Teaching Methods Archives

What are the benefits of using a simulator in a business course?

The Benefits Of Business Simulations

“Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think”

– Albert Einstein

Instructors have felt the pull away from traditional teaching methods such as pure theory and case studies thanks to technological advancements in ICT and education. The student of today has been raised in an environment of connectivity with access to PCs, laptops, smartphones, and phablets. It is a part of their social context (Canaleta, Vernet, Vicet & Montero, 2009). Technology has permeated into everything we do, shaping our minds and affecting the way we teach (Carr, 2010). Today’s student may be inseparable from technology in itself (Canaleta et al., 2009; Woollaston, 2013); it is then fair to say their learning environment naturally requires ICT for any form of meaningful engagement. Not only in education but in daily life, the consumer and the student seek to gain a more active role within their environment (Prahalad & Ramaswamy, 2004). Teaching methods therefore are moving away from the student as a passive learner, limited to taking notes and listening. Emerging from this is a new focus on learning surrounding the students actively constructing their own knowledge (Canaleta, Vernet, Vicent & Montero, 2009) and the instructor fulfilling the role of facilitator.As facilitators, the instructors’ role changes from simply distributing facts and theories to allowing the construction of a student experience. This is consistent with increasingly popular experiential learning theories purported by scholars such as Kolb (1984). With this in mind, it is easy for us then to state that online applications like business simulations rightfully occupy a pivotal place in learning environments.

Benefits of Business Simulations

Business simulations allow students and instructors to interact meaningfully. Further, by making various decisions for their simulated firm, students are tasked with transferring learned knowledge from class into a relevant and new scenario which is a requirement for engaging and memorable learning (Dirkx, 2001).

Stumpf and Dutton (1990) recognised that simulations resonate on both cognitive and emotional levels. Students gain the ability to apply learnt theory in action, validating that what they studied is relevant and applicable in the real world. At the same time, they develop communication and analytic skills which will be relevant to their future careers. On the other side of the spectrum, facilitators often feel that they made a positive difference to students’ learning, which is both relevant and required in today’s business world.

Anderson’s (2009) framework outlines three major outcomes from business simulation and cognitive learning:

Learning – Students gain first-hand experience of how business management decisions are interrelated. (e.g. how marketing decisions can affect manufacturing or finance decisions). Executing these concepts themselves, students learn skills such as:

  • Performing under pressure;
  • Analyzing environments to develop and implement a business plan;
  • Collaborating with teammates and managing conflict; and
  • Reflecting upon their performance and identifying areas of improvement to fare better.

The desired learning outcomes of a course are a major factor in the decision of whether or not to incorporate it as part of the course. Over several decades, scholars such as Bloom (1959) and; Gentry and Burns (1981) have provided descriptions of learning and the assessment process:

Cognitive Domain: Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Objectives

Learning Objective Description of Learning Assessment Process
Basic Knowledge Student recalls or recognises information Answering direct questions/tests
Comprehension Student changes information into a different symbolic form Ability to act on or process information by restating his or her own terms
Application Student discovers relationships, generalizations, and skills Application of knowledge to simulated problems
Analysis Student solves problems in light of conscious knowledge of relationships between components and the principle that organizes the system Identification of critical assumptions, alternatives and constraints in a problem situation
Synthesis Student goes beyond what is known, providing new insights Solution of a problem that requires original, creative thinking
Evaluation Student develops the ability to create standards of judgement, weigh and analyze Logical consistency and attention to detail

Source: Bloom, Englehart, Furst, Hill & Krathwohl, as cited in Anderson & Lawton, 2009.

It is our cognitive comprehension that allows us to adapt to what we have learnt in one situation to other situations”

– Anderson (2009, p. 199)

Attitudinal – Students engaging in the simulated learning experience gaining an appreciation for business and its nuances. The experience leads to applying learnt concepts to make effective decisions, leading to higher academic/executive performance. How does the engagement start? In his 2015 article, Gove identified that the reason simulations are able to hold learner attention is because they are immersive! Students have to navigate a complex environment and make decisions for interrelated functional areas. This complexity creates a need for students to actively engage with their simulated exercise on multiple levels such as product level, firm level and market level.

Behavioural – Tying in with student attitudes are their behaviours. As immersive as the backdrop of simulations are, they are competitive and instil in students, motivation to succeed and outperform their peers. Add to the fact that they are in a safe, risk-free environment, and you have the makings of a structure where students are willing to spend their time and energy to make well-informed and competitive decisions.

