Business Simulations in Practice: TOPSIM – General Management at the University Duisburg-Essen

At the Mercator School of Management – the faculty of business administration of the University of Duisburg-Essen – students of the Bachelor of Business Administration and the Master of Business Education are playing TOPSIM – General Management. Due to the current corona situation, the seminar had to be held completely remote for the first time. In this article, we present the new online concept developed by Stefan de Dios Panal as well as its main challenges and benefits.

Arount 168 participants attended the block seminar in April this year. For 4 days Bachelor and Master students played the standard scenario of TOPSIM – General Management.

Infografic: TOPSIM – General Management at the University Duisburg-Essen

How are the seminars conducted at the University Duisburg-Essen?

The majority of the students was divided into groups of 5 to 6 people. Due to the large number of participants, multiple seminar instructors were accompanying the students (5 groups per seminar leader). Within the groups, each student was assigned an area of the simulation for which he or she was specifically responsible. Instead of usual 8 periods in classroom, 6 periods were played online, so that the students and the seminar instructors had more time to get used to the new situation in the best way possible.

Unfortunately, the opening event in cooperation with the Volksbank Rhein-Ruhr was cancelled. The entire communication, as well as the evaluations, took place mostly via Skye and screensharing, e-mails and chats. This way the students could exchange information in their teams as well as with the group of seminar instructors about the decisions. A bonus: the students acquired soft skills in the area of successful communication.

What were the challenges of a remote seminar?

The lack of personal contact in the seminar was a small but manageable obstacle. The students’ questions could be answered through various chat programs. However, the seminar instructors missed the direct feedback of the students, as they could not experience the immediate reactions of the teams to the simulation and the decisions.

The groups organized their processes individually. Stefan de Dios Panal, for example, held the evaluation with his team via Skype. The seminar instructors also virtually discussed the economic forecast with the participants and clarified questions via chat, e-mail and phone. Any potential doubts could thus be eliminated in advance.

The evaluation of the seminar was also different: since no shareholder’ meeting could be held, the grade was mainly based (80%) on the annual report, that had to be prepared by the students. A further 20% were based on key performance indicators such as share price, net income for the period and planning quality.

How does TOPSIM contribute to the success of the seminar?

The standard scenario of TOPSIM – General Management is a perfect fit for the higher semester students of the Bachelor of Business Administration and the Master of Business Education, as it requires exactly the knowledge thought in the basic and advanced modules of both courses.

Stefan de Dios Panal also considers the TOPSIM – Cloud as a big advantage – without it the seminar would not have been possible in this form. While the Cloud was still a challenge at the beginning, both seminar instructors and students could only benefit from it at the end of the seminar. It was possible to work and make decisions at any time and place. Even the economic forecasts were available digitally and not printed on paper as it is usually the case. This is proving that future teaching can be a bit more resource-efficient.

However, they do not want to cancel face-to-face teaching completely. The direct feedback of the students and the personal communication can hopefully be experienced in the coming semester with a ‘normal’ block seminar. The Annual shareholder’ meeting in cooperation with the Volksbank Rhein-Ruhr is also an experience that the students would not want to miss again.

We would like to thank Stefan de Dios Panal for the insights into the new seminar concept and are looking forward to future business simulation courses!

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