Students showcase their business acumen through simulated practice

Business simulator

Wagner and student“I want to transform the way we teach business.” These bold and aspirational words come from the innovative Dr. Bret Wagner, associate professor of marketing at the Haworth College of Business. Ever since he was a student in graduate school, Wagner has struggled with accepting how business is traditionally taught.

“I think business education is challenging because we can’t always do business in the classroom. It’s not like chemistry or dance, where you get to practice the subject every day,” he says. “That is why I have spent the past six years developing my business simulation—to give business students more opportunities for hands-on learning.”

Wagner designed a simulation, titled ScrimmageSIM, which gives students real-world experience in a virtual business setting. He says the program is an effective tool because it does not give students the impression that there is a “right answer” to a business problem, as textbooks do. Rather, the program engages students in the simulated business problem and shows how business concepts and theory provide insight into these complex situations.

The simulator does this by providing different business scenarios tailored to the business concept being taught. For example, one set of business simulation scenarios involves a brewing company. The first scenario has the students make production decisions, trying to match production to customer demand.  Once completed, students are given a scenario where they face the same production decisions, but then have the opportunity to change the product’s price as well. “This approach gives students a fresh start with each scenario, giving them a chance to learn from the previous scenario while adding a new wrinkle to the business,” Wagner says.

ScrimmageSIM is used in number of classes at WMU and at other universities, and its potential continues to grow. “I am in the process of writing a textbook for introduction to business classes that will accompany the software,” Wagner says. “The textbook will be available on Kindle so it will be inexpensive and easily accessible.”

Wagner will be testing the simulation and textbook in a section of Western’s business enterprise course in the spring and hopes it becomes the common method used to teach the class. This will give pre-business students a chance to experience a more real-world learning environment early in their education. Wagner explains, “One of the reasons we encourage internships for students is because we know it gives students more context to understand business and gain more from their education. It is my hope to continue to develop the simulation to increase its capabilities, and develop new scenarios that will allow the simulation to support an ever-wider range of business courses.”