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What do business students think about simulations ?

Louis Havriliuc  //  10.01.2013

The Simbound simulation game offers e-Marketing  learning and assessment using dynamic web content. The system presents learners with strategic and tactical choices that are based on real world data.  For a demo introduction click the button below 


Our last course of 2012 saw over 80 Postgraduate students from Prague , Czech Republic take on their classmates in the challenge of advertising their virtual companies on Baigoo  (Baigoo is the name of our simulation search engine).  Continuing we will discuss  feedback as collected from the students. A few common themes have emerged to which we add our own comments.  Given the extent of feedback received it's safe to assume that the insight below can be applied to most programs involving simulation-led instruction.

Standard Conditions vs Simulation Environments

Simbot vs Botsim

  " In comparison with reality there is fewer usable keywords, clicks and prices are not determined by market and real users and we can see prognoses of impressions in future rounds and allocate our budget precisely. In reality there is not such an thing and those factors are determined by market "   

There is a well known dichotomy regarding simulations.Some people say realism is an absolute requirement for a quality simulation while others don’t put too much emphasis on this. A simulation can be defined as a new worldview as proposed by its creator. Developing models that replicate real market behavior is impossible and as our simulation projects online information search behavior we admit it falls short on certain areas.  However as simulation designers we must direct our finite creative resources on the aspects which we see as being the most important for the end purpose. That is what learners must expect from a simulation game and that's what model builders have to focus on.   

"The Simbound simulation game was for our Green team a unique insight into online advertising medium. It enabled us to try some marketing activities without a risk of a huge loss or even damage. We found out, that the real online marketing campaign is more difficult than it seems. By using this complex model with real-world search data we could practice and (better?) understand SEM principles." 

It's most likely that the above student experienced running a Paid Search campaign for the first time. His whole worldview of SEM is now lying with Simbound -which is an interesting aspect for many reasons including  that what is unanimously regarded as the 'real-world' can be influenced by a simulation. The person writing the comment signals that he is still hungry for learning more about SEM which represents an opportunity for more dynamic content experiences.  

"This game has big disadvantage. It could not appreciate good advertisement. It is a game of numbers and coincidence. There many other aspects that have an influence over consumers " 

This comment can refer to the actual practice of PPC advertising rather than the shortcomings of a simulation.  Yes - there are many other types of factors influencing the purchasing decision, however PPC comes in at the crucial stage of comparing alternatives soon after the consumer acknowledges the need/want for a specific product/service.  In a world of many different purchasing options getting a prospect's attention early is crucial for marketers.  PPC can help with that to an extent.    

Simulation in education

Man in front of blackboard

 "As strengths of simulation we can count the immediate calculation of results after each round. It gives players a possibility to react on current situation. In comparison with calculation of results in environment on the” real market” it’s highly effective for educational purposes"    

This student gives some interesting feedback on using discrete event simulation for educational purposes. As the game progresses in rounds this gives incentives to link results to actions in a loop learning situation - the basis of effective learning through practice.    

"The game is very helpful in understanding the IT marketing and how the campaigns work. This is especially helpful for those who want to work in this sphere but do not really have experience"

People can lack the skills, confidence or guidance to learn about a subject which could ultimately change their lives. A dynamic learning experience can help an individual develop interests in new, emerging vocational fields, in this case internet marketing. 

"This game allowed us to examine different approaches and see and be able to analyze which of the used approaches are the most appropriate. The Simbound game is very good tool for learning about the advertising a product and the specifics of this area"

When someone is engaged in a simulation game their mind races to a new spectrum of possibilities as the content takes them through different, often unique situations.  Learning involves asking questions and broadening one's range of interests.  So for learning simulations are even more useful than real conditions because they reduce the time needed to experience not only regular day-to-day activities but also extraordinary events - events which have a low probability of showing up in standard conditions. Of course technology is a major enabler  of such experiences and as technology platforms continue to advance we will start seeing even more effective learning take place with the help of simulated environments.   

Search Engine Marketing in a Simulation Game

  "We realized the importance of using the relevant keywords to achieve the goals and that the same keywords used to promote the same product but in the different markets can generate completely different results. "   man holding key

The statement speaks for itself so all we're left to do is congratulate this student on his achievement. Of course there is even more, high-level knowledge transmitted through Simbound such as optimization of campaigns, evaluating a multi-channel approach and tying that to the financial outcome of the entire marketing process. 

 "If we can do it again we would like to change our approach. We would try to spread up our campaigns and try to change maximum prices on bid. Also The A/B test should had been used earlier. Also we should compare US and UK market to find right place and words for our campaign to do it as successful as possible"  

This comment refers to specific techniques used in Search Engine Marketing. As the course took place over one week it's remarkable that individuals who most likely have not had any hands-on experience with SEM are starting to behave and use terms specific to experienced professionals.  

"We found the process to be very worthwhile with Simbound proving to be an interesting educational tool which both held our interest and created friendly competition between our peers"  

Many will agree with the fact that PPC Marketing is not the most easiest e-Marketing practice with other dimensions being more popular - such as Social Media, E-mail Newsletters etc.  If we managed to compress an arguably dense concept into a fun and engaging experience I think that's a win for everybody concerned. 

Overall positive feedback both on the methodology and our product. Looking forward to hear about your own experiences with simulation games. 

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