Teaching Methods Archives

Students looking at MikesBikes Intro

Using the MikesBikes Business Simulation at a Community College

The article below is written by Daniel McCarty, an instructor currently using MikesBikes Introduction within his course at St. Clair Community College. 


Here in the U.S., community colleges offer the first two years of a traditional four-year degree.  They are fairly local in their appeal, and offer significant convenience and cost savings vs. proceeding directly to four year colleges.  The degree we offer is a two-year Associates of Science or Liberal Arts (AAS) degree.  Or students may simply choose to transfer without completing the AAS degree.


U.S. community colleges are OPEN ADMISSION, which means that we accept all students, regardless of GPA, test scores or aptitude.   Our students range from the brilliant candidate for admission to University of Michigan in year three, to the high school drop-out or students with significant learning and behavioral challenges.  Math and writing are often particularly difficult challenges with the latter students.   We offer remedial, non-college credit courses for students not yet performing at the freshman level, but there are still “gaps” in their learning.

The Capstone Course

The open admission policy does not mean we lower our standards at community colleges.  We expect them to be performing at the college sophomore level by the time they leave our campus.  To confirm that, we have a variety of testing protocols.  In business, which I teach, we offer what is called a Capstone course, entitled Critical Thinking in Business.   It is taken in the final term of their two-year degree and has several prerequisites:  marketing, management and accounting.   The capstone course is designed to demonstrate competency in critical thinking, using all the classes they have taken during their two year stay at the college.   The course is built around two main components – the case study and business simulations.  For case studies, we use Harvard School of Business short cases, the exact same cases used for their program.  For the business simulation, I use Smarstims’ MikesBikes Introduction.

Why I use MikesBikes Introduction

I should say that I am not a career-long academic.  I am a former President/CEO of several multi-billion dollar companies, including some Fortune 500 firms at the President level.  I retired after thirty years in the corporate world and chose teaching in my small, struggling hometown so I could pass along some of the things I have learned in the business world.

I believe MikesBikes Introduction is the most realistic business simulation I have ever encountered.  I use it because it reminds me of my business career and the things I did every day on the job.  I consider it an excellent preparation for either a career or further academic studies.

How I use MikesBikes Introduction

I find that I need to make some modifications to the Smartsims methodology to accommodate my students.  While they have all had accounting, management and marketing, their retention is often not what it should be.  I find myself having to revisit the basics of the financial statements.  My focus is not on how they prepared, but rather how to read the reports and see the “story” behind the numbers.

St Clair Community College Students
Dan McCarty’s students
Here are the “tricks” I use to make MikesBikes Introduction friendlier to average community college students:
1. I run the class as an eight-week simulation

There are two reasons I cut it down to eight weeks:

  1. Their learning starts to drop off at that point and we get into repetitive situations.  Community college students’ strategic moves are often focused on more basic business concepts; you won’t find the advanced tactics you might see in a four-year environment.
  2. Because of the differences in abilities among students, the simulation becomes a bit of a “blow out” and it is often a kindness for some teams to end it after eight weeks.  I try to minimize this by mixing excellent students with challenged students, but it happens anyway.

I find that students are taught how to prepare financial statements in accounting classes, the focus is not how to interpret them, with the intention of deciding their next tactical move in the marketplace.  MikesBikes adds this element to their education, but I find I must prepare them for it.  We go over financial statements on sites like Yahoo Finance and we discuss whether the numbers point to a positive or negative outlook for the future.  Often, we do not have the time or detailed financial data to determine the root causes of every number we see, but we can certainly make a list of things we would want to question about the data.

2. I show the class the teacher’s version of the data summaries.

My students are not advanced enough to benefit from the confidentiality of data.  They need to learn from other student’s mistakes.  They need to understand which firms are cash strapped and the moves they might make to recover from their cash position.   They can also understand why their strategies did not work. For example, if they implemented a price decline along with a modest quality decline, they will find that this would not translate to an increase in sales (most especially if a segment is sensitive to quality).  It helps to see that another team took the same price decline, but chose to maintain their quality.  That helps them understand their strategies are only as good as their assumptions about what their competition will do.  I also give general advice in the form of basic business “lessons learned”.  I find that giving up the confidentiality is well worth the learning we get from everybody’s good and bad moves.  They really do not have the sophistication level to take advantage of the data like they might at an Ivy League school.

