Using Simulation to Teach Operations Management to First- and Continuing-Generation Students

Using Simulation to Teach Operations Management to First- and Continuing-Generation Students

Jason M. Riley, William A. Ellegood
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/IJBAN.2018040104
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Leveraging a popular operations management simulation, we examine how team interaction, students' previous software experience, simulations' ease of use, team leadership, and instructors' guidance affects students' comprehension. Respondents completed a 27-item survey designed to assess individual comprehension. To illustrate the various affects, we use structural equation modeling to compare first-generation and continuing-generation undergraduate populations. The results indicate software's ease of use and instructors' guidance affects both groups, while team interaction to comprehension is present for only first-generation students. We also find that the strength of the various relationships depends on the population of students being studied. As simulations continue to grow in popularity, educators need to recognize how these pedagogical tools affect different student populations.
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To improve teaching outcomes, educators continually seek to enhance students' comprehension by developing pedagogical tools that can reach students at multiple levels (Tan, Lewis, Avis, & Withers, 2008). We employ the Littlefield Technologies simulation to determine if team interaction, previous software experience, simulations’ ease of use, team leadership, or instructors’ guidance affects comprehension of inventory and capacity management topics taught within an undergraduate operations management class. By studying these individual-, team-, and simulation-based characteristics with two unique student populations, first-generation and continuing-generation undergraduates, we provide information on how educators can improve students’ comprehension. A first-generation student refers to someone whose parents have not completed a four-year degree (Phillips, Stephens, & Townsend, 2016), while continuing-education students have at least one parent who has received a degree from a 4-year institution. Other researchers call continuing-education students, non-first generations students. We consider them one and the same and use the term continuing-education students.

Educators have used simulations to teach a variety of management subjects including marketing (Shapiro, 2003), sales management (Cook & Swift, 2006), logistics (Battini, Faccio, Persona, & Sgarbossa, 2009), entrepreneurship (Arias-Aranda & Bustinza-Sanchez, 2009), project management (Vanhoucke, Vereecke, & Gemmel, 2005), and lean management (Wan, Chen, & Saygin, 2008).

Throughout this research, we leverage the Littlefield Technologies simulation to teach inventory and capacity management concepts within an undergraduate operations management class. The Littlefield Technologies game simulates a make-to-order electronics factory and teaches students to make decisions about various operation functions as they attempt to maximize the company’s cash position (Snider & Balakrishnan, 2013). Existing research shows that the Littlefield simulation can help instructors teach operations management topics and has been shown to boost understanding (Snider & Balakrishnan, 2013; Riley et al., 2017).

Many consider simulations an experiential learning tool, since they enable students to create new knowledge (Battini et al., 2009). As simulations have been shown an effective and efficient way to teach complex topics (Parush, Hamm, & Shtub, 2002), we assert that by using the Littlefield simulation students may better comprehend operations management concepts being taught within the class. Thus, the simulation supplements class lectures, homework, and tests utilized during the semester.

To frame this research, we use experiential learning theory and argue that by using a simulation, students will gain experience with inventory and capacity management concepts and are able to transform those experiences into new knowledge. Further, we utilized a survey and structural equation modeling to analyze the antecedent concepts within the study since these individual-, team-, and simulation-based constructs are not directly measurable within an operations management class.

We explore the literature and identify concepts that pertain to the research. We then develop our hypothesis and explain the methods used. In the results section, we tease out the affects of the relationships and discuss how the different student populations being studied influence the resulting linkages. Lastly, we discuss limitations and future research opportunities.

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