Teachers’ Insights: Business simulations for learning

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We recently sat down with business simulation professors Felipe Nascimento, Flavio Schneider and Jeremy Lovelace to ask a series of interview questions recently published by Harvard Business Publications about the uses and benefits of simulations in teaching.

We’ve summarized the Q&A below – Keep reading for their firsthand insights and opinions about how using simulations can change the classroom learning environment.

“What can simulations do for students that traditionally formatted classes do not?”

Felipe: “The live simulation of business concepts, normally conveyed only in theoretical terms in traditional learning formats, leads to a much deeper understanding. This is because when students assume responsibility for and experience the consequences of their decisions (whether successes or failures) it leads to a more intense learning experience. “

Flavio: “Simulations have the benefit of bringing students closer to the realities of management. Games can realistically simulate the dynamics of a company and its competitive ecosystem, which in turn creates a pressure on the students to obtain results. This can’t be done in the traditional teaching approach.”

Jeremy: “I remember my first business simulation, taken as the capstone course on my MBA program. It brought to life all of the content I had studied over the previous modules in the program, despite feeling academically jaded after an intense 3 years.”

“How do students react to the use of simulations?”

Felipe: “Students tend to easily engage with simulation games in a relaxed and fun manner, despite the competition that game introduces.”

Flavio: “Students are keen to incorporate elements that are unique to the gaming environment, such as management, leadership, decision-making, and conflict management.”

Jeremy: “The element of competition tends to bring out a high degree of focus in students that may otherwise just be going through the motions.”

“What is the most surprising thing that happens when you apply a simulation in your classroom?”

Felipe: “It’s the smile that appears on students’ faces when a concept they’ve been taught in theory comes to life within the game. Serving as a bridge between theory and practice, simulation games can foster a new level of understanding, even for basic concepts of business management.”

Flavio: “The renewed enthusiasm and energy the game can foster among his students, even when applied as an MBA capstone.”

Jeremy: “The intensity of the team dynamics.

Students need to adapt to working together as a team (and for multi-site, remotely taught games, perhaps across different time zones and probably from very different cultural and professional backgrounds), to make complex decisions under strict deadlines. Its as close to the board room as it is possible to get without actually being there.”

“What would you say to someone who has never used simulation games as a teaching tool to convince them to try it?”

Flavio: “Its an inspiring classroom experience, where participants will really be able to put concepts and their professional experiences into practice, and thereby test knowledge in a real-world simulated context”

Felipe: “Business simulation games provide a chance for students to test the concepts they’ve learned in a real-feel environment without real risks.

It’s as if the student is studying to be an airplane pilot. He has the chance to fly the plane in a flight simulator without risking his life. After a number of hours in the flight simulator, he is then prepared to take the next step and fly the real thing. It is no different with business simulators: the student has the chance to exercise and learn in practice without running any real risk.”

Jeremy: “Using a simulation game as a teaching tool is great for teachers in both academia and in corporate training environments. Today, there is a growing understanding that the ‘gamification’ of any activity drives user engagement, and business teaching is no different. Simply put, simulation games are THE most effective way to teach.

Also, provided that the simulation game is well designed, you can drill very technical subjects in a manner that keeps the students interested while deepening their learning experience in a way that say for example, static essay writing or case studies can not.”

To read the original article and get more insights from professors using business simulations in their classes, click here.

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