Sandy Barker | University of South Australia | Sandra.Barker@unisa.edu.au
- Simulator: CAPSIM Capstone
- Students: Undergraduate (third year), internal students
- Class Size: 36 max
- Assessment: Continuous Assessment (10%), Group Assignment (40%), Reflective Report (20%), Supervised Assessment (30%)
- Pedagogy: Intensive delivery of simulation in workshop format. No formal lectures.
This course is part of the Bachelor of Business degree program at the University of South Australia. It is an elective course specifically for business students who are preparing to complete their degree and commence working in their new career. This course is based around the use of the CAPSIM Capstone Business Simulation which offers a tremendous opportunity to students to experiment with strategic decision making which impacts on a real company environment. Sandy explains the simulation as follows:
The simulation itself basically looks at running a manufacturing company, all aspects of. So students have to research and develop the product, which is a set product. They have to manufacture it. They have to forecast sales. They have to set the price and make sure they have enough staff so there's an HR component. They have to do financing to finance all of their day to day costs as well as any capital expenditure. The simulation can run for up to eight years.
The simulation can be customised for different cohorts by adding various optional modules. For example, if the simulation is used with masters students the advanced HR and ethics modules might be switched on. Students learn first hand how to work effectively in a decision making team, the impact of decisions made, and how to integrate the knowledge they have gained from their discipline based studies in business and management. This course is also a lot of fun and students enjoy the learning experience.
This course exposes students to practical decision making. Students work in teams to run all areas of a company using a business simulation. Students make decisions in all areas of company operations. They also experience the ramifications of decisions made in business and their effect on all areas of the organisation. The key objectives aim to produce students who can:
- analyse the competitive business environment,
- apply complex business decision-making skills,
- identify key factors in business success, and
- work autonomously and collaboratively.
This course is usually offered in intensive mode but a new format will be trialed in a 12 week semester mode, with a 1 x three hour seminar per week.
- Seminars (6 x 6 hour sessions): The seminars are split into 2x3 hour blocks. The first seminars enable students to understand the impact of this simulation and the mechanics behind it. Students attending this class come from the various discipline areas of all business degrees, therefore students have to understand the different viewpoints of the other discipline areas. In the early sessions students form cross disciplinary teams, develop team contracts, work on the strategic plan and learn to work collaboratively.
- Computer Practical (1 x 3 hour session): This practical is held to conduct supervised assessment where students run the simulation on an individual basis on a reduced capacity.
The planned full semester version will run with one three hour block a week over 12 weeks.
The pedagogy is interactive, with educators facilitating learning. Sandy says: ‘We spend a lot of time laughing...the students have to get over the fact that we're talking about cumulative profits in the hundreds of millions of dollars and getting their head around those types of numbers is quite a lot of fun’.
The assessment tasks include four main tasks. The first is cumulative assessment which is all about understanding the nuances of the simulation. This is actually 3-4 small tasks that includes a situation analysis, competitor analysis and their performance scores at the end of the simulation. The situation analysis ensures that each student understands the mechanics and metrics displayed by the simulation. The competitor analysis requires each individual to select a competing company from the class. This way they can report back their analysis to the rest of their team and this feeds into the decision making process. The performance analysis requires each team to specify the weightings of different performance measures that they will be graded on early in the simulation. The second assessment is the major focus of the course which is the simulation. Students are assessed in two sub-tasks. The first is their actual performance in the eight “competition” years of the simulation. Their performance is assessed through their balanced scorecard results and also relative key performance indicators chosen by the team after year 4 of the simulation. The third piece is a 1,000 word reflective report that requires each student to reflect on the process undertaken across the course. The final piece of work is a supervised assessment consisting of a practical session where students run the simulation on an individual basis on a reduced capacity.
Currently this course is run for a maximum of 36 students (six teams with six participants in each), though it can be run with multiple classes with a maximum of 36 students in each. Lecturers need training in use of the software and need a broad knowledge of business practices, especially in the manufacturing industries. Each student buys an individual license to access the simulation (currently USD54) which is less than many textbooks in the business area. The school pays the cost for the supervised assessment (exam), which is about $15 per student.
The software provider has a user guide and videos which are provided to students. Learning is also supported by online readings from the library.
The key goal is to get students to bring together all of their learning to date and to get them understand where their discipline sits in the whole world of business. Sandy says:
Students learn a lot, they get a lot out of it. Ninety per cent of them will say "it's the best course I've done, it's fun learning". So a lot of that feedback is very positive in that they get to see, from the simulation, what's going to happen to them in the work place. They understand that the simulation is a safe and controlled environment and that business will be an uncontrolled environment but at least they get to see how all the disciplines are going to work together and what they need to do to improve.
Comments from students:
- This course is the most interesting course that I have taken so far. This course provided me the whole idea on how to run a company or a business. It shows that each department plays important roles in the company. The decision that had been made in every department may cause huge difference in the company end results. This also shows how important is every role in a company.
- Previously I have had little experience in practical decision making. Generally, university courses contain theory heavy content, supported by examples. In this course there has been some theory, however I found it mostly consolidated what I had learnt in earlier courses, allowing me to put the theory into practice. In doing so, I gained a greater understanding of the decision making process as a whole.
- The greatest thing of all that I have gained from this course is the awareness that all my knowledge sources merge between courses to allow me to demonstrate a well-rounded learning. Overall this was one of the most interesting, fun and beneficial courses I have undertaken and I will certainly be recommending it to students in their final year of a business degree.