Learning and Simulation Purpose

As part of my Churchill Fellowship I investigated some two thousand uses of business simulations and spoke with trainers, training providers and HR Executives in the UK, Europe and the USA asking them why they used business simulations.






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I found that my Churchill Fellowship study showed that use and the client needs varied widely but theser needs fell into five groups:

Diagram listing reasons to use business simulations by companies

Click on diagram to jump to detail or scroll down to learn more

Exploring Business Knowledge Developing Business Skills Motivating and Engaging Assessing Learning & Evaluate Teaching Enhancing Adult Learning

Although these are separate aspects, every adult learning course or activity that I have been involved with focused on one or two elements BUT (as illustrated in the diagram below) usually involve ALL elements.

Showing the learning needs model applied to a business acumen course.

The information on this page is extracted from the book SIMULATION: Virtual Business Experience. A chapter describing why companies use business simulations can be downloaded here

Using Business Simulations to Explore Business Knowledge

Although I feel business simulations are not good at introducing new material they provide an excellent way of exploring knowledge and testing understanding. The knowledge that is to be exercised can be viewed in several ways:

Usually the prime reason for using the simulation is to exercise the new knowledge presented on the course. However, the brevity of most management courses means that there is often a need to use and exercise prior learning and experience.

Ideally, the simulation must map closely with the course knowledge. However, the scope of the simulation scenario and the complexity of the model may mean that a wider range of knowledge and experience is needed. If this is not covered by prior learning then coaching, additional readings or even course modification (as a last resort) may be needed.

When matching knowledge needs we must not just look at individual participants. Since they are working as part of a team, they can share knowledge and experience and learn from each other. (Learn more about the issues associated with participants.)

The areas of knowledge exploration include the following:

Using Business Simulations to Develop Business Skills

The practical nature of simulations provides an opportunity for participants to practice, develop and hone management skills. Those commonly practiced by simulations are:

Using Business Simulations to Motivate and Engage Learners

Most forms of participant centred and experiential learning tend to engender involvement and stimulate hard work. So, they are for used to:

But beyond this they are used to motivate business people to be profit  and money oriented. For example, I remember suggesting to a group of sales directors that they should be responsible for debtors (accounts receivable) and not delegate this to the accountants. I suggested this because I feel that is necessary for sales to manage all the relationships with customers. Initially there was disagreement but after participating in a simple simulation, their views changed.

Using Business Simulations to Assess Learning and Evaluate Teaching

The traditional academic examination is unlikely to be appropriate for practicing managers. However, as managers take charge of their life-long learning needs, they need an activity that tests and challenges their knowledge and skills. Further, the tutor and course designer needs to assess the quality and appropriateness of the course. So the assessment/evaluation dimension is important.

This leads to several assessment options and needs - both for the participants and for the tutor.

  • Self Assessment
  • Informal Assessment of Delegates
  • Formal Assessment of Delegates
Assessing the Learner
  • Changes Needed to the Course
  • Prior Learning (starting point)
  • Future Course Opportunities
  • Remedial Teaching
Evaluating Training

Learners' Viewpoint

The first three (self assessment, informal assessment and formal assessment) are all from the viewpoint of the learners.

As learners take charge of their own managerial development and learning needs they need to be continuously assessing and defining future learning. And, this can be supported by the trainer informally assessing delegates - although this must be done with care as it can interfere with learning.

Simulations are used on Assessment and Development Centres to assess a wide range of competencies.

Trainer's Viewpoint

The last four (course changes, prior learning, future courses and remedial learning) are all from the viewpoint of the trainer, evaluating training and training needs.

Using a simulation at the end of a course to draw it together not only refreshes and challenges the learning but also allows the course director to assess how the various parts of the course have delivered learning (and this is particularly important if different parts of the course are delivered by different trainers.

The knowledge and experience sets vary considerably between course members and this coupled with learner expectations means that the trainer must attempt to position the course to best meet learner needs and draw on their prior learning. Consequentially, many trainers use a short simulation at the start of a course to assess prior learning, delegate needs and start the course with a bang!

A course should only be one in a series of learning initiatives. Thus both the company trainer and the training consultant are concerned with identifying future learning needs and training opportunities.

Finally, as the course proceeds, the trainer must identify the learners who need help. Here, a simulation used as a course theme linking the session can help the trainer identify these needs and provide remedial teaching.

Using Business Simulations to Enhance Adult Learning

The final reason simulations are used is that of enhancing the learning process (cognitive development). Typically simulations are used to:

This is the reason I see business simulations taking participants "from knowledge through simulated experienct to wisdom"

2015 Jeremy J. S. B. Hall

Most recent update:24/07/15
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