3. Finally, my lectures are totally built around the data for the week.

I never know what my lecture is going to be until turnover day.  Then I must quickly write a lecture on the topics that are reflected in the results.  For example, the importance of accurate forecasting might be a subject driven by the results.  Another example might be the importance of trying to maintain margins while investing in the business.   Another topic I find that students rarely take full advantage of are the financial moves – buying back stock, paying dividends—because of a lack of comfort in that area.  They also make the common mistake on sitting on way too much cash when there are business investments to be made.  Everybody makes good moves and bad, and I use ALL their moves as a teachable moment for the rest of the class.


My students will never make the MikesBikes Introduction Hall of Fame, but that is not the point.  They learn how to read financial reports, how to use those financial reports to develop a “picture” of what is happening in the marketplace, they learn to make business decisions that are data-driven and they learn how to recover from the inevitable bad decision or unexpected competitive activity they will surely encounter during the game.

It is a wonderful learning experience.  I strongly endorse it for students of all ability levels.  The simulation can be adjusted to the skill set of the class.  And EVERYONE enjoys the competitive nature of the assignment and enjoys bragging rights when they are on top of the heap for the week.


Dan McCarty from St Clair Community College

Dan McCarty has worked his way up from entry level marketing assistant to President and CEO of multi-billion dollar companies and divisions of companies. Dan has managed America’s best known brands including Del Monte, Quilted Northern, Underwood, Crystal, Dixie Cups and Plates, Brawny Paper Towels, Accent, Hain Health Foods and more. Dan is also a MBA graduate from the prestigious Haas School of Business at the University of California in Berkeley. (Source: UDemy)

Effective Teaching Methods for Business Simulators

5 Effective Teaching Strategies for Business Simulation Games

Are you thinking about incorporating business simulation games into your courses or training programs?

Studies have proven that business simulations have the potential to improve student engagement, learning and employability. However, whether you are a new or experienced simulation user, it is extremely important to look for the best strategies to ensure smooth integration of the simulation into a course and maximize teaching and learning benefits.
Continue reading 5 Effective Teaching Strategies for Business Simulation Games

Save Money With Simulations

How Business Course Instructors Can Help Students Avoid Costly Internships With Simulations

As tuition prices in the US continue to rise, and the job market in New York and nationwide becomes more competitive, the challenge is for recent graduates to gain real-world experience without taking on unpaid internships and more debt.

In today’s work climate, graduating students face a catch-22; they need job experience in order to be hired, but they need to be hired in order to get job experience. Many students turn to internships as a way around this conundrum. But internships can be a costly undertaking. Many of them are unpaid, and the ones that are paid are usually low salary positions. To top it all off, there is no guarantee of a job at the end. A 2014 article in Forbes magazine provides some depressing statistics about the state of internships in the United States:

  • Upwards of 1.5 million internships are filled in the United States each year, half of which are unpaid (Ross Perlin, Intern Nation: How to Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy).
  • Only 63 percent of graduating students who held a paid internship received a job offer by graduation (NACE, 2013).
  • A paltry 37 percent of students who took on an unpaid internship received a job offer, only slightly higher than those who had no internship at all (NACE, 2013).

Unpaid internships are of particular concern in the United States. Most graduating students leave university with thousands of dollars of debt, so the prospect of having to take on a full-time unpaid position is not feasible. Moreover, many unpaid internships are in breach of the Fair Labor Standards Act. In light of all these concerns, the U.S. federal government has been cracking down on unpaid internships. Very soon, these types of internships may be a thing of the past.

So if internships aren’t a realistic or fair option for many graduating students, what is an alternative way for students to gain real-world experience? The answer is business simulations.

Business Simulations Deliver Real-World Skills

Skills increasingly trump tenure in the workforce. Therefore, ensuring your students are armed with the latest knowledge and competencies is critical for staying competitive. Today’s students need to understand complex problems, experience working in teams of people with diverse opinions and learn how to come to a decision in the face of many competing options. In the past, many students have taken on internships to develop these skills. However, business simulations can provide this same practice in a low-risk, highly engaging environment, during the education phase itself.

Smartsims has a range of business simulation games that will challenge your students with issues from the real world. These business simulations provide an interactive learning experience that requires participants to apply what they have learned in a robust, virtual business-like environment. Participants build relevant skills, improve conceptual knowledge and gain a better appreciation of business strategy and of the systems of business management.

Business Simulations Deliver Active Learning

Simulations perform the very important role of bridging theory and real-life experience through active learning, considered to be a crucial technique to engage students by Cornell University Center for Teaching Excellence. They provide participants with the opportunity to make relevant decisions in a competitive marketplace so that they can see the immediate effect on business performance. And perhaps most importantly, they can save students time and money by providing the same benefits as an internship without the costs.

