Carl Driesener | University of South Australia | Carl.Driesener@unisa.edu.au
- Simulator: StratSimMarketing
- Students: Undergraduate
- Class Size: 300+
- Assessment: presentation (10%), memo (10%), marketing plan (40%), weekly synopsis (10%), industry presentation (30%)
- Pedagogy: Semester unit 13 x 1 hour lectures, 12 x 2 hour tutorials
The StratSimMarketing simulation is designed and hosted by Interpretive Solutions and is embedded in the unit titled Integrated Marketing that is intended to be the capstone subject. The unit is focussed on understanding marketing in the context of a business, examining the environment, making business-appropriate decisions in a competitive framework and reflecting on the causes of success and failure. The Interpretive Solutions website states:
Marketing strategy is at the core of all decisions made in StratSimMarketing. It provides a dynamic learning environment where customer needs evolve, new products are introduced, and the economy and context change. Students must manage short- and long-term objectives by making integrated marketing decisions that also impact other functional areas of the business, such as operations and finance. Teams compete directly against each other, with the results being dependent upon how the competitors interact, what new products are introduced, and how these products are supported.
A case3 study scenario highlighted on the Interpretive Solution website highlights: ‘Groups of 3-6 students are put in the role of a management team that takes over one of five companies competing in the domestic automobile industry. Some companies are positioned as high-end niche producers while others are more value and volume driven. Each company begins the simulation with three vehicles [products] and then must decide how best to improve their firm's performance and potentially enter new market segments that offer opportunities for growth’.
Carl suggests that the course aims and objectives is ‘as much as anything it's about giving students - particularly undergrad[uate] - the experience of working and understanding how marketing fits inside of business in a competitive framework and also the experience of competing against other people’. The key metric used to determine the overall simulation leader is share price. There are another 45 measures available such as net profit, however overall simulation performance is a minor part of the grade, understanding and explaining success and failure is much more important.
UniSA strongly encourages students to attend lectures and tutorials in this course however all lectures are recorded and can be accessed at any time. Students should attend all computer laboratory classes and can also interact via Skype or Facebook if required. This course differs from the UniSA standard (2hr lectures, 1 hr tutes)
- 13 x 1 hour lectures: The lectures are generally used to refresh students of content that has been provided in previous subjects and year levels. Key and concepts are introduced including competitive tactics and teamwork.
- 12 x 2 hour simulation tutorials: The StratSimStrategy simulation is undertaken on a weekly basis where students input their decisions based on the data and reports provided ‘weekly. Students are strongly encouraged to plan for each week prior to the computer class and is undertaken in a team environment.:
The subject is designed to build on the knowledge week by week. Students are initially given a question (varied between team members) they must answer in a memo format that requires them to apply marketing thinking to a company specific problem. The memo forces students to use the simulation software to locate suitable data to support their argument. Each team prepares a short weekly synopsis of the company’s performance in achieving student set objectives, and more importantly briefly explaining why they did or did not achieve them. This assists the team with record keeping and also requires them to focus on thinking about why success or failure occurred. Each student at some point in the semester does a short in-tute presentation covering their product’s objectives, tactics and achievements. Competing teams are not usually assigned to the same tutorial, and team members are randomly selected.
Individual students must also provide a marketing plan based on the production line they are responsible for. The product may not be launched but it still follows the same principles as if production was to commence. The final assessment is a presentation to simulated industry board members comprising of teaching staff and senior management, as well as their competitors. Students are given a clear understanding of the purpose of the final presentation and who they will be presenting to, however the exact content of the presentation is not specified and is left deliberately ambiguous to allow students to develop the presentation in the manner they feel is most appropriate for their team. Feedback is given in the form of questions and answers at the end of the presentation.
StratSimStrategy has the ability to be delivered in a variety of ways depending on timetables and university requirements. At UniSA there are facilitators [tutors] which due to student numbers are numerous plus the lecturer. There is no required textbook however the simulation does come with online manuals. The cost is USD$39.95 which is paid by each individual student that replaces purchasing a textbook.
The simulation is streamed from the United States of America. Carl says StratSimStrategy ‘installs a small front-end interface on student’s [or pool] computers and then requires an internet connects back to the databases in the States for processing and updating. It's usually set up so that students get their analysis and decisions done by the Friday night 11.30pm, and the simulation advances Friday midnight.
This unit also utilises Moodle as an online tool so information is available to students at all times. All additional information can be found within this platform including a discussion board and students are encouraged to communicate in a variety of ways including email and Facebook.
Carl believes simulations are a good way to get hands on experience with the role of marketing in business and teamwork. Although not specifically taught, teamwork conflict appears to be resolved through negotiation and student interaction. Carl explained that ‘it’s not about the person who yells the loudest or the person with the most emotive argument but the resolution should be who's got the best argument supported by the data’.
‘What I found quite interesting about the simulation, because it was so applied and hands-on, you would get students who had not necessarily got good grades who would really come alive and get a lot out of it and get a really good grade for the unit and you'd get students who previously had been academically very gifted and done very well but could not deal with the ambiguities’ says Carl. Overall, simulations are an innovative and fun way to learn based on student feedback that is fuelled by the competitive nature of business simulations.