The Simulator as a University Business School Support Tool: Implementation of Simbrand

The Simulator as a University Business School Support Tool: Implementation of Simbrand

Francisco J. Liébana-Cabanillas (University of Granada, Spain), Myriam Martínez-Fiestas (University of Granada, Spain) and María Isabel Viedma-del-Jesús (University of Granada, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2530-3.ch015
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The purpose of this chapter is to discuss the use of business management simulators in university teaching, specifically the use of marketing simulators, identifying the main advantages and disadvantages for students. The marketing simulator Simbrand was used and evaluated by 104 students in a general marketing class at the University of Granada. Their responses to a survey about the implications that simulator use has on student attention, motivation, the ability to follow course material and the quality of the classes that use this tool are outlined below. The findings provide solid theoretical evidence of the usefulness and advantages of these tools in university teaching for both students and faculty.
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Fallows and Steven (2000), define competence as “the skills necessary for employment and for life as responsible citizens and are important for all students regardless of discipline they are studying.” (p. 8) The acquisition of these general and specific skills helps students improve their personal and social life while training them to become good professionals (Villa & Poblete, 2008).

Competency-Based Learning (or Activity Based Learning-ABL) is a movement that defines these necessary competencies and encourages student autonomy and learning how to learn. ABL is committed to the development of multiple competencies, including key general skills such as problem solving, time management, verbal and written communication skills, interpersonal skills, such as teamwork, entrepreneurial competencies and achievement orientation. ABL also encourages the development of specific professional competencies.

It goes without saying that university education must provide conceptual training through the acquisition of knowledge and content. However, a good university education should also provide ABL and thus, encourage the development of practical and applied skills, personal values and attitudes, applicable to different work and social situations. (Smith & Van Doren, 2004).

The increasing recognition of the benefits of ABL has led to a change in the professor’s role in university education. As students have become the driving force of learning, the teacher's role now focuses on organization, monitoring and student evaluation, which require the use of strategies and teaching methodologies that encourage student self-help. Therefore, new teaching tools, based especially on the use of new Information and Communication Technologies, ICT, are changing the view of the teaching-learning processes (Ferro, Martínez & Otero, 2009), encouraging students' independent learning, collaborative work, and the development of specific personal and social skills that will undoubtedly be crucial in the formation of future professionals (Echazarreta et al., 2009).

In this context, simulation games in university classrooms are powerful teaching tools that encourage the development of these skills. These simulations replicate business situations in competitive environments and different management scenarios. Participants interact with the software and achieve results based on their decisions. Simulation games differ from other active learning techniques as they address certain aspects of management that would otherwise be difficult to imitate in the classroom. These tools allow students to see the consequences of their decisions first hand and react in a virtual environment much as they would in a real world business situation.

Thavikulwat (2009) explains that, “a simulation is a ‘reality’ in an artificial environment, a case study with the participants inside” (p. 242) and Akilli (2007) refers to simulation games as “experiential exercises in ‘learning how to learn‘ that provide something more than plain thinking. It‘s beyond thinking.” (p. 3)

In addition to simulations, there are other applications of the use of ICTs in university classrooms. For example, the use of avatars in the management learning games (Thomas, 2006) or, more specifically in the implementation of “second life,” (Messinger et al., 2009) a 3D interface that allows communication and interaction between virtual people in real time via the Internet.

It is clear that through these types of innovative educational initiatives, students receive practical training, which is in high demand by companies today. Students gain knowledge and experience in overcoming problems in complex and multidimensional environments (Clarke, 2009). Such simulations are useful not only in business, but in other fields as well and similar initiatives have also been carried out in healthcare (Pringle & Nippak, 2010; Rogers, 2011), engineering (Deshpande & Huang, 2011), and physics (Schumann et al., 2001).

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