Social Management at the HS Niederrhein: Managing a Nursing Home

In cooperation with the Hochschule Niederrhein (HSNR) in Krefeld, TOPSIM developed the management simulation Social Management – a model of a nursing home. Dipl.-Ges.oec. Heike Koß-Hülsen gives us a detailed insight into the development and current use at the HSNR.

Based on the simulation, participants get an overview of the central issues in managing a healthcare facility. They learn about the decision-making complexity in an inpatient care facility and take on various decision-making tasks in selected roles.

The participants must act economically in order to be competitive on the market. At the same time, the simulation focuses on the needs of the residents and caregivers, who play a key role in the decision-making processes.

General Conditions

Currently, Social Management is used in the higher semesters of the Health Care Department and is played in the module “Managementpraxis im Gesundheitswesen” (Management Practice in Healthcare) of the study program Health Care Management. Full-time students take it in the 5th semester, part-time students and students of the dual studies program in the 7th semester. Students of the Nursing Science program can also take the module as an elective and play the management simulation online in the TOPSIM – Cloud.

A listing of the target groups of the management simulation Social Management.

Every year, over 100 students play Social Management. They are randomly divided into teams of four to five people. The teams then take on the following roles and functions within the fictitious nursing home: management, social services, home economics & technology and nursing services.

They set goals and strategies for their company, make operational decisions and calculate planned values. They also have to make long-term decisions, such as investing in various strategic projects in compliance with changing regulatory requirements. Furthermore, they gain experience in dealing with cost developments and taking into account the requirements for refinancing, without the quality of the elderly care suffering at the same time.

The simulation allows for active, productive and sustainable learning due to the practical application of theoretical knowledge and the many ways to successfully run a nursing facility.

The business simulation makes it possible to experience the importance of the individual modules from the course of study and their interactions for the aspired profession. It thus prepares students very well for work in a company, which is part of the project studies in the 6th semester. Their independence is fostered through the cross-module use of methods for analysis, planning and decision-making. In addition, participants train soft skills such as self-organization, reliability, active and passive critical faculties and teamwork.


Two onboardings take place at the beginning of the seminar. At the first onboarding, the students meet in the respective functional groups. Based on the reports, they discuss important key figures and presentations and deal with the correlations in the simulation. At the subsequent second onboarding, the students meet again in their teams and define goals to be achieved during the simulation.

Usually, six periods are being played in which students can submit their decisions. Depending on the semester and time capacity, fewer periods can also be played. In a trial round, participants first familiarize themselves with the functions of the simulation and the simulation itself – this has proven effective in past years, so students know what to expect.

The business simulation is played on three or four blocks of days, each with eight or six hours per day. These take place either in one week on subsequent days or are spread over several weeks in the semester. On the seminar days, main tasks (e.g., SWOT analysis) are set, worked on and discussed in the plenum. Theoretical input is also provided. In some cases, there are also tasks on various topics that are completed by the next date.

A maximum of five to six teams play the business simulation at the same time. The students decide for themselves whether they want to play at the beginning, in the middle or towards the end of the semester. The seminar is conducted exclusively online via the Zoom video conferencing software.

Social Management is ideal for use in the degree program because students are confronted with real-life situations and can make decisions in a safe environment. What is special about this simulation is that it is geared towards the care sector and focusses on the people.


Prerequisite for passing the module is the participation in a symposium and in the business simulation. The preparation for the symposium and a term paper based on it are included in the module grade and are weighted with 50%. The other 50% are determined by a presentation and an oral examination on the business game.

At the end, the teams present their strategies, their approach and the reasons why they made certain decisions, as well as the impacts of these decisions. In doing so, they reflect on their approach in the individual periods and on what lessons they learned. This is done from the perspective of their respective role/function in the team. In addition, the objectives defined at the beginning of the seminar are used for comparison to review the chosen strategy.

Outlook and Award

To complement the simulation, work is currently underway to provide content in the form of OER (Open-Education Resources). The OER content consists of eight different categories such as financing, quality and human resource management and includes questions such as “What is elderly care?”. Several universities are working together with the HSNR to create these categories and topics. The materials will then be made available on the ORCA-NRW online portal under a CC license.

The processing of one of these categories is to become part of the first onboarding and introduce participants to the topic right from the start. It is planned to subsequently query the content in the form of a test as an admission requirement for participation in the simulation on the Moodle learning platform. Initial talks have already been held with social organizations such as Caritas about using the simulation as a practical training course with certification.

In August 2022, the simulation received the Brandon Hall Group Gold Award in the category of “Best Use of Games or Simulations for Learning“.

Brandon Hall Gold Award Learning 2022 - Best Use of Games or Simulations for Learning - Social Management

We would like to thank Dipl.-Ges.oec. Heike Koß-Hülsen for her insights into the Social Management simulation and the seminar concept. We look forward to further cooperation and are excited about future developments.

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