Alfred (NY), St. Petersburg, Heidenheim: TOPSIM – Scale Up in an International Online Seminar

Professor Jürgen Seitz from DHBW Heidenheim has already gained over ten years of experience with business simulations. As part of various events, he traveled to China or invited guest students from all over the world to Germany to conduct business simulation seminars with local students. Unfortunately, a joint seminar on site had to be canceled this year due to the corona. Thanks to the advanced technology, however, it was possible to conduct a virtual seminar with students from the USA and Russia – despite different time zones, different public holidays, semester breaks and lecture times – from January 11th to 13th, 2021.

The Seminar’s Setting

51 students took part in the simulation-based seminar with TOPSIM – Scale Up. These were divided between 14 companies, with seven playing on each of two markets. Thanks to the use of BigBlueButton for the seminar, different rooms could be created for the different groups. There was also an additional room for the foreign students to exchange ideas with each other if necessary. The whole business game was conducted in English and the teams were mixed as much as possible. In this way, the students from Heidenheim had at least a little opportunity to gain experience abroad. The game was played for three days from 2 p.m. to around 9 p.m. German time – in the USA the seminar started at 8 a.m., in Russia at 3 p.m.

The block seminar started with a welcome event in which the students from Russia prepared presentations to introduce themselves and their country. Students from Heidenheim were all studying business informatics in their sixth semester, whereas participants from Russia had different background including management, economics and humanities.

Rating & Feedback

At the end of the business game seminar, students from Heidenheim had to write a feedback report on a freely chosen topic for the business game and the event. They had to cover what was the main take-away from the simulation game or where the main problems were. In some cases, the business informatics students also questioned the algorithms behind the simulation game or, especially this year, reflected on the digital implementation.

Despite different time zones and requirements, it worked very well on the content level. One shortcoming, however, is and remains the cultural exchange. Professor Seitz explained how the students had dinner together in their groups in previous years or how they stayed in contact after the simulation game seminar. Networking and making friendships often falls short in virtual seminars.

Why TOPSIM – Scale Up?

TOPSIM – Scale Up is our latest simulation game and was tested by Professor Seitz and his students at the beginning of the year. The students in the sixth semester are already quite advanced in their studies so that the complexity of the game was just right to link the theoretical business aspects of the lectures and to apply them in practice. It was crucial for students to get a feeling for complexity and recognize which aspects of the management of a company are interconnected.

We are now looking forward to the coming year with anticipation, in the hope of being able to hold face-to-face events with all international and local students on site again. It is possible that in the future a block seminar could be held to get to know each other and further periods of simulation games could be added online in the blended learning format. This would make it easier for all participants to get to know each other and to interact more easily with one another to make decisions.

We thank Professor Seitz for the insight into the online seminar design and are excited to see what can be implemented for upcoming events!

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