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Using Simbound in an Online Marketing Optimization Course

Melanie Schreiner BA, MSc  //  25.08.2016

Photo of Author This article should explain briefly how to use the Simbound simulation to enhance student skills in online marketing optimization. It is written by Melanie Schreiner, Assistant Professor of e‐Marketing at the University of Applied Sciences in Upper Austria. 



In my courses I am mainly using Simbound simulation with around 12 to 20 people. The students already know the online marketing basics on strategic planning and implementing campaigns. They have already finished courses on marketing and online marketing basics as well as social media and search engine marketing. Associated they have to pass the Google Adwords© certificate in an additional course.


Course settings

Group settings: the students usually form groups with a maximum of 3 people. I try to keep the groups very small to force all students to participate actively and to maximize the learning effect.


Time settings: the duration of the course is 4 weeks. In this time the students are confronted with an online marketing challenge consisting of 8 to 10 rounds. There needs to be a carefully considered balance between time and rounds. If the time in between the rounds is too long the students will lose contact to the topic. If the time in between is too short they will get stressed and deliver bad performance.

-- It is recommended to allow at least a few days in between game rounds so as to allow students to reflect and discuss their performance --


Preparations are needed to handle the course in such a short time period. Before starting the course I always organize that the students:

  • have valid Simbound student accounts
  • build groups offline and then I match them in Simbound
  • know the Simbound student instructions and I check this by a written test


To work intensively with the students I organize three block class meetings lasting 5 hours. The first lessons start with a short instruction and an explanation on the tasks of the Simbound online marketing challenge. Each of the following lessons starts with a short reflection of their performances and tasks, regarding the online marketing challenge. Depending on the challenge results the students get theoretical inputs about online marketing. These cover basics of strategies as well as analyzing and optimizing tactics. The students also need to reflect the process in which they are involved. They need feedback and guidance during the whole process.


Even so, I just answer questions they ask and will never interfere their process of learning.


Between the class meetings the students have e‐ learning tasks. They need to analyze and optimize their campaigns to be prepared for the rounds of the challenge. During the e‐ learning time most of the rounds are finished. After a round is completed the students can check their rankings and have additional data to analyze and optimize their online campaigns. So they get their feedback in an automated manner.


-- Prof. Schreiner has used the simulation with more than 50 students to date, which together took over 4000 optimization decisions --


Evaluation in the course

The online marketing challenge results have a high impact on the student’s evaluation. However, I carefully plan the composition of the evaluation. It is essential that the students are able to finish the course even if they are in one of the losing teams.



The integration of the Simbound simulation in an online marketing course is very useful for students who already know some basic Digital Marketing concepts. Hence the students are able to work in the optimization phase of the marketing management process. When previously using case studies in class the students were not able to optimize their online marketing activities because they did not generate enough traffic.


-- Students generated over 5.5 M impressions in the simulation with close to 200k virtual EUR having been spent --


Through implementing the online marketing game the students get more motivated and learn some essential online marketing aspects in a different way. I have recognized that the students invest more time in building up knowledge to perform best in the challenge. They often increase their search for more information on search engine optimization or search engine advertising on a voluntarily basis.


Even the members of the losing teams usually learn a lot due to reflecting their activities and decisions in the challenge. All in all, the simulation extends the course in a very supportive way.

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