Other Benefits of Business Simulations

Simulations create more engaged learners: The high level of interaction makes learning fun, increases retention, solidifies learning and builds skills. Studies have shown that business simulations stimulate enjoyable learning (Fripp, 1997).

Simulations improve knowledge retention: By immediately applying new concepts, participants learn by doing. This approach produces significantly greater learning gains in both declarative and procedural knowledge than classroom learning alone (Sitzmann et al., 2006).

Simulations provide risk-free learning: More than just a business strategy game, a simulation recreates real world experience or tasks so that learners can practice without fear of major repercussions. It bridges practice and theory in a low-risk environment (Gosen & Washbush, 2004).

Simulations prepare learners for the real world: Users are able to practice different techniques so that they are better prepared when they encounter those or similar conditions in the workforce. This type of practical experience reduces the potential ‘shock’ of recent graduates entering their first job in their field of study (Kramer, 1974).

Read more about the benefits of business simulations or watch the video below:


How Business Simulations Help Graduates Get Ahead In New England’s Tech Industry

How Business Simulations Help Graduates Get Ahead In New England’s Tech Industry

The tech start up industry in Boston and New England is making a strong comeback after many years of stunted growth. To gain an edge in this competitive industry, recent business graduates from New England universities need something to make them stand out from the crowd. Engaging lectures, hands-on lab sessions, and relevant case studies are necessary elements of a well-designed business course curriculum. But they cannot provide one very crucial thing: experience. This is where business simulations, created by Boston-based Smartsims, enter to provide the tools to nurture fast-thinking, creative, tech-industry-ready graduates.
Continue reading How Business Simulations Help Graduates Get Ahead In New England’s Tech Industry

Action Learning and Business Simulations

Why Action Learning is Essential for Teaching Today’s Students

Increasing demands on instructors and pressure on tertiary Institutions to provide work-ready graduates, instructors are looking for new ways to engage their students as a means of ensuring success.

What is action learning?

Action learning is not one specific teaching method, but rather a philosophy and an approach which encourages action within a team environment where learning is every participant’s job. All action learning approaches are philosophically rooted in theories of learning from experience, as practiced collaboratively with others through some form of action research.

Education scholars agree upon three principles that form the foundation of any action learning course:

  1. Learning is acquired through action and dedication to the task at hand.
  2. Knowledge creation and utilization are collective activities, wherein, learning becomes everyone’s job.
  3. Users demonstrate a learning-to-learn aptitude, allowing them to question the underlying assumptions of practice.

Why action learning?

In the modern teaching environment, more is needed from teaching faculty in communicating and delivering course content. Socratic and other traditional teaching methods are not engaging students as effectively as they once did. Students now need to be actively involved in their learning, rather than passively participating.

Employing action learning principles within a course enables students to resolve and take action on real problems in real time, and learning while doing so. Participants become engaged within the learning process and learn transferrable skills in the process. Further, by encouraging learning through doing within and among groups, an individual participant realises that their viewpoint is just that – it is no more than a hypothesis. Through this learning outcome, the participant reaches a reflective state. These reflective states are arguably where significant learning is achieved through challenging assumptions and preconceptions about business.

It is thought that action learning also increases an individual’s capacity to collaborate. By being stimulated intellectually by their peers within this environment, they gain access to other people’s worldviews, therefore, enabling them to challenge their own views and behaviours, providing further opportunities for growth. The team-based nature of action learning often encourages new theories or ideas which may not have been reached through traditional teaching methods.

The outcomes from action learning produce greater self-efficacy along with heightened states of autonomy, meaning and responsibility. Authors agree that action learning is the first step for participants in a journey toward greater self-insight, greater capacity to learn from experience, and greater awareness of the political and cultural dimensions of an organization. For organizations, it is often a first step toward linking individual learning with systemic learning and change (Marsick & O’Neil, 1999).

What does action learning look like?

A typical action learning program covers aspects of traditional learning models, where a series of presentations might be given on a specific theory or topic, and then builds on this through applying prior and new knowledge to a live project. This environment then provides intrinsic feedback from the work itself, rather than from an external authority (e.g. graded assignments).

Throughout the course, participants continue to work on the project with assistance from other participants, as well as from qualified facilitators, who help foster an understanding of the work as well as the theories taught. The facilitator in each team is critical to change agency. It is important for them to observe teams during meetings and provide feedback to individual members and/or the team. However, the facilitator in this scenario should not become a supervisor, rather, only to encourage free discussion, reflection, thought and critical analysis.

