The exchange with partner universities from all over the world is one of the highlights of studies for many students. Unfortunately, flying to other countries and meeting with international fellow students is anything but possible at the moment due to the pandemic. Prof. Dr. Dietrich Darr from Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences therefore uses a virtual business game seminar with TOPSIM.
Dietrich Darr is Professor for Agribusiness at Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences. Normally, exchange students from numerous partner universities would sit in his lectures. Quite a few students from Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences would also spend a semester abroad. This year, they were looking for an alternative and found it in TOPSIM – Startup. Together with two universities from Russia, one from Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and Ghana, Prof. Dr. Dietrich Darr organized an international business simulation seminar completely online.
The business simulation was played for a total of 8 weeks during the winter semester, interrupted by the Christmas break. The students from Germany were in the 5th semester of their bachelor’s degree, while some of the foreign students were in higher semesters. In November, the first step was an introductory event, after which the teams, which consisted of two to five people, were to develop a business plan and a strategy for their company. This was followed by the establishment of the company, which the group also presented in plenary session.
The original plan was that students show play at a synchronous seminar time and enter the results in the TOPSIM – Cloud. However, this was not so easy because of the seven-hour time difference between countries. So teams played individually over the course of a week – some of them were present in the synchronous Webex meetings while having the opportunity to ask Mr. Darr and his his colleagues questions. Others coordinated via channels such as Skype or even WhatsApp and only submitted their results.
Positive Feedback: Intercultural exchange
For this first round of a business game with the partner universities, the teams were put together within the respective partner university. This made the organization and implementation of the seminar a little easier. In future rounds, however, it could be interesting to mix the teams internationally. Since the students from the partner universities were studying similar courses, but not the same ones, an interdisciplinary exchange could take place in addition to the intercultural exchange. For the foreign students, the main focus of the simulation was to practice English as a foreign language. The subject content was more relevant for the students from Germany, as they were graded, unlike their international fellow students.
All students were required to give a presentation at the end of the business simulation and reflect on the results in terms of their strategy. The results were generally very different among the teams, also due to the different fields of study. Nevertheless, the seminar worked really well overall. The feedback from the students was consistently positive and the simulation was perceived as enriching, especially for the foreign students the fun was in the foreground.
Why TOPSIM – Startup for Agribusiness?
And how does TOPSIM – Startup actually fit into the Agribusiness course? Of course surfboards don’t really have anything to do with the students’ later field of work. However, many future graduates will have to develop business plans and strategies or may want to start their own companies. So the business game ties in with what some of them actually plan to do after graduation – and teaches important skills for this in an entertaining way. Nevertheless, Prof. Dr. Darr emphasizes the effort required for this seminar: “You definitely have to plan enough resources to always be able to answer questions.” In this case, tutors took on a supporting role so that the students were not left alone with their questions.
We would like to thank Mr. Darr for the insight into the exciting seminar concept and hope that we will be able to hear about international seminars with TOPSIM at Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences again in the future!