Simulation and classroom teaching

by | Mar 18, 2008 | Articles

Through Tyro training, its commercial division, Craven College has been testing the use of business simulation software alongside classroom teaching.

Business Simulation and classroom teaching.

They are using SimVenture (winner of the BETT 2008 award for post-16 Education and Training) which allows users to setup and run their own virtual company. They gain the experience of being an entrepreneur and experience the virtual consequences of all decisions they make, in a safe learning environment.

Many entrepreneurs are highly focused on their business idea, the area of work that leads them into business, but may lack the wider business managerial understanding which will make this idea a profitable success. For example, they may not know about or fail to focus on any one of the business areas essential to business success:

  • Marketing and selling
  • Design and Production
  • Financial Management and Administration
  • Premises, equipment and people management
  • Self Management (perhaps the most important skill for the entrepreneur)

Craven College has used the simulation in two ways; as part of their Institute of Leadership and Management “Start your enterprise” programme and their More and Better Craven Businesses project, which has been funded through the European Social Fund. The latter programme provided a range of tailored training solutions, based on client demand to support those setting up in business and SimVenture provides a playground for learners.

SimVenture provides a range of opportunities for learners to engage with and apply their learning. In addition to the business simulation itself, it contains written learning resources and has links to a wide variety of websites useful to those new to business needs. If the business simulation highlights an area of underperformance, the programme  prompts the user to looks at the written content to find out more. For example sales may be down or market research many not have been completed. The recommended written resource content will explain the value of research and the various ways it can be done.

Creating effective blended learning solutions

Whilst the simulation works very well in the stand alone mode, learners may need some initial training on how to “drive” the simulation but afterwards can safely experiment in running an emerging company. Craven College provides tutorial support, suggested scenarios and individual feedback. Communication with users is via telephone, email or face-to-face. The simulation is available in the Information Technology suite at Tyro Training in Skipton.

The team at Craven college found that lecturers became more confident about exploiting the simulation and understanding it which stands them in good  stead for the next phase, the introduction of SimVenture into the Institute of Learning & Management programme.

This course enables learners to develop a business plan and gain an ILM Certificate at Level 3.  It is run over 6 weeks part time with 36 hours of contact time. At present the simulation sits alongside the course as an optional activity. Tutors discuss the content and external links within the course. Rather than give learners specific scenarios or targets,  learners try out ideas in the simulation that they have discussed in class; perhaps the effect of alternative sales channels, perhaps choices they are considering in their own business plans. Learners are able to record their thoughts in reflective logs and then ask for feedback from tutors on their performance in the game

Potential

Learners have responded well to this form of intervention as these quotes show:

SimVenture helped me to revise the different decisions I would need to make to run the business and how to balance the conflicting demands on my time (e.g. marketing and stock control).”

“Using SimVenture forced me to think more seriously about what it would be like to actually set up and run my own business.”

These types of tools provide significant potential for engaging entrepreneurs and small business owners as they are flexible and accessible, allowing learners to learn from mistakes in a safe environment.

The ability to get involved with the simulation via laptop, if required, gives additional flexibility to suit circumstances. Course content can be built round the game with students asked to tackle identical scenarios with radically different strategies. The different outcomes could be discussed. This interaction could be virtual through a discussion forum. Tutors might support by email and telephone, assignments are posted for learners to select. The links and tutorials within the simulation assignments can include research and writing up case studies. The potential is for the college to encourage those interested in running a business to transfer the strategies they have learned in the safe classroom environment, out into the real world. Tutors make continual reference to the real world when teaching with the game, to enable users to see the connections between virtual game playing and real-life business management best practice. Learners try out ideas on the simulation which are close to the real world decisions they need to make.

Practical ideas for implementing simulations within blended learning solutions

Simulations such as Simventure can add value  alongside and as a complement to classroom training. Here are some tips:

  • Tutors need to gain familiarity with the simulation in a non-pressured environment
  • Tutors may find the game reveals developmental areas (for example, business management knowledge and understanding) which they may then take action to build upon
  • Tutors review current classroom courses to identify points at which simulation exercise will turn theory into practice (syllabus mapping)
  • Tutors build scenarios (these are games which have been saved and maybe referred to in the future) to illustrate specific lessons in the management topic areas
  • Learners play these scenarios using different strategies
  • Learners review, discuss and learn from the different outcomes
  • Games should be available in the classroom and in any other location the student wants it to be.
    Learners and tutors interact through on-line discussion boards.
  • Tutors suggest assignments that move learners from a specific example within a simulation scenario to general principles using external on-line or other resources.
  • Learners spend more time out of the college and learn in the workplace
  • Tutors help learners set up scenarios that mimic their current business context and enable them to try out ideas before committing their business.
  • Learners carry out in-community projects which have been rehearsed in the game (e.g. carrying out market research)
  • Tutors need to consider and agree how they will assess student use of the game towards accredited programmes (speak with external verifiers to clarify)
  • Tutors need to discuss and agree which level of student learning the simulation is best to support.

This article was originally created by the Work based e-learning project at e-skills UK and is reproduced with kind permission.

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