Assessing action learning

Measurement may require key performance indicators that are not typically used within traditional teaching methods, since individuals and teams create their own workplace reality through ongoing reflection. However, conventional methods for assessment (survey and evaluation/examination) can still be employed based on the learning outcomes of the training or course. Inman and Vernon (1997)  suggest the use of narratives and dialogical approaches to assessments, such as scenarios, to embed learning through consensus-building processes.

What forms can action learning take?

One of the more common forms of action learning within higher education is business simulators. These are employed alongside traditional lectures as a teaching or learning resource where students form a management team to run their own virtual company. To succeed in action learning participants must apply their learned knowledge to a live and responsive project (their simulated company). This environment poses multiple different situations and problems that students must address over the course of the simulation.

As the simulation progresses participants receive both intrinsic and extrinsic feedback from the simulation itself, for example Shareholder Value (in MikesBikes IntroMikesBikes Advanced) and Marketing Contribution (in Music2Go Marketing & AdSim Advertising), and from their group. Business simulations also provide the perfect opportunity to integrate reflective assignments to explore the scenario and identify what students take away from the action learning exercise.

Throughout this process, instructors and professors (which under this philosophy are the learning facilitators), work alongside students to facilitate group discussion. This can be done in class, workshops or group meetings.

Contact us if you would like more information on simulations and action learning, or access to a free demo account for one of our simulations.


Engaging Millennials in Business Simulations with Gamification

Gamification: Engaging Millennials in Business Courses through Business Simulations

The term gamification is a relatively recent addition to the scholarly vernacular. In fact, the first documented use of the term doesn’t appear until 2008 (Detering, Dixon, Khaled, & Nacke, 2011). While there have been a number of definitions put forward, most publications agree on a general definition being the use of game elements and design in a non-game setting (Seaborn & Fels, 2015). The broad use of games among members of the millennial generation creates an opportunity for increasing student engagement and motivation in traditionally non-game environments, such as a business school. Given this, educators are increasingly using gamification techniques to increase student engagement (Seaborn & Fels, 2015). These include the use of advanced business simulations. Gamification applied to these kinds of simulations can increase engagement, motivation, targeted learning outcomes, critical thinking skills and cognitive reasoning.

Gamification includes a variety of methods, the most basic of which is the use of game elements to create a gamified experience. Game elements include:

  1. immediate feedback on performance through the use of badges and icons,
  2. leaderboards,
  3. awards,
  4. interaction with other players.

Research indicates that the use of these game elements can result in an increase in engagement and motivation (Thom, Millen, & DiMicco, 2012). Other implementations of gamification, such as business simulations, appear to have longer lasting positive effects on not only participation but more so on desired learning outcomes, especially within an educational setting.

The purpose of educational business simulations, at their core, is to create an experiential learning environment to improve the learning outcomes and student success. Through a gamification lens, business simulations do that. Each of Smartsims’ Business Simulations easily tick off those requirements:

1. Immediate Feedback on Performance through Icons

Smartsims MikesBikes Icons Gamification

The above is a picture of MikesBikes Introduction interface.

2. Leaderboards

Music2Go Marketing Leaderboard Gamification

The above is a picture of Music2Go’s class specific leaderboard (note we also have a Hall of Fame tracking the performance of teams throughout the world).

3. Awards

Smartsims Business Simulations are strong believers in rewarding excellence. Every year the Smartsims team holds the MikesBikes World Championships to find the ‘best of the best’ and award the winning team. Further, the students who achieve top of their class or enter into the Hall of Fame are given notoriety within our website through an article/interview as well as the Worldwide Leaderboard.

4. Interaction with Other Players

Interaction among students using Mikesbikes

MikesBikes encourage interaction with other plays both directly and indirectly. Often students can form the ‘management team’ of their firm where they interact directly with each other to enter the important decisions of their team. Students will also be competing directly against other teams within their course to achieve the highest Shareholder Value (one of the main KPIs within MikesBikes).

Gamification and Business Simulations

Gamification can be viewed as an instrument within the toolbox of experiential learning, and as such, can be used to enhance desired learning outcomes. These desired learning outcomes include the development of critical thinking skills, increased motivation, and greater cognitive ability (Lovelace, Eggers, & Dyck, 2016). Rousseau (2012) describes the critical thinking process as “involving questioning assumptions, evaluating evidence, and testing the logic of ideas, proposals and courses of actions” (p. 13). An advanced business simulation such as MikesBikes includes rounds of play in which assumptions are drawn, and data is analyzed before decisions are made. The start of each new round gives the student an opportunity to reflect on the outcomes of previous decisions, and use that knowledge to reanalyze data and make new inferences. Ultimately, through the use of simulation students must go through the various stages of critical thinking. Furthermore, they simulate problems that build over time and become more involved as the simulation advances. This increases student knowledge and cognitive reasoning (Collins & Halverson as cited in D.J., Beedle, & Rouse, 2014).