To summarize, as technology became prevalent, so did our ability to co-opt it as a method of teaching and learning. Online applications like business simulations have benefits like allowing teachers to become advisors and moderators in their own classrooms.  Meanwhile, student minds are trained how to think, adapt attitudes and behave competitively to succeed in business decision making.

Contact us if you would like more information on simulations or access to a free demo account.

– Danny Master

Experiential Learning & Music2Go Marketing

Experiential Learning is a highly effective educational tool, and a key feature that sets our Simulations apart from other teaching methods.

Experiential Learning focuses on the learning process for the individual, through observation and interaction with the subject they are learning about rather than the traditional process of learning from a textbook.

Katie Matthew recently spoke at the Annual Conference of the Society for Marketing Advances in Memphis, Tennessee about her integration of ourMusic2Go Marketing Simulation in her Introductory Marketing Course, and how this has added value by bringing Experiential Learning to her classroom. Katie is a Major in the U.S. Army and Instructor at The United States Military Academy at West Point.

Some of the key benefits of Music2Go that she mentioned included the following:

  • Encouraged more student engagement/involvement;
  • Produced better learning outcomes;
  • Students indicated they preferred this style of learning;
  •  Better prepared students to make real-world decisions.

Katie fully embraced the Experiential Learning process by having Music2Go as the “Major Event” for her course. She notes that the “time tested and proven” nature of the Music2Go software, which included teaching resources and 24 hour support played a big part in adopting the Simulation. Another feature she mentions that is typical with Experiential Learning is the immediate feedback students receive on their decisions, which enables them to see what works and what doesn’t. Whether or not decisions are optimal, the results give students a clear and immediate insight into the linkages between functional decision areas – something not possible with traditional learning methods.

“It helped us apply what we learned in class; to see the how wrong or how right we were in making decisions. This experience can’t be replaced except by real life.”

From an educator’s point of view, Katie enjoys the flexibility that Music2Go gives her, with adjustable timelines that can change with course needs, and the ability to easily monitor student performance. She has adopted a “Consultant” role to students, giving teams the option of approaching her for guidance on certain decision areas, and is able to deduct a virtual “fee” from their Marketing Budget within the simulation. This further enhances the real-world feel that the Simulation brings to the classroom, while encouraging participation.

“I enjoyed it so much more because of the competitive aspect it offered. I also learned more because it is a nice change of pace to move away from the books and to see what we would be doing if we actually were in marketing as a profession.”

To be truly effective, Experiential Learning needs to incorporate the entire learning wheel – from goal setting, to experimenting and observing, to reviewing, and finally action planning. The complete process allows students to learn new skills, new attitudes and entirely new ways of thinking.

To see how you can bring Experiential Learning to your classroom via our Music2Go Marketing Simulation, or any of our other simulations, feel free to contact the Smartsims Sales Team at sales@smartsims.com


Credit to Katie Matthew, Bill Madway, and the Society for Marketing Advances – see below links for full SMA publications.

SMA Teacher-Friendly Experiential Learning Projects

Experiential Learning Projects Reference Guide for Marketing Educators

Presentation on Active Learning at the 2011 Marketing Management Association’s Fall Educators’ Conference

Teacher-Friendly Options for Incorporating Experiential Learning Projects in Marketing Courses

Strategic Approaches to Active Learning

Smartsims Feature at the Annual SMA Conference

The Society for Marketing Advances (SMA) held their annual conference during the first week of November 2011, bringing together marketing educators from throughout the United States and abroad.

Lecturer William M. Madway of The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania co-chaired the Marketing Education track, putting together a discussion panel called “Teacher Friendly Options for Incorporating Experiential Learning Projects in Marketing Courses”. Bill brings over 20 years of experience in the marketing profession to the classroom. He has used various experiential learning projects in his marketing classes, including our Music2Go Marketing Simulation and the National Student Advertising Competition.

He was joined by Professor Katie Matthew, a Major in the U.S. Army and Instructor at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Katie teaches courses in marketing and military leadership for the Department of Behavioral Sciences & Leadership and also uses our Music2Go Marketing Simulation.

Other educators who shared their experience on the panel include Leslie Kendrick from John Hopkins University & Whiting School of Engineering’s Center for Leadership Education; Marilyn Lavin from University of Wisconsin – Whitewater; and Sandy Utt from University of Memphis.

The session was designed to familiarize marketing educators with effective experiential learning projects that are relatively easy to implement. The session recognized that while educators identified the advantages of experiential learning, and even students tend to prefer active, real-world teching techniques, challenges exist that hinder greater use of these methods.

