Teaching with a business simulation – A testimonial by Dr Espinoza-Ramos
An interview with Dr Gustavo Espinoza-Ramos, from University of Westminster.
We love business simulations. Not just because we develop them, but also because of the experiences they generate among participants and educators, while actively teaching business concepts that students can use in their professional life.
This week, Dr Gustavo Espinoza-Ramos shares with us his experience integrating one of our games into his class at University of Westminster and tells us about his takeaways facilitating the business simulation.
Hi Gustavo, can you tell us more about you and the context in which you use our business games?
I am Dr Gustavo Espinoza-Ramos, and I am co-module leader of “Strategic Management”, a final year undergraduate module that is part of the Business and Management Course at the Westminster Business school.
Since 2015, I have been using the MEGA Learning simulation game as part of the assessment methods in this module.
Why do you use business simulations to teach? What are for you the advantages of this game-based teaching tool?
A simulation game mimics a real-world environment where students can put into practice the knowledge and skills developed in class, without any fear of causing actual damage.
Consequently, students can explore failure as part of their learning process, in a safe environment.
Moreover, the business simulation game promotes on the one hand competition across teams in each seminar class, and on the other hand collaboration within teams, as all team members get to apply their area of expertise – such as operations, marketing, or finance, for example.
The weekly team feedback [between decision rounds] provided by the lecturers creates an opportunity for reflection and coaching, to improve not only the team’s performance – from a business perspective –, but also their soft skills, such as decision-making and communication skills.
How easy was it to implement the game into the program? How did you link the game content with that of your course?
The MEGA Learning team was very supportive during the implementation of the simulation game to meet the weekly deadlines: in total 10 decision rounds according to our module calendar.
In the Strategic Management module, students need to develop a strategy by analyzing their external and internal environment and to identify – create or reinforce – their competitive advantage.
The business simulation game recreates this changing environment, where students apply the concepts and skills learned in class. Meanwhile, they also need to assess their team’s and competitors’ performance, so they adapt and improve their decisions when/where required.
Can you tell us more about the format of your class?
In each 2-hour seminar, there are 25 students, therefore a maximum of 5 teams.
The first hour is about the application of some concepts covered in the lecture. During that time, teams must analyze a case study and provide answers.
The second hour of the seminar is centered on the business simulation results, and on providing team feedback.
To align both activities, the teams who provided correct and consistent answers in the case study receive feedback first.
Students are then asked to enter their decision into the online interface by a specific date and time, before the next seminar.
This scenario creates a competitive and collaborative environment within the classroom and contributes to more team engagement.
And how easy is it to facilitate? Did you learn something as an educator while facilitating the game?
After receiving the training from the MEGA Learning team, I felt more confident when providing weekly team feedback.
There are some elements that I noticed when facilitating the game:
1) The business simulation game requires an understanding of financial and operational indicators when taking decisions.
2) Every feedback we give as educators is unique, but I did notice some trends in the mistakes that students make when approaching the financial and operational results.
3) Moreover, management of uncertainty and resilience are key skills that students actively develop when playing the simulation game.
4) Finally, I noticed that some teams are less risk-averse in their decisions than other ones.
To conclude, the business simulation offers an opportunity to reflect on, improve, and develop business acumen skills that students can apply in their future careers.
How much support do you get from MEGA Learning?
The MEGA Learning team has been very supportive by providing guidance to the students and the teaching team in the following forms:
1) Training (face-to-face or videos that explain how to play the game, from the submission of decisions to understanding and interpreting results and forecast),
2) Fast response time over email when facing uncertainty or challenges, and
3) Answers to students’ questions regarding the content of the game, in a discussion board.
The communication is very fluent and not only students, but also the teaching team appreciate the fast response and support provided.
How do students react to such an immersive and challenging experience? Do they perceive an added value?
The simulation game is a journey for our students as, at the beginning, they tend to struggle with the complexity of the game – such as understanding operational and financial data, for example.
But, when students become more familiar with the interface and the game – especially after 2 trial decision round –, students become more competitive, they develop finer and clearer strategies, which then translate into more consistent weekly decisions.
So yes, they like the game, and some students even wanted to keep playing after the semester came to an end.
Would you recommend MEGA Learning business simulations? If so, why?
I strongly recommend the use of MEGA Learning business simulations: they are an innovative assessment method, thanks to which students will be able to apply their newly acquired knowledge and skills in a safe environment.
The authenticity of the simulation game resides on the one hand in the analysis of complex financial and operational data under uncertain conditions; and on the other hand, in the management of team dynamics when taking strategic decisions.
This non-traditional assessment is fun, engaging, and will improve the students’ overall learning experience.