Gamification is a relatively new and continually evolving application and can range in impact. Educational business simulations, such as MikesBikes, can use a variety of gamification techniques to enhance the learning experience, as well as increasing student engagement and motivation. This is particularly important in the modern educational environment and the challenges of engaging the millennial generation. However, the most attractive outcome in the combination of gamification and simulation is the development of critical thinking skills and cognitive reasoning, both of which are very difficult to achieve in a typical learning environment.




Cadotte, E. (2016). Creating Value in Marketing and Business Simulations: An Author’s Viewpoint. Journal of Marketing Education , 38 (2), 119-129.

Cheong, C., Filippou, J., & Cheon, F. (2014). Towards the Gamification of Learning: Investigating Student Perceptions of Game Elements. Journal of Information Systems Education , 25 (3), 223 – 244.

D.J., F., Beedle, J., & Rouse, S. (2014). Gamification: A Study of Business Teacher Educators’ Knowledge of, Attitudes Towards and Experiences with the Gamification of Activities in the Classroom. The Journal of Research in Business Education , 56.1, 1-16.

Detering, S., Dixon, D., Khaled, R., & Nacke, L. (2011). From Game Design Elements to Gamefulness: Defining “Gamification”. Proceedings of the 15th international academic MindTrek conference: Envisioning future media environments (pp. 9-15). Tampere: ACM.

Lawley, E. (2012, July – August). Games as an Alternative Lens for Design. Interactions , 18 – 19.

Lovelace, K., Eggers, F., & Dyck, L. (2016). I Do and I Understand: Assessing the Utility of Web-Based Management Simulations to Develop Critical Thinking Skills. Academy of Management Learning and Education , 15 (1), 100-121.

Paharia, R. (2012, July – August). Gamification Means Amplifying Intrinsic Value. Interactions , 17.

Rousseau, D. (2012). Envisioning Evidence-Based Management. Oxford Handbook of Evidence Based Management , 3-24.

Seaborn, K., & Fels, D. (2015). Gamification in Theory and Action: A Survey. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies , 14-31.

Thom, J., Millen, D., & DiMicco, J. (2012). Removing Gamification from an Enterprise SNS. Proceedings of the acm 2012 conference on computer supported cooperative work. , 1067-1070.

Dan Bielinski Madison Area Technical College

MikesBikes Within 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.


Business Simulations Future Proofing

Future Proofing Your Student’s Skills

How do you future proof your student’s skills and knowledge when nobody can be certain what jobs will be available? To give you an idea; we no longer need the bowling alley pinsetter, human alarm clocks (“Knocker-up“), ice cutterslamplighters, or switchboard operators which technology and economic conditions has so readily replaced today.

A recent study by the World Economic Forum predicts that approximately 5 million jobs will be lost before 2020 as technology replaces the need for human workers. Millions of workers today that don’t account for the possible future where their current job is automated (and prepare accordingly) are likely to find their jobs redundant.

What does the future require of us?

It is not all doom and gloom. Researchers like David Deming (Associate Professor of Education and Economies at Harvard University) argue that soft skills such as sharing and negotiating will be crucial alongside a strong technical understanding of theories and practice that are traditionally taught in current courses. As a part of his research, Deming has mapped the changing needs of employers and in doing so identified the key skills that will be required to thrive in the job market in the future.


Source: David Deming, Harvard University

What do we take away from this? 

Specific roles which relied heavily on one type of skill over another (hard vs soft) are not the way of the future. In recent years, jobs which only required mathematical skills have been automated whereas jobs which rely solely on social skills tend to be poorly paid. To ensure students take solid and future-proof skills from their time at an education institution they need to be taught both hard and soft skills.


Business simulations provide students with the opportunity to engage and expand their skill set. Not just the hard or the soft but encourage students to combine the two. Recent research has shown that business simulations are effective at developing critical thinking and analytical skills as well as improving a students ability to negotiate, communicate and work within a team. Over the past 20 years various researchers have conducted research into the benefits of business simulations.

There are many forms of this; marketing simulations, business simulations, management accounting simulations, and advertising simulations. If you’d like to learn more about future proofing your student’s skills through business simulations then click here.




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.