Teaching a Business Simulation Class – Team or Solo Sport?

It’s been said that there is no ‘I’ in Team, but that there is an ‘m’ and an ‘e’. Given that dichotomy, when it comes to teaching a business simulation class, what’s better – a Team or a ‘me’ approach?

Like deciding whether to turn a car right or left at an intersection, it depends on where you’re trying to go. Having different Instructors with different expertise and experiences can be enlightening for participants; an Instructor with finance expertise teaching along with an Instructor with Leadership and EQ expertise can dramatically increase the value of the class to the learners. On the other hand, like a slide show in Prezi that tries to do too much, too many Instructors popping up and down throughout a class can be disorienting and distracting to an audience.

A typical teaching team in a PriSim class is made up of 1 Instructor and 1 Seminar Coordinator. Given the complexity of running a simulation and the time constraints of a typical 2-3 day agenda, we have found this structure to be optimal: it allows the Instructor to focus on teaching and coaching, while the Seminar Coordinator separately administers the simulation and provides logistical and other support. But in some cases, we choose to further augment the teaching team with an additional, 2nd Instructor.

If you are thinking about adding a 2nd Instructor to your simulation course, here are a few things to consider:

Pros of Team Teaching:

  1. Can keep an audience more engaged in the class as Instructors with different perspectives and expertise interact with the group.
  2. Allows a teaching team to scale-up and conduct classes for large audiences.
  3. For a new client just acquired, it shows that you have more than just 1 Instructor available and able to teach the client’s classes going forward. And you may find that one of the Instructor’s styles resonates better with the client.
  4. Allows the second Instructor to learn a new class or a new simulation in a live setting.
  5. Can include client/external ‘faculty’ or guest speakers for deeper dives into course content. At PriSim we do this with several of our clients, sharing the stage between client-delivered (or outside-expert) content and PriSim-delivered content and simulation management.

Cons of Team Teaching:

  1. May simply not be needed, nor the cost justified, if the content can be covered and the class run adequately by a core teaching team of 1 Instructor and 1 Seminar Coordinator.
  2. Can be distracting to the audience, as described above.
  3. Is more expensive as the client will be paying for 2 Instructors plus any travel costs for a live class, which for international classes can increase dramatically.
  4. Participants may feel they are being ‘observed’ by the 2nd Instructor while in the class.

A case in which you should seriously consider running a team-teaching approach is when you have a large group you feel should be split-up to encourage discussion and allow adequate coaching. In this case, your approach might include:

  1. Dividing the group and running 2 concurrent but totally separate classes, with Instructors running one class each.
  2. Running portions of the agenda with separate, smaller groups (e.g., 2 separate finance lectures, 2 separate simulation competitions), but then coming together as a full, combined group for some of the content (e.g., kickoff, leadership lecture, final presentations, wrap-up and competition awards).
  3. But remember that it will take double the effort and staffing, so charge double the price!
  4. You should also consider assigning Instructors to coach specific teams in the simulation. Given the range of ‘right’ answers to questions about the simulation or the competition, having the same Instructor interact with a given team throughout the class helps prevent giving conflicting answers to questions.

And in some cases, even a Seminar Coordinator may not be needed if the class is spread out over enough days or weeks so that 1 Instructor is able to easily do all of the required tasks, from teaching to managing the simulation.

So, is teaching a simulation class a team or a solo sport? It depends, but be cautious of ‘overseasoning’ the broth with too many Instructors in the kitchen or, conversely, of making it too bland!