Designing a Human Resource Management Simulation to Engage Students

[Professors Andrea North-Samardzic of Deakin University Victoria and Marlize de Witt of the University of Waikato recently published a research article in the Journal of Management Education which is entitled “Designing a Human Resource Management Simulation to Engage Students“. We are delighted to welcome them as contributors, and their article will be free to read for a limited time. Below they reveal the inspirations and influences behind their research.]

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What motivated you to pursue this research?

I wanted to use a simulation in my classes but couldn’t find one that fit my needs as well as being proven to lead to positive student outcomes. So in the grand tradition of ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ I created one myself.

What has been the most challenging aspect of conducting your research? Were there any surprising findings?

I thought that the students who navigated the software in the simulation program would find it more engaging. But the findings showed that we have tremendous capacity to create new and interesting simulations in traditional learning management systems. You don’t always need new and shiny technology to engage students.

The biggest challenge was finding students to participate in the lab tests and focus group. We can’t provide credit to students for research participation.

In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?

The roadmap we provide for designing, developing and testing the simulation will hopefully inspire others to create their own simulations. Buying software licenses can be expensive. So why not create your own and test it to show how and why it works?

What did not make it into your published manuscript that you would like to share with us?

There was a lot more attention to design science in the earlier drafts. I was a bit too hung up on this and it took awhile for my co-author to convince me to let it go. Kathi Lovelace was also an incredible editor and helped us with really refining the contribution too and advising us on what to play down and what to emphasise.

What advice would you give to new scholars and incoming researchers in this particular field of study?

Make sure you share your work with others in development stages and rewrites no matter how rough the drafts or embryonic the ideas. If things get stuck, you may like to bring on another person as a co-author. I tried to publish the work as a sole author but it didn’t quite hit the mark. Working with Marlize to rewrite and reposition the paper made the world of difference.

Also it took a long time to bring this article to publication. That’s ok. Hang in there. Scholarship is a marathon, not a sprint.

What is the most important/ influential piece of scholarship you’ve read in the last year?

Kathy Lund Dean and Jeanie M. Forray’s editorial ‘Teaching and Learning in an Age of (In)credulity: Facts and “Alternative Facts” in the Classroom’ really spoke to me even though they said some things I didn’t necessarily want to hear at first. It has lead me to do a lot of critical self-reflection about my role as educator and ‘expert’ in the room and how I need to adapt to better address current concerns. For me, a great piece of scholarship not only makes you think about the topic but makes you think about yourself.

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Using Simulation to Teach Social Justice and Disability Ethics in Business Communication

[We’re pleased to welcome guest editor Dr. Sushil Oswal of the University of Washington and author Dr. Stephanie Wheeler of the University of Central Florida. Dr. Wheeler recently published an article in Business and Professional Communication Quarterly entitled “Harry Potter and the First Order of Business: Using Simulation to Teach Social Justice and Disability Ethics in Business Communication,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Wheeler speaks with Dr. Oswol regarding motivations and challenges of this research]

BCQ_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpgWe are here with Dr. Stephanie K. Wheeler who is an Assistant Professor of Rhetoric at the University of Central Florida where she researches Cultural Rhetoric, Pop Rhetorics of Harry Potter and Lady Gaga, Disability Studies, Rhetoric of Eugenics, and Civic Engagement and activism among Faculty and Students. She is the author of “Legacies of Colonialism: Toward a Borderland Dialogue between Indigenous and Disability Rhetorics”. Dr. Wheeler just published a fascinating article, “Harry Potter and the First Order of Business”, about the use of simulations in her college communication course for the Sage journal, Business and Professional Communication Quarterly.

Oswal: What motivated you to pursue this Harry Potter research?

Wheeler: When I was first struggling to find a way to make my first semester of teaching Introduction to Business and Professional Communication meaningful and interesting to my students, I had a chance conversation with a close friend who was designing a zombie simulation for her class. It occurred to me that I might find a way to do the same for Harry Potter. Multiple attempts and years later, I think I figured it out.

Oswal: So, what was the answer?

Wheeler: My BPCQ manuscript was motivated by the question of how to honor our own interests and meet students where they are outside of the classroom with their own interests, while at the same time meeting their educational needs inside of the classroom? Furthermore, how can we ensure a balance between the two?

Oswal: What has been the most challenging aspect of conducting your research? Were there any surprising findings?

Wheeler: The most challenging part of writing this piece was coming face to face with my failures in my earlier classes where I attempted the simulation. In fact, the first few attempts at the class were unmitigated disasters. I always had a small group of students—probably committed Harry Potter fans–who really enjoyed it, but by and large my classes were, to put it nicely, not interested in the simulation. I talk about this a little bit in the manuscript, but I think that there is one main factor that went into it: I didn’t go “all-in” with the simulation. That is, I didn’t quite have the confidence to pull off that the simulation would work, and when it didn’t, students weren’t able to understand the consequences of their writing choices. Thus, the most surprising thing that came out of this paper was my realization that the research could not have been done had I always been successful in the way I had hoped, and so much of its success depended on taking some major risks and my own belief in it that it was really working. And then, I also found out that I could not keep this newly-gained confidence to myself; I had to share it with my class by being overtly enthusiastic about the Universe of Harry Potter. Once my class could sense this enthusiasm, even the strangers to Harry Potter were willing to get their feet wet with this simulation.

