Business Simulations in Practice: Offline-Version of TOPSIM – General Management in Online-Seminar at DHBW Ravensburg

The cancelling of attendance events due to the Corona crisis has also affected the DHBW Ravensburg. For the planned seminar with the offline-version of the business simulation TOPSIM – General Management, an online solution had to be found at short notice. In this blog article we present the online seminar concept with alfaview® that Dr. Manfred Schertler-Rock has developed for this situation.

At the DHBW Ravensburg, Bachelor students in the Travel Management course of study regularly play the offline-version of our classic business simulation TOPSIM – General Management in the 6th semester. This is used as a final event, in which theoretical knowledge acquired in the field of corporate management is put into practice. This year the 3-day-block event with 10 participants was held completely online.

Infografic: TOPSIM – General Management at the DHBW Ravensburg

What was changed for the online seminar with the offline business simulation?

In contrast to the usual presence format, this time the students had no participant system and thus no direct access to the business simulation. Different platforms were set up by the seminar instructor in order to provide all necessary documents, to ensure the exchange of information and to enable the work in the teams.

On the one hand seminar instructor and participants used a moodle course to this seminar. Here the participants found, among other things, an announcement forum e.g. for the dates of the decisions and a notice board for the exchange of information. Each company also had a private area where each group could view their company data and specific evaluation reports in PDF format. In the moodle course, the documents and reports were uploaded by the seminar instructor as well as the completed decision forms by the participants.

Additionally, the video conferencing system of the DHBW Ravensburg – alfaview® – was used. For example, the kick-off event, the evaluations and the final meeting were carried out in the plenum with this tool. The individual groups could meet in subspaces to discuss and prepare the decisions. The seminar instructor also had the opportunity to join in to advise the groups. Both participants and seminar instructor made use of the screensharing option, for example to share presentations.

How was the seminar conducted?

Similar to the usual face-to-face event, the seminar began with a kick-off in which the introductory presentation was shared with the plenum using screensharing. At this point, the participants also received a short instruction on how to use the technical tools. The groups then had to organize themselves and had time to make the decisions for the first period and upload them to the respective group area. Afterwards the work for the seminar instructor began. In contrast to the normal seminar, he had to transfer all group decisions from the forms into the system, in order to be able to simulate and evaluate the period. The results were then exported as PDF and uploaded to the protected group areas. Finally, a virtual discussion of the evaluation took place in the plenum. This process was repeated for the following periods.

Some additional tasks were also used in the online-version of the seminar. The students had to prepare a financial plan and submit the completed report. Furthermore, they had to develop a marketing concept with logo and slogan. On the third day, the Annual Shareholders’ Meeting took place, at which all groups held their presentations in virtual space.

How was the experience playing an offline business simulation online?

Both participants and seminar instructor were satisfied with the online solution for the offline business simulation, even though it was a drawback that the participants lacked the usual experience in the business simulation laboratory of the DHBW Ravensburg. The students were nevertheless motivated and made good use of the available time.

In this version of the implementation, the seminar instructor had a higher workload because they had to transfer all decisions into the system manually. However, this made it possible to avoid common initial difficulties with the inputs as well as misunderstandings that students at this stage usually have. The seminar instructor had an immediate overview and could directly consult the teams if necessary.

Dr. Manfred Schertler-Rock’s main advice is to keep a close eye on the time factor, as there can be significant differences between online and offline. Theoretically, more additional tasks can also be integrated into the online seminar, if they are compatible with the tighter time windows for online use.

We thank Dr. Manfred Schertler-Rock for presenting his concept and are looking forward to many more successful simulation-based seminars!

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