Sue Balint

  • Improving student learning in large, diverse student cohorts: the impact of business simulation games

    Sue Balint and Alan David, University of Westminster

    Research paper

    Themes: problem-based learning and enquiry-based learning, assessment as learning, the student experience and learning

    Tuesday 2 September 2008, 16.10-17.10 in Bayley

    This paper focuses on student learning and addresses the question “can the use of business simulation games improve student learning when used with for large (300+), diverse student cohorts?”

    One of the challenges facing lecturers in higher education is the design and selection of pedagogies that are consistent with the learning objectives of the courses we are delivering and also demonstrate a “fit” with the characteristics of the students (learners) in terms of time duration of the learning cycle, degree of diversity within the student body, and nature of relevant prior learning.

    Business simulation games have been used on MBA and postgraduate business programmes for many years. Advocates of business simulation games claim that they enhance students’ learning and performance by allowing the students to:

    • practice analysing “real-life” scenarios and developing competitive strategies (Lainema & Nurmi, 2006, Wideman et al., 2007)
    • receive timely feedback on their strategies and reflect on their effectiveness (Scherpereel, 2005)

    The advent of internet-enabled simulation games means that it is now feasible to use simulations games on undergraduate business programmes with significantly larger and more diverse student cohorts. However guidance and advice regarding their use in this context is lacking from the pedagogical literature. Indeed most the research studies cited to substantiate these benefits of using simulations are based on studies of conducted on of small (typically under 30 participants) homogeneous (MBA students) cohorts (Dempsey et al, 2002; Wideman et al, 2007.) No published studies have considered their use with large, diverse cohorts.

    The purpose of this paper is to provide insights into their use with large diverse cohorts by presenting the findings of an empirical study into the impact on student learning of using a business simulation game with large culturally diverse student cohorts. The study collected data from 695 undergraduate students who participated in a business strategy simulation exercise Glo-Bus as part of their final year strategic management module. Their individual performance levels are analysed in terms of gender, race, cultural background and learning impairment in order to assess the impact of business simulation games on student learning. These findings are then compared with historical data on student performance prior to the introduction of the simulation game. Using the findings of attitudinal questionnaires completed by the students both pre and post the undertaking the simulation exercise, reasons and insights which help to explain the results are then discussed.

    The paper makes three main contributions to our understanding of the pedagogical issues related to the use of business simulation games. First, it provides empirical evidence regarding the efficacy of stimulation games especially when used with large cohorts. Currently, this is a lack of empirical evidence on which to inform our pedagogy. Secondly, it analyses the impact on learning in terms of student diversity. Previously, no attention has been given to this topic. Finally, the paper highlights an area that needs further investigation. It is hoped that this paper will stimulate debate within the research community.


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