Below is an excerpt from the Conference Guide regarding this issue:

One major impediment is the amount of time involved in designing and carrying out experiential learning activities, especially real-world class projects. Instructors often must find a company willing to serve as a “client,” and must then manage this relationship. These projects also require instructors to provide a great deal of support for students outside the classroom. What’s more, it can be difficult to assess individual student learning and performance, as many of these projects are carried out by teams. Online simulations eliminate the need to find clients, but still require considerable advising time, not to mention the time needed to address the inevitable technical problems.”

Fortunately, a number of experiential learning options that overcome these challenges are now available for use in a wide variety of marketing courses, ranging from Introduction to Marketing to capstone courses such as Marketing Strategy and Advertising Campaigns. Many of these options involve “live” cases, developed in cooperation with major multinational companies, in which students conduct primary research, develop recommendations, and present their findings to the client company. Multiple universities can simultaneously utilize the cases, which usually include a competitive aspect, i.e., teams at participating schools compete against one another for recognition, and in some cases, prizes. Some of these projects allow students to actually implement their recommendations, with funding provided by the sponsoring company”.

The SMA session focused on four experential learning projects which panelists identified as being among the best available and providing a benchmark against which other options could and should be measured:

The Music2Go Marketing Simulation. A highly realistic,  comprehensive online marketing simulation developed by Smartsims. Students take over the MP3 player division of a large consumer electronics company, and formulate segmentation, positioning, sales, distribution, pricing, new product development, and promotion strategies, as they attempt to build their firm into the leading player in the market. Student teams compete against other teams within their course.

The Marketing Internship Program (MI), one of two types of industry-education collaborative programs created by EdVenture Partners. In the MI program, students taking a for-credit, marketing or advertising class research the target audience; create a marketing campaign, which they pitch to their client for approval; and implement their plan using funds provided by their client. Students also analyze their results and present their findings to their client. Organizations participating in the MI program in recent years include Chevrolet,
Nissan, Sapphire Mobile Systems the FBI, and the U.S. Navy.

The Google Online Marketing Challenge. Student teams receive $200 of Google advertising, and work with local companies or NGOs to create online marketing campaigns. The challenge is open to colleges around the world. Regional winners and their professor receive a trip to a regional Google office; the global winners and their professor receive a trip to Google’s world headquarters.

 The American Advertising Federation’s National Student Advertising Competition. Student teams develop an integrated communications campaign to address a real-world marketing problem facing the sponsoring company or non-profit, and “pitch” it to a panel of judges in regional competitions. The top team in each region advances to the national finals. Recent NSAC sponsors include AOL, Coca-Cola, Florida Tourism, J.C. Penney, and State Farm Insurance.

The panel also discussed the integration of the above projects into syllabi, the instructors’ roles, the provision of resources and assistance in overcoming likely challenges. Performance evaluation, participant reflection and the impact of competitive elements in the projects were also discussed.

Below are some publications courtesy of William M. Madway:

Presentation at 2011 Society for Marketing Advances Conference on Teacher-Friendly Experiential Learning Projects

Teacher-Friendly Experiential Learning Projects Reference Guide for Marketing Educators

Presentation on Active Learning at the 2011 Marketing Management Association’s Fall Educators’ Conference

Smartsims are proud to be recognised at the SMA, which discussed the Segmentation Options of the simulation in great detail covering Market Demographics, Products, Pricing, Distribution and Promotion. Panelists discussed how one of the simulation’s greatest value adding feature was recognizing and catering to Consumer Preferences across various unique and emerging market segments. We hope to continue contributing positively to the Marketing Educational System throughout the world.

– Danny Master

Logo/crest for wharton university

Wharton Joins Smartsims

We are pleased to welcome The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and Professor William Madway into the Smartsims family.

Professor Madway teaches the Introduction to Marketing Course (MKTG 101) at Wharton. Professor Madway first experienced our Simulations at Villanova University in 2009, while teaching Business Dynamics using our MikesBikes Intro Business Simulation.

After the success at Villanova, Professor Madway introduced our Music2Go Marketing Simulation to Wharton. As the MKTG 101 course is condensed over Summer, Music2Go was used over a five day period with decisions being processed daily. Team ‘The Sonic Hedgehogs’ emerged victorious with a Cumulative Net Marketing Contribution of $170,546,758.

“I appreciate how proactive and supportive you and everyone else at Smartsims are. As a teacher, it’s good to know your organization has my back! It’s like you all are part of the teaching staff!” – William Madway

The Wharton School is consistently ranked as one of the top business schools in the world.