Oswal: Let’s say that some of our readers are still sitting on the fence and want a pedagogical justification: what reasons can you give them to try this simulation out in their classes?

Wheeler: Given the practical focus of business communication pedagogy in particular and communication teaching in general, instructors are always looking for ways to connect with their students in different ways; what else would be more interesting for students than the Universe of Harry Potter in a required course?

Oswal: Instructors might also like to know more about what your thoughts are on Harry Potter at this time since you continue to improve this class simulation. What ideas did not make it into your published manuscript that you would like to share with us?

Wheeler: My overall approach to teaching Business and Professional Communication is to think about the ways that language reflects, sustains, and resists oppressive power structures, especially (and most importantly) when it is seen to be devoid of any cultural influence or impact, like in technical documents. One way I emphasized this in the course I describe in my manuscript is to regard writing as a eugenic technology, having the capability of writing bodies in and out of existence to fit whatever power structure it was serving. This is why a Harry Potter simulation made so much sense to me: to really look at the impact of how our beloved characters are brought to existence by J. K. Rawling through writing and just as easily eliminated by the same stroke of a pen can really illuminate the power and responsibility that comes with writing and becoming a writer.

Oswal: Do you have any additional materials on this project that instructors might find useful if they wanted to develop a Harry Potter course for their business and professional communication curriculum?

Wheeler: I had to remove some more detailed appendices, which can be found at my website, http://www.stephaniewheeler.wordpress.com and readers are most welcome to review them.

Oswal: Thanks for talking to me about this fascinating communication project and I hope that our readers find this Harry Potter simulation as enticing as you and I found talking about it.

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Should Restaurants Offer “Early-Bird” or “Night-Owl” Specials?

vine-glass-1208604-mDiners who avoid the dinner rush at restaurants can’t seem to catch a break. In the 90’s, Jerry Seinfield made fun of senior citizens who took advantage of early-bird specials while Jack in the Box’s current late-night meal promotion, “the munchie box,” lampoons college-aged males. But are early-bird and night-owl specials even effective for increasing a restaurant’s revenue? Gary M. Thompson of Cornell University recently explored this topic in his article “Deciding Whether to Offer ‘Early-Bird’ or ‘Night-Owl’ Specials in Restaurants: A Cross-Functional View” from Journal of Service Research.

The abstract:

In a long history of capacity and demand management research in services, it has often been suggested that pricing discounts and specials can increase demand in off-peak periods. We 02JSR13_Covers.inddexamine this issue in the contexts of restaurants, where the practices of offering discounts to restaurant patrons for dining early or dining late—commonly known as “early-bird” and “night-owl” specials, respectively—exist throughout the world. These specials bridge marketing and operations—marketing from the goal of increasing customer demand in the off-peak periods and operations from the perspective of having to serve those customers. The effectiveness of these specials has yet to be examined. While simulation would be an ideal tool for predicting the specials’ net revenue benefits, it might be impractical for many restaurateurs, so we develop three simple “back-of-the-envelope” type calculations. Restaurateurs could use these calculations when deciding whether to offer a special. In the eight large simulation-based experiments we conducted, we find that it is important to estimate revenue cannibalization from full-fare customers. The calculations prove to be far more accurate for night-owl specials than for early-bird specials. This has important implications for decisions about offering the specials and raises a flag regarding a potential marketing-operations conflict.

You can read “Deciding Whether to Offer ‘Early-Bird’ or ‘Night-Owl’ Specials in Restaurants: A Cross-Functional View” by from Journal of Service Research by clicking here. Want to be notified of all the latest research like this from Journal of Service Research? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!

Video: Taxonomy of Serious Games for Business

When Marco Greco decided he wanted to create a collaborative creative of business games, he realized he had one major problem: the taxonomy of serious games for business was unclear. Dr. Greco collaborated with Nicola Baldissin and Fabio Nonino to create a taxonomy that would work for scholars of the business gaming community in their article published in Simulation and Gaming entitled “An Exploratory Taxonomy of Business Games.”

Dr. Greco discussed his paper in a recent interview:

Read “An Exploratory Taxonomy of Business Games” from Simulation and Gaming for free by clicking here. Want to keep up with Simulation and Gaming? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!

Understanding Networking and its Benefits

teamwork-1-1254520-m[We are pleased to welcome Špela Trefalt to Management Ink. Dr. Trefalt’s article “How Network Properties Affect One’s Ability to Obtain Benefits: A Network Simulation” recently appeared in the OnlineFirst section of the Journal of Management Education.]

