TOPSIM – Manufacturing Management at bbw University of Applied Sciences

Because of the corona pandemic the bbw university of applied sciences had to switch to online lectures in this semester. The university of applied sciences already has lots of experience with distance learning. We talked to Johannes Kirch, professor for personnel management and corporate governance about teaching during corona and the use of a TOPSIM – business simulation for master students.

Before the corona pandemic started the BBW university of applied sciences already offered many lectures in an online format. The summer semester at bbw starts in march, and a complete switch to distance learning wasn’t a problem at this time. With different tools like Webex and Moodle the lectures took place online and files could be exchanged. Furthermore tools like Mentimeter or Kahoot were used to enhance the teaching process.

Meanwhile everybody comes along fine with distance learning. Professor Kirch himself wishes to teach in a blended learning form, to use the advantages of both classroom and distance learning.

The Simulation-Based Seminar for Master Students

Professor Kirch played TOPSIM – Manufacturing Management with 16 master students (International Business Management, Green Business or Health Management) in their fourth semester. When defining the groups, Professor Kirch paid special attention to heterogeneity in knowledge and performance within each group.

There have been 10 online lectures. Three have been used for preparation, one for follow-up and in the six other lectures the business simulation periods were discussed and analysed. Before the simulations started, the students had the possibility to choose between two additional tasks: They could choose between a SWOT analysis and a market analysis. In these, the students had to analyse the current bicycle market in Germany, separately from the business simulation. After the analysis the groups have been finally divided.

Manufacturing Management bbw university

The first tasks for the teams was to establish a team building concept where things like organisation, dates, tool for communication etc. where noted. Furthermore the students needed to explain the roles within the group, their responsibilities, the decision making processes and the desired team culture. After that the second additional task followed. Again, the student could choose wether to create a marketing or a strategy concept.

How was the seminar conducted?

During the business simulation the teams organized themselves. Because there was no classroom learning the students had a lot of flexibility on how and when they made their decisions. Every decision needed to be documented and explained in a Wiki.

Professor Kirch always told the students to take some risks. The students should try out possible decisions to increase the learning effect. Unfortunately two teams went bankrupt – but they were able to return to the simulation with a recovery plan and an investment.

After the last period of the simulation everyone participated in a follow-up with a reflection exercise. Each team had to report what was good or whether there were some conflicts. The simulation-based seminar is also graded: the market or swot analysis counted a third, also the second added task and the documentation of decisions were included in the final grade. Furthermore, the success within the simulation counted, consisting of various factors, like sales, market position, equity ratio or share price.

Positive feedback from students!

All in all, distance learning with a TOPSIM – business simulation during the lockdown went quite well. Because of the lockdown the students had more time and could use it efficiently. A positive aspect of the simulation was that they were able to deal with operational figures and to apply the theoretical content in simulated environment. This was also confirmed by the following anonymous feedback from the students.

A tip from Professor Kirch: Preparation is everything! As a teacher you need to find a way to stay close to the students during distance learning. For example, with extra time slots and meetings, some of the potential conflicts could be solved early and easily. He also recommends conducting a market analysis as an additional task to get the students prepared.

We would like to thank Professor Kirch for this insight in his seminar concept and look forward to further simulation-based seminars!

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