the end of the course. More than that, I felt the tail was wagging the dog – in other words, I felt the simulation was becoming the centerpiece of the course as opposed to being a part of it.

Taking A Stand

In protest to this major change to the course, I choose not to teach it. I had enough other courses I could teach that I did not need to do the Introduction to Business course. I felt bad about this as I had always enjoyed the course but, well, I had no interest in dealing with the business simulation and all the problems I was sure it would bring about. I was fairly confident that in a couple of years MikesBikes would become a thing of the past and the people who had advocated for it would see the error of their ways.

Reluctantly Accepting

About two years after the college began requiring the business simulation in all the Introduction to Business courses, I was forced to teach the course again since I needed a full load. I was upset, to put it mildly, that I would have to deal with the simulation. I was convinced it was a waste of time and greatly over-rated. I had ignored it for two years and had had no interest in learning what it was all about.

Still, I had no choice. I figured if the students were going to have to deal with it, then I would figure out a way to make it somewhat palatable. There had to be some redeeming value to it even if I had no idea what it might be. I knew I would need to be able to explain it and have some working knowledge of it for obvious reasons.

Knowing I had no choice I was forced to dive in and begin to learn what this MikesBikes simulation was all about whether I liked it or not (and I definitely did not). Over a long break I attempted to learn how to do the simulation. I would go in spurts. After struggling with the most basic of concepts in Years 1 and 2 (how in the world am I supposed to determine a selling price or how many units to produce?!) I fought and cursed the simulation every step of the way. I was determined to prove it was a waste of time and could not in any way be remotely realistic.

The Turning Point

However, slowly – ever so slowly – I began to see a glimmer of light here and another glimmer there. No matter how hard I tried to find fault with every aspect of the simulation, I began to see something that was slightly interesting and perhaps even somewhat relevant to this thing we call “business.” I began to see the marketing screen and the production screen actually correlated with each other (can you say “supply and demand”?).

I began to realize those Key Reports – something I had tried to ignore – actually had some really valuable information in them and were appropriately named (imagine that?). I discovered that if I knew the size of my market it was actually helpful in determining how many bicycles my factory should be producing in the upcoming year. Slowly, ever so slowly, I stopped cursing the simulation and began to see how it might have some value.

As the simulation progressed into Year 2 and Year 3 and Year 4 an amazing thing happened – what I had learned in earlier years could be used to build upon in the following year. Before long I was seeing a rather interesting relationship before my eyes involving many pieces to a large puzzle – financing, production, advertising, branding, pricing, dividends and on and on. So many pieces but they all fit together so nicely when you – the owner of your firm – figured out how to put those pieces in place.

From Ugly Duckling to Beautiful Swan

The simulation was no longer an ugly, disjointed, confusing maze of frustration. Rather it had turned into a beautiful kaleidoscope of moving parts and beautiful colors. There was no one right way; there were actually many right ways to obtain a high shareholder value. I was, in a word, astounded at not only the beauty of the simulation but the intricacy of it. Still, it was simple enough for a student in an Introduction to Business class to understand if he or she was willing to give it some time and thought.

Isn’t that what a college course is all about – taking the time to give the subject matter some time and thought so the concepts can be digested? Isn’t actually being actively engaged in an ongoing project – something that requires a person to work on week after week – better than sitting passively reading or listening or even watching a video about some topic?

The Value

I, the old curmudgeon, had learned something even though I had tried so hard to keep my mind closed. The simulation brought some real life into the course and made it better (shocking but true). MikesBikes brought to life a variety of concepts that are discussed in the text and allowed students to work together making decisions for the upcoming year.

Both my online as well as my face-to-face classroom students do the simulation and I could not be more pleased. Sure, some students get so frustrated they want to quit – but I tell them the key is to push forward, stay with it, preserve and never give up. When they see the light it is an amazing sight for me and a feeling of true success for them.

Becoming a Strong Advocate

Today, I would not consider teaching Introduction to Business without the MikesBikes business simulation. I have come full circle from vocal nonbeliever to strong advocate. One of my students this past semester scored #2 in the MikesBikes Introduction Hall of Fame.

If he had only declared a dividend he would have easily been #1! To this day I will never understand why he never declared a dividend for his shareholders!! Oh, what could have been!

More importantly is not what could have been but what is. And what MikesBikes is, is invaluable to my course.

 

Russell Holmes

Russell E. Holmes teaches Business Law and Introduction to Business. He obtained his law degree from Drake Law School in 1989. He has a Master’s degree from Iowa State; a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Iowa and an Associate of Arts degree from North Iowa Area Community College in Mason City.

After graduating from University, he worked with the Federal Land Bank of St. Paul, Minnesota as a loan officer. In 1977 he started teaching full time for the American Institute of Business in Des Moines and also worked for a consulting firm in Des Moines.

