Games and simulations are used as teaching and learning activities in a number of academic disciplines in higher education, including business studies. Their evaluation is almost exclusively by means of a student questionnaire to measure attitudes or perceptions, rather than learning. Limited attention is given to wider educational considerations.
The purpose of the research is to offer a deeper insight into the learning that takes place during, and as a result of, business games and simulations as teaching and learning activities by investigating the interaction of the three constituents; the students, the teacher(s) and the game or simulation itself and the dynamic process that encompasses three phases; planning, execution and review. The rationale for this approach can be found in Killen (2007) who suggests that quality learning occurs at the nexus of teacher, learner and content.
The context of this research is the use of a popular simulation, the “Beer Game,” in the curriculum of a higher education Supply Chain Management course. A supply chain is the series of processes that control the flow of materials and information from suppliers through to consumers. The Beer Game was developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology and replicates a supply chain in operation. The game and the phenomenon it enacts feature prominently in a widely-used, standard text, Simchy-Levi et al (2008) and in Senge’s (1990) seminal work, “The Fifth Discipline”.
Three research questions guided the case study reported in this presentation. These were: 1) How far does the Beer Game meet Quinn’s (2005) criteria for learning based on instructional design principles? 2) What are student and staff experiences of the game? 3) How far did student learning correspond to the intended learning outcomes of the activity? Initially the game was analysed against Quinn’s criteria to identify the kinds of learning that are promoted in the game. The research then involved observing the game being played in the context of a 4 hour second year Bachelor of Business class. The participants in the session were 50 second year students and 1 staff member from an Australian metropolitan university. Quantitative data related to students’ experiences and perceptions of learning following the activity were collected using a questionnaire. The game activity was videorecorded and coded using deductive coding to find instances of learning. Qualitative data related to students’ perceptions of the game and of the kinds of learning that took place were collected through observations. Qualitative data related to staff perceptions of the game and of the kinds of learning that took place were collected through interviews. Preliminary results from the study will be presented. It is intended that discussion will be stimulated on the role of games and simulations in student learning. In the last part of the presentation the discussion will be opened up to consider how research into their efficacy may be conducted.