How to set up a new Digital Marketing Degree in the UK: the case of Simbound & the London School of Business and Management
Louis Havriliuc // 24.11.2016
In this article I will describe how London School of Business & Management has come to adopt Simbound in order to provide both its students and lecturers with a modern course resource that enables learning about digital marketing in a risk-free & cost-free virtual environment. The aim of this resource is to provide European course directors with guidance when setting up a new course or degree for the e-Marketing subject or to some extent for other, similar technology focused study disciplines.
I will describe the selection process of a new educational technology, while I touch upon connected subjects such as new study program development and continue with a follow-up article to explain how educational staff training was carried out and how this impacted student learning.
Keywords: Simulation Games, Digital marketing Courses, Degree Validation, Curriculum Development, Plagiarism
There are three questions that I will aim to answer in this article:
1. What is the motivation for a UK University Course Director to seek out and evaluate active learning software such as simulation games? Specifically, why so for the topic of Internet Marketing?
2. What are the implications when selecting a certain educational technology and what are some of the aspects an instructor should consider during the evaluation process?
3. Who, amongst those within the typical Educational establishment should be involved with the adoption process of externally authored learning materials?
In November 2015 Simbound was approached by Prof. Christopher Munro from the London School of Business & Management which has informed us that he and his colleagues are developing a new digital marketing course as part of a new degree aimed at Digital marketing students. This new study programme had to undergo an external validation process which was to be carried out according to regulation set up by the University of Northampton. As part of the validation audit, Prof. Munro has mentioned that he will have to present not only a course curriculum outline but also the methods for student assessment, some of which would be carried out with the help of the Simbound simulation game. In order to prepare for the committee hearing, Prof. Munro was looking to gather more information about how other Universities are using e-Marketing simulations in their grading and assessment, as he had to decide on the best approach for his new module. He came to the right place as more than 100 Universities from around the world have used Simbound to date to teach students about the exciting world of online marketing and business, this exposure giving birth to many usage cases and best practices.
For those reading which are not yet familiar with Simbound, this is the first fully functional online learning and assessment technology aimed at the emerging Digital marketing Course Subject. The platform issues a range of results which are computed based on student decisions to address virtual shopper behaviour through various operations: Website Content Creation (On-page SEO) and Analytics, Search Engine Marketing (paid ad inclusion) and E-mail marketing (basic newsletters). The range of assessment is both qualitative and quantitative with multiple modes of assessment available which are fit for various course type needs.
After the initial contact was made we agreed to meet online for a product presentation which was to be carried out through Skype with Prof. Munro and his departmental colleagues, other tutors which were going to teach with the simulation, in which a full demonstration of the simulation system functionality was to be carried out.
Before I describe how the presentation was carried out let’s stop and analyze the motivation behind Prof. Munro’s decision to consider a simulation game. Prof. Munro is aware that the subject of Digital marketing is a new, interesting and relevant discipline to prospective students from all across Europe and beyond. Further he believes that professionals from the city would appreciate the opportunity to attend evening courses which have a practical and also fun dimension. With online marketing being a fast evolving industry, he was looking for an established online course resource, which is purposely built for this emerging study subject and which can keep pace with global industry advancements. He first found out about the simulation solution and services after reading an online article which points to Simbound and is available through Smart Insights – an online community founded by Dr. Dave Chaffey, where digital marketing and communication professionals gather together to dissect and analyze the many particularities of the digital advertising industry as well as comment on its latest trends (the article can be read at this address: http://www.smartinsights.com/managing-digital-marketing/personal-career-development/e-marketing-simulation/
A tip for globally minded educational technology entrepreneurs:
As evidenced by the above case, academics in the digital marketing field tend to value content and advice coming from industry sources as opposed to educational sources. This is a decision making process which is found to be present in economies where e-Marketing and e-Commerce services have already reached high levels of adoption. Conversely, in places where the digital commerce revolution is just kicking off I have noticed the opposite to be true. Educators turn to other educators before anybody else when creating their new courses or when assessing different learning resources online.
With Simbound being the world’s 1st e-Marketing simulation game, Prof. Munro was reassured in his initial decision that by deploying this service to his classes he will not take part in digital plagiarism and so will not end up having to worry about any possible issues arising from copyright or authorship infringement either by him or other members of his institution.
Now back to the demonstration, which Prof. Munro and his colleagues attended online. After some minor difficulties with setting up Skype, we managed to establish a connection just as everyone arrived in the meeting room. During the full walkthrough of the instructor and student dashboard functionality there were some interesting questions being brought up by the lecturers: “How does the system differentiate between different student authored content assets?” or “What is the method by which teams of students get ranked in the game?”
One of the advantages of being an educational simulation technology consultant for those considering taking up this role in their career is that you will almost always get to interact with intelligent people who will analyze and challenge the status-quo with new thinking so there will be no shortage of pertinent observations or provocative ideas you’ll come across in your day to day job. The questions usually point to the specifications of the educational technology but also touch upon modern student behaviour such as the use of social networks and online games. One of the more interesting questions which was raised during the demonstration was related to whether the simulation is a continuous-event model e.g. does it start issuing results data as soon as the students start making their marketing decisions or a discrete-event model, in which results are produced at pre-determined time periods (deadlines, as set out by the instructor) the latter being the case with Simbound. I believe continuous models have less value when determining learning, as students don’t have the time to reflect on their decisions and how these can be improved.
Even with the burgeoning state of simulation technology in education, some time was still needed for the initial presentation to settle in before a decision was reached on whether to bring forward and present the solution to the members of the externally assembled committee that was to carry out the degree validation process. As the simulation exercise is expected to account for around 80% of the activity for this particular study module all details needed to be perfected so that this promising Internet Marketing course to take flight. Prof. Munro used his position as the course leader to persuade the Business School approval board to allocate the finance needed to acquire student licenses, by carrying out presentations and doing internal PR with various stakeholders (I would like to personally extend a big thank you to Prof. Munro for doing this and helping the simulation methodology evolve).
In the end, all of the Professors and senior business school figures expressed their enthusiasm over Simbound and the possibilities it presents to advancing marketing education within the student population and jumped aboard as pioneers in this active learning initiative. The result was astounding: the new programme received approval by the external validation committee and was to be launched in Sept 2016 with Simbound being the main digital resource used by students.
In the next article we will explore how LSBM tutors received training on using the simulation game and how they made use of their recently acquired knowledge to get students of various backgrounds and readiness levels engaged with the course content and enhance the programme experience with teaching, student assessment and grading activities based on a simulation learning framework.