But, even in a traditional classroom, it is not always easy to get students' attention. This is especially true for courses in technical fields. As Finance professors teaching an undergraduate program in Hospitality Management, we are regularly faced with this situation. As a way to overcome the issue, we have progressively implemented simulation games in our classes over the past few years. So far, our experience suggests that the use of Game-Based Learning (GBL) techniques can be an effective way of reducing student anxiety towards technical and/or abstract concepts, and increase their class involvement which is consistent with existing evidence (Subhash & Cudney, 2018). When confronted with the additional challenge of distance-learning, we therefore implemented GBL methods to understand if it would remain effective in this new setting. We had two questions in mind:
We use several, group-based simulation games in our Finance courses. Organizing simulation games in groups comes with several advantages: it makes the game easier to manage and, more importantly, increases the number of constructive exchanges among students. It may also help weaker students develop competences through the interaction with their classmates.
Of course, adjustments are required to make games work in a distance-learning environment. In particular, interactions with 60 students via an online chat are more complex than in a classroom setting. Likewise, it is impossible to let students interact with each other through the learning platform - this would lead to chaos. The most critical step is thus to find and deploy a strategy to make students interact with each other in a dynamic, yet manageable, way.
Apart from these adjustments, it is important to keep a few generic rules in mind and to ensure that they are applied. The simulation game has to be:
These rules aim at making sure that the simulation game contributes to both the effective acquisition of the targeted competences and their transfer to the workplace.
In the context of this article, we use the example of a "bond simulation game" (see the box for more details) that we implemented in two online Corporate Finance classes. We then ran a survey to ask students about their learning experience in relation to the game. We were particularly interested in their feedback regarding the ability of the game to reduce the gap between distance and face-to-face learning by making the class livelier and more interactive.
In the first class, even though 48 students were present during the session and the game, only 18 answered the survey. This may indicate that some students were inactive, but we believe that this is mostly due to the context: in a distance-learning setting, it is difficult to ensure that all students participate in this type of survey. In the second class, we therefore invested more effort motivating the survey and explaining that its goal was to get feedback to improve the course for the next sessions. 30 students (out of 47 present) answered. This higher rate of response outlines that in a distance-learning setting, teachers need to clearly motivate all activities in order to ensure that students remain concentrated and involved.
It thus appears that GBL helps reduce the gap in class dynamics and interaction between distance-learning and regular face-to-face learning.
Until the final evaluation, it will be difficult to give a definitive and unbiased answer to this question. But, here also, the feedback from the students is encouraging. The objective of the game was to assess if students had acquired the first two learning outcomes, and to introduce the third and last learning outcome of the corresponding chapter:
It appears that GBL helps students to assimilate learning outcomes and is incidentally corroborated by several highly relevant questions and comments that students made after the game.
We also asked two questions related to the course in general. The objective was to get a sense of whether the game may have a more general impact than discussed above.
One last note. When using a game in class, especially in a distance-learning context, it is essential to ensure that the instructions and the progression in the game are clear to all students. One question in the survey covered this issue. 83% of the students concurred that "the instructions and the progression in the game were clear". This suggests that there was no important bias in the game and that the results from the survey can be considered relevant.
While we remain cautious at this stage and cannot ensure that the game will effectively increase the number of students who acquire the learning outcomes, it seems evident that the game has had, at the very least, a positive impact on (i) class dynamics & interaction, as well as on (ii) students' engagement & motivation for the course.
Subhash, S., & Cudney, E. A. (2018). Gamified learning in higher education: A systematic review of the literature. Computers in Human Behavior, 87, 192-206.
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Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL)
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Phone: 41 21 785 1111
Dr Jean-Philippe Weisskopf
Dr Jean-Philippe Weisskopf is an Assistant Professor of Finance at the Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL) and Visiting Professor at the University of Fribourg (CH). He holds a PhD from the University of Fribourg (CH) and has had working experience in Private Banking in Switzerland. His research interests focus on empirical corporate finance, family owned businesses, wine economics and asset-light strategies of hospitality companies. Jean-Philippe is a founding member of the Alliance for Research on Wine & Hospitality Management and Bordeaux Wine Economics. He has published in top-ranked peer-reviewed finance journals such as the Journal of Banking & Finance or Journal of Corporate Finance. He is also the author of a large number of publications on wine economics in the Journal of Wine Economics, Economic Modelling or Emerging Markets Review. He has contributed to book chapters and conference proceedings and was named researcher of the year 2016 at EHL.
Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne
Phone: +41 21 785 1354