Simulations offer innovative approach to teaching.

Many classes in business schools now include simulations—a method of teaching that actively engages students in complex situations that mirror real-life challenges. But while simulations prove stimulating, crafting an entire course around just one can be difficult.

Three professors from the College of Business Administration’s Department of Marketing have made the work easier. With fifteen years of experience and data collected on more than 500 students, Tiger Li, associate professor; Barnett Greenberg, professor; and the late J.A.F. Nicholls, have offered new insights into how to build a course—theirs entitled Corporate Simulation—around a single simulation. The course may be the only one of its kind in the country: another example of the college’s leadership in innovative teaching.

“The simulation forces students to make business decisions across a number of disciplines in an environment of uncertainty.”
Barnett Greenberg, professor, Department of Marketing

Barnett Greenberg

“Too often, we have to teach subjects in isolation, such as promotion, pricing, and distribution in the field of marketing,” said Greenberg, who has taught the course for nine years, including five years in the International Executive MBA program in Jamaica. “The simulation, which is called Marketplace, forces students to make business decisions across a number of disciplines in an environment of uncertainty. You can’t replicate this experience except through a simulation.”

It’s about innovation and academic excellence.

“All of our MBA students are experienced, and many are managers who appreciate this unprecedented opportunity to participate in the Marketplace simulation,” said Li, whose research area is product innovation and who realized that the course itself was a worthwhile example of innovation—an insight that led to the idea of a collaborative effort to prepare an article. “The hard part about teaching the course is designing activities around the game, but our article explains how to do that, drawing on our many combined years of experience.”

Tiger Li

In addition to fine-tuning the course—adapting to different platforms as the game migrated from mainframe to MS-DOS to Windows to the web; learning new releases, including a new version with an international orientation whose development the Chapman Graduate School helped underwrite; and logging many hours engaging students online—the professors also had to validate that the simulation entailed sound pedagogy.

To do so, they collected data during a seven-year period and across five of the Chapman School’s graduate programs to compare students’ perceptions of this kind of experiential learning with their perceptions of other instructional methods. The results revealed that students, across a number of measures that included career preparation, perceived the simulation as delivering greater educational value when compared to lecture-centered courses.

Other institutions can learn from the professors’ long involvement with simulations.

According to Li, “Most schools are just starting to experiment with simulations, but our experience puts us in the forefront of innovation in this type of teaching.”

Greenberg agreed.

“We are particularly proud of this article and the attention it brings the college as an innovator in graduate business education,” he said.

The article, titled “Teaching Experiential Learning: Adoption of an Innovative Course in an MBA Marketing Curriculum,” appeared in the April, 2007, issue of Journal of Marketing Education, a leading publication in the marketing field.

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