Running Virtual Classes When Using a Business Simulation

PriSim conducts virtual classes that feature our business simulations. For example, the MEMPC (Master of Engineering Management Programs Consortium: Northwestern University, MIT, Duke, Dartmouth, Purdue, John Hopkins, Duke, Tufts and USC) participates in our asynchronous competitions for graduate students across the country. In addition, the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America (the Big I) and Selective Insurance run PriSim’s synchronous and asynchronous classes for their nationwide competitions.

Running a virtual experiential course is quite easy. Success does not lie in the technology, but instead in the ability of the learners to work and communicate effectively in a virtual mode (which is easier for some generations than it is for others!).
The 4 main differences between a virtual business simulation class and a live, in-person class are:

  1. The agenda

    Nobody wants to sit in on a virtual class for 2 to 3 consecutive days. For virtual classes, the agenda breaks up the day so that each day is roughly 50% business-as-usual (i.e., your day job) and 50% course-related work.

  2. The process for conducting “classroom” style discussions with the entire audience

    Lectures and discussions can be delivered asynchronously via recorded video presentations (followed up with live Q&A) or synchronously via readily available web-conferencing tools (Skype for Business, WebEx, Zoom, etc.). We prefer a mixture of both: opening and closing with live/synchronous sessions and using recorded/asynchronous sessions followed up with live Q&A for lectures.

  3. How simulation teams break into team-only activities and discussions

    If the simulation team members are all co-located, this is no different than running a standard live course. If the team members themselves are geographically dispersed (e.g., working in the comfort of their own homes), then our suggested process is:

    1. A secondary web-conference meeting for team-members only.
    2. An assigned team liaison who is responsible for “driving” the simulation and entering the team’s decisions. All team-members engage in the simulation visually via screen-sharing (similar to what they do at a live course) but the team liaison is the person with the keyboard (as at a live course). If your web-conferencing tool supports passing control to other conference participants, the “driver” role can be passed around, similar to passing around the keyboard.
    3. Utilize the conferencing tool’s “white board” and screen mark-up features to replicate physical flipcharts and document highlighting. NOTE: We find that the use of white boards is even more important in the virtual world, than flipcharts are in the physical world.
  4. How the class instructors process and distribute team results

The simulation runs in the PriSim Cloud™ and PriSim is able to interact, coach, and administer each team remotely. Decision-year results can be shared via e-mail or some other mechanism (OneDrive, LinkedIn, DropBox, etc.).

Although 95% of PriSim class deliveries are live and instructor-led, PriSim has been running virtual solutions for several years. My personal belief is that live/instructor-led implementations are still the “best” solution for our clients (when they are viable). But, as one client said to me 5 years ago, “If the choice is between running a virtual course and being only 75% effective in teaching, or not running a course and getting 0% of the learnings, I’d choose 75%.”