About four years ago, I started teaching about networks in Executive Education Programs at Simmons School of Management. I wanted to help the participants understand and appreciate the importance of structural properties of networks (centrality, structural holes, multiplexity, strength of ties) and social capital, and I couldn’t find a good way to do that. Lecturing to a group of highly-competent professionals was not my style and I couldn’t find an exercise that would convey these points. So I developed one. Since they, I’ve tried it out with multiple groups of executives and MBA students as well as with undergraduates, and it always worked very well. Students enjoyed it but also learned from it. This is a very low-tech exercise, so get ready for some printing and filling up some envelopes but I promise the investment is worthwhile.

The abstract:

JME_72ppiRGB_powerpointNetworks and the social capital that they carry enable people to get things done, to prosper in their careers, and to feel supported. To develop an effective network, one needs to know more than how to make connections with strangers at a reception; understanding the consequences of network properties on one’s ability to obtain benefits is essential. Such understanding enables students to better assess who to connect to. The simulation described herein enables participants to experience and therefore better understand the consequences of their position within a network and to overcome potential aversion to networking by recognizing its benefits and potential for reciprocity. It has been used effectively with undergraduates, MBA students, and executive audiences.
spela-trefalt_rdax_200x278Dr. Špela Trefalt joined Simmons faculty in 2008, after earning her D.B.A. in Management from the Harvard Business School, her M.B.A. from the University of Kansas, and her B.A. in Law from the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia. In her research, Dr. Trefalt focuses on the issues of managing the competing demands of work and life outside of work, especially among professionals. She is particularly interested in the role of relationships at work in this process. Her research aims at deepening our understanding of the experiences of individuals with work and non-work demands in order to provide ideas for improving individuals’ well-being by combining their own agency and organizational change. She teaches in the MBA and in Executive Education programs. Prior to her academic career, Trefalt spent six years as a human resources management consultant, and eight years working in the media in Slovenia.

Using Simulation as a Training Tool for Project Management

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Educators work hard to make sure their pupils are prepared for their chosen field of work. Inside a classroom, however, this can prove challenging. Many teachers have begun turning to simulations that will help provide their students with the opportunity to put their knowledge to the test. In their article in Simulation and Gaming, “Evaluating a Project Management Simulation Training Exercise,”  Ki-Young Jeong and Ipek Bozkurt discuss their findings on using simulation as a training tool for  teaching students project management.

The abstract:

This research is an evaluation of a single-player, project management simulation training exercise. Our objective is to gain understanding about the extent to which it contributes to participants’ project management knowledge and skills. Results from pre- and post-simulation exercise questionnaires indicate that overall the simulation exercise S&G_2013_C1.inddsignificantly improves a participant’s conceptual knowledge about project management. It also indicates that participants with less experience achieve more knowledge improvement than those with more experience. Results further indicate that the actual performance of the exercise, which represents the educational value of the exercise, is primarily dependent on the post-project management knowledge of the participant established throughout the exercise, prior knowledge brought to the exercise, and the experience of the participant. We believe that these results indicate that the simulation training exercise is a valuable training tool, which both engineering and project managers can use.

Read “Evaluating a Project Management Simulation Training Exercise” in Simulation and Gaming for free by clicking here. Want to be notified of any new articles from Simulation and Gaming? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!

Get a Better Understanding of Climate Change Issues Through Simulation

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Global warming and climate change have become hot-button issues in the past few decades. Many disagree on the long-term effects and what needs to be done to correct it, if anything at all. In their article published in Simulation and Gaming, “WORLD CLIMATE: A Role-Play Simulation of Climate Negotiations,” collaborators John Sterman, Travis Franck, Thomas Fiddaman, Andrew Jones, Stephanie McCauley, Philip Rice, Elizabeth Sawin, Lori Siegel and Juliette N. Rooney-Varga suggest that communication issues are to blame and offer up a unique solution in the form of online simulation and role playing programs.

The abstract:

Global negotiations to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have so far failed to produce an agreement. Even if negotiations succeeded, however, a binding treaty could not be ratified or implemented in many nations due to inadequate public support for emissions reductions. The scientific consensus on the reality and risks of anthropogenic climate change has never been stronger, yet public S&G_2013_C1.inddsupport for action in many nations remains weak. Policymakers, educators, the media, civic and business leaders, and citizens need tools to understand the dynamics and geopolitical implications of climate change. The WORLD CLIMATE simulation provides an interactive role-play experience through which participants explore these issues using a scientifically sound climate policy simulation model. Participants playing the roles of negotiators from major nations and stakeholders negotiate proposals to reduce GHG emissions. Participants then receive immediate feedback on the implications of their proposals for atmospheric GHG concentrations, global mean surface temperature, sea level rise, and other impacts through the C-ROADS (Climate Rapid Overview and Decision Support) policy simulation model used by negotiators and policymakers. The role-play enables participants to explore the dynamics of the climate and impacts
of proposed policies using a model consistent with the best available peer-reviewed science. WORLD CLIMATE has been used successfully with students, teachers, business executives, and political leaders around the world. Here, we describe protocols for the role-play and the resources available to run it, including C-ROADS and all needed materials, all freely available at climateinteractive.org. We also present evaluations of the impact of WORLD CLIMATE with diverse groups.

Read “WORLD CLIMATE: A Role-Play Simulation of Climate Negotiations” in Simulation and Gaming for free by clicking here.

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