Like many other universities, the Ostbayerische Technische Hochschule Regensburg had to switch to a digital semester. The business simulation needs to be played remote as well – even if it is offline. During the whole semester students from the bachelor Business Administration as well as from the bachelor European Business play TOPSIM – Startup! Production, which today is TOPSIM – Manufacturing Management. In this article, André Philipps shares his experience with offline simulations in distance learning format.
Framework for the seminar
About 200 students took the seminar this summer semester. Students can participate in the module only after the fourth semester, because they need specific prior knowledge for the complex simulation. Typically, there would be a test to control the knowledge of the respective manuals. With about 50% of right answers, the students can join the seminar. After that, teams would be built and they would discuss, analyse and make their decisions in the so-called Business Simulation Center directly on campus. At the end of the seminar there will be a written exam that deals with topics that come up around the business simulation.
The corona crisis intervened this year and the lecturers were confronted with new challenges. How to conduct the introductory event? How to use a simulation when the university is closed? How could the communication between and in teams work?
Online seminar with an offline simulation
For Prof. Sabine Jaritz and André Philipps it was very unusual to design an entire semester online, but so far it has been very successful. With different approaches they try to complete the semester as best as they can. There are different types of audio files or presentations, which the students have access to, to pick up the lecture content. Furthermore, there are meetings via Zoom, where students can work in groups separately in so-called breakout-rooms. Instructors can join at any time – almost like in classroom teaching. For communication they use the platform Moodle as well as a tool for shared documents, so the students can exchange and discuss their decision-making process.
Normally the business simulation is played offline. So the instructors have to enter the decisions of the groups manually in the software at the campus. After that, the results are being analyzed and presented in the video calls.
In addition to playing the business simulation the teams – 5 students per team – have to create a business and strategy plan, complete tasks on internal and external accounting and attend the shareholder’ meeting – everything remote. The business simulation perfectly covers all topics of the seminar: The students can concentrate on the reports and after analyzing them they can think about what are their options in the next periods. André Philipps stresses the importance of the coaching position of the instructors: asking provocative questions but at the same time giving as much support as possible.
Sometimes the discussions get difficult, when everybody wants to talk at the same time, it does not work in video calls as well as when teaching in classroom format. Apart from that, the students come along with the online classroom and give a lot of feedback, which is very helpful for the instructors.
Advice for other instructors
André Philipps advises to the instructors in similar situations: be open to new possibilities! Even if you’re not a ‘digital native’, try it out instead of waiting it out. The use of different media needs to be learned, nothing is perfect at the beginning. A slip of the tongue in videos would also happen in classroom teaching. So: mistakes happen and it is absolutely acceptable!
We thank André Philipps for sharing his concept with us. We are looking forward to the OTH using business simulations, offline or in the cloud!