Russell first began at Des Moines Area Community College in 1980 and was with the department until 1986. He left DMACC to attend law school. From 1989 until 2004 he was in private practice in Polk and Story counties. For eight years he was the executive director of the Legal Aid Society of Story County. He returned to DMACC in 2004 and has been teaching there ever since.

Professor Darl Kolb sits with the Smartsims team and describes his past 15 years experience with their products

Real-World Experience In The Classroom

 

In this video, Professor Darl Kolb discusses the unique way he has designed his course and complementary simulation-based activities to achieve amazing learning outcomes for his students.

Kolb is the Professor of Connectivity at the University of Auckland. His courses have always received high student ratings, praise from his faculty and have earned him multiple teaching awards. At the core of his courses for over 15 years has been the MikesBikes Business Simulation. Kolb has used this Strategic Management Simulation for over 15 years, in both his Undergraduate Course and his Masters of Business (MBA) Course.

MikesBikes is a means of introducing students to business concepts; such as strategy formulation, decision-making and teamwork. When used in a Capstone Course the simulation enables students to bring together all the theory from their business degree into a single experiential learning activity. To not only understand the individual functions of business, but to also see the connectedness and interaction of these functions. Over the years Kolb continues to receive feedback from students that their MikesBikes experience has not only provided them with workforce readiness, but gives them the leading edge in job interviews.

Kolb has designed his courses to create the most a realistic business environment he can for his students. Students are first tasked with writing their MikesBikes Résumé to apply for a position in their management team. This is done using a combination of their Single-Player (practice version) performance and their personal skills, experience and abilities. Based on their résumés, students are put into teams and assigned roles; Marketing Manager, Operations Manager, Finance Manager, R&D Manager and CEO.

The student teams then work together to conduct a market and company analysis, formulate strategy and implement their decisions prior to the first decision deadline (Multi-Player rollover). After each rollover, the results are displayed and discussed in class, giving students time to meet and reflect on their decisions.

Over the length of the course students participate in mock board meetings and management team presentations. These complementary activities aim to not only help add reality to this experience, but to also give students genuine confidence and real-world skills to take into the workplace.

For Kolb, and hundreds of other instructors, the MikesBikes Business Simulation has proven to be a great foundation for students at all course levels.

Experiential Learning Coming Alive at Drexel University

Teaching Foundations of Business with MikesBikes Introduction

Credit: Drexel University, LeBow School of Business

Associate Clinical Professor Jodi Cataline uses MikesBikes simulations to teach her freshmen students the foundations of business. Teaching at Drexel University, she found that business simulations improved the quality teaching through its unique hands-on approach.

Jodi describes how the simulations allow her to move beyond purely academic forms of business education. She extracts terminology and concepts from her teaching material and challenges her students to use it in the MikesBikes simulation.

Jodi and her freshmen cohort demonstrate how Drexel’s business faculty benefit from MikesBikes. Drexel students are prepared and confident to enter the workforce after completing the MikesBikes simulation.

 

Andrew Patterson

Teaching with the MikesBikes Business Simulation

 

Andrew Patterson a professional teaching fellow at the University of Auckland discusses his experience using MikesBikes Advanced with his undergraduate students. He describes how the MikesBikes Advanced business simulation provides a new and effective system to engage his students.

Andrew has spent over 4 years teaching in the University of Auckland Business School. He is currently using the strategic management simulation, MikesBikes Advanced in his undergraduate management course. It remediates what Andrew identifies as shortcomings of traditional learning styles.

Traditionally, learning environments have been passive systems unable to effectively target large student cohorts. Andrew found that MikesBikes provided an entirely new form of experiential learning. He used the business simulator to provide students with a business and management simulation where they could strategize and apply course content. This allowed him to focus on guiding students through their business strategies and building on their educational experience.

The course focuses heavily on the student’s experience in the simulation and their reflective observations. Andrew primarily uses his lectures to meet with student teams and coordinate their business, management and marketing strategies. The course is graded based on the overall performance in the simulation and on the student’s learning journal. Andrew notes that the students’ MikesBikes experience made the reflective journal component possible.

The simulation allows him to keep his finger on the course’s pulse, set period goals and observe how students execute their strategies. The experiential learning environment created an active foundation where students could reflect on their learning using their own simulated business models.

Andrew closes in saying that in four years of teaching, he has never encountered anything like the MikesBikes Advanced simulation. The level of student engagement and interaction made it a positive experience for him as an instructor. His students added that it was one of the best learning experiences they had in university – this was echoed by their high attendance and engagement in class. Their experience with the simulation provided tangible case studies for them as they begin their careers; proving that its learning potential goes beyond the classroom.