A resource with online course delivery options to promote effective, industry-relevant communication

The project was developed by Gavin NortheyMichael SW LeeRebecca Dolan and Yuri Seo – a team of academics from University of Auckland‘s Business School.

These resources might be useful to teachers of business management, teachers of writing for management and teachers of marketing.

The project was supported by the SEED Fund grants for 2017.

For similar projects, see: Operations Management Simulator and Engineering systems thinking: Experience-based learning.

Project background

As the project team wrote in their application, the modern business world is a complex, dynamic environment. It demands high level information processing and requires advanced analytical thinking and cognitive flexibility to integrate theory and practice into cogent, actionable business plans. The foundation of such activity is the ability to write effectively and efficiently at each step along the business pathway. However, current course delivery methods are lacking in their ability to teach students the different writing styles that are required in the business world. This project has enabled students to develop a diverse range of writing skills, beyond essay writing, through an interesting and novel approach to marketing strategy which mimics a real-world, business scenario.

As Gavin Northey explains, “At present, many university courses are delivered through synchronous, instructor-centered channels. In such cases, student assessment typically involves a combination of formative and summative assessments that often revolve around students’ abilities to write essays. The issue is that in modern marketing departments, writing will more likely take the form of field notes, brief reports and summaries, minutes from periodic strategy, planning and implementation sessions, briefings for creative and media teams, and campaign reporting. As such, while it would appear courses are designed so that students learn ‘how to think’ like a senior manager (Rapert, Smith, Velliquette, & Garretson, 2004), there is no mechanism where students can ‘learn to write’ like a senior manager. However, it may be that course delivery which includes some type of real-world experience, in the form of a business/strategy simulation, can perform such a function. As such, the objectives of the current study were:

1. To identify, evaluate and implement a strategy simulation with the flagship Marketing Strategy course
2. To evaluate the effectiveness of such a simulation on student writing and academic outcomes.”

Project reflection

What went well? What was unexpected?

The simulation requires a significant amount of upfront time and commitment from students to they learn how to use the software. Some students relished this and appreciated the complex nature of the offering. However, some students felt the initial time and resource requirements was a burden and did not provide enough value for time cost. Interestingly, many students reported seeing the value in the course delivery only at the completion of the semester.

How did the project contribute to your students’ learning? (How do you know?)

Overall grades and distribution were compared to previous semesters and there was an overall increase of 5-7% in final composite grades year-on-year.

How did the project contribute to your learning?

Our initial analysis of the data collected during the study suggests the competitive nature of the simulation appears to influence student engagement dimensions (cognitive, affective, behavioural) in different ways. Moreover, male and female students react differently to the simulation and their academic outcomes are influenced by their engagement levels.

Do you plan to continue this initiative beyond the grant period?

The initiative is in place for the next academic year, at which point a review will be conducted to determine its long-term viability. Importantly, the program will be assessed to determine the incremental pedagogical benefits being achieved and whether these validate on-going support.

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