Incorporating business simulations in academic study process
On 14 January, 2016 The Palestine Polytechnic University together with Simformer.com, a business simulation platform, have conducted the first academic competition in Simformer Business Simulation.
150 students from the College of Administrative Sciences and Informatics took part in the competition. It was attended by the students of all specializations: e-marketing, entrepreneurship, accounting, and project management. Dr. Marwan Jal'ud, the dean of the faculty of Management and Information Systems, university instructors, the administration, and other students were present at the event.
The participants were divided into 30 teams. Every team got access to Simformer Business Simulation. 5 instructors, together with Amjad Natsheh, the head of the department of Management Sciences, moderated the game process.
The focus of the competition was a business game «Corporation in Distress». The game is based on Simformer Business Simulation (SBS) environment, which has more than 1 000 000 users world-wide.
The participants of each team had to manage a huge corporation, which was faced with financial difficulties. The corporation consisted of various subdivisions responsible for manufacturing and sales. The subdivisions were connected with each other as well as the external suppliers, contractors, and customers. The goal of the game was to lead the corporation out of crisis and stabilize all its processes.
The action of the game took place in a virtual version of Las Palmas de Gran Canary in Spain. The population is 400 000. According to Thomas Whitmore, the director of Research on Climatology at Syracuse University, in Las Palmas has the best climate in the world. There were an auto salon, a clothing store, a grocery store and fast food restaurant in this picturesque place.
The weakest subdivisions were a clothing store and an auto salon. It order to make them profitable, one had to have skills in various areas, such as financial and market analysis, management and decision-making. The assignment had to be performed under tight time constrains, because students had only 6 hours to play the game. There were 5 game updates in total; the changes in online environment were made based on the actions of the team, therefore students had only 1 hour to make important decisions that would eventually have an impact on their corporation.
The main tasks of the game assignments:
- perform company analysis,
- identify weak subdivisions,
- optimize the operations of weak subdivisions and reach a break-even point,
- increase the productivity of the rest of subdivisions,
- develop and implement a business expansion plan.
While playing the business game, the participants had to perform certain assignments (missions) and follow certain business procedures. The procedures, their consistency, and the timeframe for them were strictly supervised by the game moderators.
The scenario was set up that way that the number of assignments often exceeded students’ capabilities. This allowed the participants to learn how to work in stressful situations: keeping calm when multitasking, working under tight time constrains, making decisions under the pressure of the game moderators.
One of the main focuses of the game was team work: the students made all their decisions together. Due to that, the participants were able to develop their collaboration skills, provide help to others and ask for help, and put the interests of the whole team first. The team work during the game helped identify the communication and leadership skills of each participant.
The main point of the event was the fact that the game was carried out without Simformer professionals being physically present there. All training events were carried out online. The team of moderators, led by Amjad Natsheh, managed not only to deal with the new methodology of student competitions, but also successfully interact with the players.
The head of product development at Simformer, Minvydas Latauskas, provided online support for instructors and carried out an online moderation of the game. Here are his impressions:
«A small resort town was chosen deliberately. The emergence of 30 similar corporations in a small area caused rapid development of the region. The market was very crowded, which was exactly what we were looking for. After all, our colleagues at the Palestine Polytechnic University asked to create such intense conditions for the participants, and we did it. The changing demand for different product groups added to the overall complexity of the game. Therefore, the participants had to devise and combine different strategies for each sector. Not everyone were able to do it, I must say. But those who managed to find an effective combination of strategies came out victorious. Inefficient use of advertising budget was a common problem of all participants. Carrying out such a game is a great opportunity to identify the areas of students’ progress, identify possible knowledge gaps and eliminate them effectively».
After 6 hours of fierce competition, 6 teams made their corporations a bankrupt, and 3 teams became leaders.
The winners were selected in three categories:
- Revenue- winner results: 1.3 million of virtual currency,
- Total Assets- winner results: 15.3 million of virtual currency,
- Income-winner results: 5000 virtual currency units.
But the most important result of the game was that the students were able to have a taste of what they would have to do in a professional life, the opportunity to feel how necessary is the knowledge that their instructors share with them on a daily basis, and to apply the acquired knowledge in practice. The instructors also received valuable experience that would help them improve their courses as well as practical work with their students.
Anas Mohammed Tardei, one of the participants, shared his views:
«This event was the most memorable moment in my academic life. The game was relevant to the reasons why I am studying in this university, which is to be an entrepreneur and establish my own business in the future. Although I use to be lacking in hands-on experience, now I know how I can improve myself in a chosen industry. With the help of Simformer game we were able to revise and apply the knowledge that we had acquired during our lectures. We all had to reinforce our knowledge in production organization, marketing, finance, PR, negotiations. It was difficult, but we learned that we were able to overcome the barriers, to compete and negotiate».
All players received the certificates of participation, and the participants of the winning teams were awarded with diplomas as the winners of the «Corporation in a Distress» business game.
This academic competition was highly praised by the university management team. Simformer and PPU are planning to develop further collaboration. At the moment, both parties are negotiating to incorporate Simformer business games into a regular study process, as well as carrying out academic competitions against other universities.