Tutoring Support for Business Simulations

I see the tutor as an essential part of the learning process and this involves him or her having several roles and the design of my business simulations support the tutor giving him or her time to coach, challenge and manage learning.






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Although this page discusses the role of the tutor in the context of using business simulations, the tasks described are applicable to running courses for business people where the course is learner led but tutor managed.

The information on this page is based on my and others' experiences actually running simulations on company training courses and articulated in several papers [1, 2, 3] and covers two aspects:

The Role of the Tutor

The tutor has three roles - as an :

An administrator - who ensuring the business simulation runs smoothly
A facilitator - who answers questions reactively, completely and quickly
A manager of learning - who proactively identifies learning problems and opportunities then coaches or challenges

I deliberately separate facilitation from learning management as I feel that facilitation can be too passive whereas learning management is active (but not prescriptive instruction).


Although for business simulations, administration is mainly delegated to the computer there is the need for special functionality to ensure that everything runs smoothly and you are not faced with technology problems.

Learn more about usability


The tutor's must answer participants' questions completely and quickly as there is nothing worse than the business simulation user (you or me) to have to search frantically for an answer to learners' questions. I see facilitation as a passively, reactive task as it depends on the learners requesting help and hence is different from Managing Learning. To answer questions quickly and completely means that the business simulation must provide the information to help you answer questions.

Questions about how the White Box (accounting and operational models) are done are answered in the Tutor Support's Reconciliations and questions about the Black Box (economic models)


Here the tutor's role is to ensure that learning is stimulated proactively and the learners are coached and challenged when and as needed. Although business simulations are learner centred and learning authority is delegated to them, I still see the responsibility for delivering effective, efficient and consistent learning as the responsibility of the tutor! And support is needed for this. This means that the business simulation must help you analyse learning, identify problems and provide the information to feedback and direct learning.

As shown in the diagram below, learning management is a process involving analysis, diagnosis and feedback.

Learning management process

Learning Management Process

Throughout the simulation the tutor need to observe participant and analyse decisions and results deciding whether there is a learning problem or opportunity. The Tutor Support System provides vital help with decision and result analysis

If a problem or opportunity has been identified then the tutor decides whether its cause - with affection (engagement), cognition (learning) or both.

Finally, depending on the cause the tutor must coach, challenge or cuddle the participants. Below is my thoughts on feedback to screaming babies (probably works with MBA students).

Managing Affection

Affection Management of babies (and MBA students)

Tutor Support System

In order to support these roles my simulations build in a Tutoring Support System that encompasses:





 Help System



 Decision Screen










 Tutor's Audit  



 Team Commentary  



Help System

This is an online, context sensitive, hypertext help system that explains how to use the software, explains the current task and can defines terminology. The help screens displayed depend on the current task and what the simulator user is doing. (Also, an online participants' manual is an option) The Help Button helps with using the software. The Advise button helps with the current task and (if lit) the Explain Button provides more information about the current decision or menu item. Optionally, for simulations where the simulator is used by participants, you may want to have an online participants' manual.

Decision Screening

Whenever decisions are entered into the simulator they are screened at three levels to see if they:

Sophistic decisions are those that, based on the current business situation and trends, suggest a lack of business acumen and clear thinking. If any of these conditions are violated the simulator produces a Reflection Trigger (as illustrated below)

This ensures that mistakes and misunderstandings are trapped before simulation occurs. If a questionable decision is flagged then a comment will be displayed. If the decision is illegal (cannot be processed) it is rejected and replace by the previous entry. If the decision is unusual or sophistic, a comment is made and either can be used or changed.

The way these are handled depends on whether the simulator is used by the tutor who enters decisions where the tutor decides whether or not to discuss any problem decisions. I suggest that during the early periods this is done but later discussion is optional. Where the simulator is used by the participants who enter their own decisions the decision screen helps ensure that silly decisions are trapped!

Explanations (Reconciliations)

This is a series of reports that show, in detail, how the financial and operational results are calculated. So, they allow the tutor to explain and reconcile results in response to questions asked by the participants.

The diagram to the right shows a list of reconciliation reports from my Management Challenge simulation.

Usually this group of reports is not needed. But when a participant questions how results were calculated it not only saves the tutor a lot of time but increases trust in the tutor and the simulation. Further, these reports are exceptionally useful during simulation design as they help validate the model.

List of reports that reconcile accounting and operational calculations

Comments (Reflection Triggers)

Besides the usual quantitative reports, many of my simulations provide qualitative comments that replicate the feedback from staff, customers, suppliers, etc. and trigger reflection. The comments are deliberately fuzzy ensuring that the teams must discuss and decide the relevance of the comment and decide whether to change their actions. Examples of these comments are as follows:

It is important that the tutor ensures that the participants think about and discuss these comments..

Tutor's Audit

This consists of a series of reports that compare teams and so highlights and records differences between teams and allows the tutor to quickly identify which teams need coaching and which teams need challenging.

The table to the right analyses how good teams were at forecasting demand, scheduling production and capacity use.

Team Commentaries

This records, for each team separately, their progress. It consists of several reports that analyse team performance. These commentaries can be used to help individual team coaches & assessors and provide a record that can be used in the post simulation review or as the basis of a formal report.

A particular feature with Team Commentaries is the way it may display a list of strengths and weaknesses. These are at three levels - minor, middling and major and it is up to the tutor to share these with the participants. During early periods (when participants are finding the simulation more difficult than they envisaged) the tutor should only share strengths. Later and especially if participants need to be challenged , then the tutor can share weaknesses.

I see a Tutor Support System as key to delivering effective, efficient and consistent business learning.


[1] Hall, Jeremy and Benita Cox (1993) Computerised Management Games: the feedback process and servo-mechanism analogy, Simulation & Gaming Yearbook 1993 eds Fred Percival and Danny Saunders, Kogan Page London.

[2] Hall, Jeremy J. S. B. (1994a) Computerised Tutor Support Systems: the tutor's role, needs and tasks, The Simulation & Gaming Yearbook Volume 2 eds. Roger Armstrong, Fred Percival and Danny Saunders Kogan Page London.

[3] Hall, Jeremy J. S. B (1994b) Computerised Tutor Support Systems Developments in Business Simulations and Experiential Exercises Volume 21 eds. Precha Thavikulwat & John D. Overby, College of Business Administration, Oklahoma State University, Oklahoma

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