A start up is not the shrunken version of a large company. In fact it is not a company at all. It is a temporary organization that is looking to grow and become a company. While searching for a repeatable and scalable business model, lots of people confuse the search with execution. Infact “the habits that made you successful in a larger company may prove destructive at a small one.”
Management institutions in India, chiefly the 2nd and 3rd tier business schools, are plagued with manifold problems – shortage of resources, poor infrastructure and lack of quality research – amalgamated, these threaten the existence of the institutions in the near future.
The National Knowledge Commission, India acknowledges, “Inadequate infrastructure and lack of strong incentives to practice quality research are major causes of decline in interest towards research work. Administrative hurdles add to the already unfavourable environment for research.”
Another concern is shortage of quality faculty. Starting salaries for IIM professors are less than US$14,000 – $17,000 per annum. Imparity of compensation between Indian and international faculty members leads many professors to look for greener pastures abroad.
Possible solutions to these problems
Use of technology: The tablet and mobile technology has swooped in with interactive education tools in the hands of the students. Simulations are a remedy for the lack of well-qualified instructors; they make learning interactive, fun and engaging. Professor Sugata Mitra’s Hole in the Wall experiment has demonstrated that even novices can learn on their own if they are equipped with an interactive ecosystem.
Enriching Content: Content designed to make learning holistic, individualistic, industry relevant and practical. Business simulations can be utilized for enriching content, like Simventure, focused on entrepreneurship and small business. The player impersonates an entrepreneur assembling and selling computers, making decisions about all aspects of the company in order to survive and hopefully succeed in business. Decisions are made on a monthly basis, and the objective is to strike the right balance between winning business, using the time effectively and ensuring enough money is flowing through the company. Each aspect of the simulation is interconnected and each decision will have multiple consequences.
SimVenture provides an elearning platform to educators. It encourages learning amongst educators, enhancing and sharing knowledge through a global forum.
There are different levels in the simulation from easy to difficult, suited to the needs participants with varying knowledge and expertise. It provides management support to educators and students, good visuals and an easy user interface.
Innovative Pedagogy: Information on every topic is abundantly available. This has elevated the faculty’s role from a disseminator of information to nurturing critical thinking. This involves use of a hybrid teaching model – engaging, multimedia-rich content.
For example, SIM-U, an online business simulation, provides a 3D immersive learning experience. iPad and mobile phone apps of the educational tool helps students to learn at their own convenience. Education organizations in India like PAF, EDI Ahemadabad, IIMs amongst others have taken the route of innovation and are using engaging tools like business simulations. The use of education technology tools like simulations in the classroom help these institutes to differentiate themselves and have received positive student feedback.
Business simulations can give a healing touch to B-schools by enhancing the course content, supporting skills of faculty, effective deployment of innovative technology and making learning more fun, engaging and exciting.
The launch of the Windows 8 tablet (Microsoft Surface) has once again brought attention to the portability of knowledge at our finger tips. With the lightness of a book and computing power of a full laptop computer (almost!) iPads, Samsung tablets, Amazon Fire tablets and a plethora of Android based tablets have made the consumption of information effortless. Unlike their smaller cousin – the smartphone – the tablet has generous screen real estate and this makes things easy to read.
Right now is a great time to be a student on a budget. The trend of portable devices alongside websites like Udemy.com are bringing learning to everyone.
However the expansion of online courses raises questions about what traditional education institutes offer for high fees. Top tier education institutes have started giving away their content for free. They are drawing cash-strapped yet potential students worldwide by offering them their courses online in an effort to test how their scholarship and expertise can be broadcast to a global audience.
A recent BBC article tells that Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have formed a $60m alliance to launch edX – a platform to deliver courses online – with the modest ambition of “revolutionizing education around the world”.
With roots in Silicon Valley, Stanford academics have set up another online platform, Coursera, which will provide courses from Stanford and Princeton and other leading US universities.
Anant Agarwal, Director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory quoted a statistic that embodies this game changing plan – “The first online course from MITx earlier this year had more students than the entire number of living students who have graduated from the university.”
The internet provides an unprecedented opportunity for extending the reach of educators. As an example of how courses might be delivered, the MITx prototype taught an electronics course using an interactive virtual laboratory, e-textbooks, online discussions and video lectures. Assessment of the course, which took 10 hours per week, was entirely automated.
If content is free what else are universities offering? Is it the interactions with staff? Or is it the time with other students? Is it something to put on a CV? In my opinion there will always be demand for courses from a top tier university. The brand name on your CV and campus links will give you a leg up.
Teaching online has it’s share of problems.
Watching a lecture online is not the same as being in class. Although given the time pressure lecturers are under, an online lecture does seem to make sense. Additionally, assessing large numbers of online learners is a challenge – and edX is a laboratory to see how this can be addressed.
It is the 2nd and 3rd tier colleges that will really struggle. Students will ask – What is a lifetime of debt going to get me? In each school year between 2000–2001 and 2006–2007, an estimated 60% of bachelor’s degree recipients borrowed to fund their education. Average debt per borrower rose 18%, from $19,300 to $22,700 over this time period. Average debt per bachelor’s degree recipient increased from $10,600 to $12,400. (Source: The College Board, Trends in Student Aid, 2008)
One answer is using simulations. Although these cannot be applied to all subjects, teaching business with simulations can address some of these problems. Simulations can help deliver learning online, they can help grade and deal with large number of students. Simulations also make it possible for the educator to stay relevant by helping them translate their experiences, opinions and critical abilities into guidance for the student. This model is not new and some high schools currently use it alongside the video tutorials of the Khan Academy.
A proven model, we simply need to apply it to college education.
Virtual games and business simulations provide an excellent opportunity for teachers to engage certified translation students in an interactive environment requiring knowledge, decision making and management of information flows. They bring students closer to the actual business environment giving the chance to experience real business competition, to work out strategy, to participate in the process – either as an individual or as part of a team.
Moving away from its iconic brand image of ivory-tower learning, Harvard Business School (HBS) is engaging its Gen-Y students in collaborative ‘hives’. HBS is realigning its focus on real-world, risk-taking and tinkering intent with real-life experiences.
A radical rethink is happening on how entrepreneurship should be taught in classrooms. By integrating with continuing assessment, individual tutoring, customized reteaching of unlearned material and systematic collection of data on each student’s progress, technology is helps extend an elite-caliber education.
“Today’s students, they want to do more of their own thing,” says Germain Boer, Director of Vanderbilt’s Owen Entrepreneurship Center. Business grad students realize that in today’s economic climate there’s no more guarantee of stability, even working for a large company. Unfortunately, their course-work is still geared towards the expectation that they will be working in a risk-free environment for the next 40 years.
In Fast Company’s article ‘Harvard Business School for the Facebook Age’, Kevin Randall says that HBS is far from alone among business schools in revamping its curriculum to focus on ‘experiential learning’. In parallel, Stanford has geared its business program environment to feature risk-taking, collaborative learning and mentoring.
The market reality is we need more action-oriented, better trained students who put ideas into practice versus just analytical thinkers. Entrepreneurship via action-learning teaches students about everyday experiences in the real world.
Teaching entrepreneurship since 1920’s HBS and its counterpart Ivy League Schools are realizing that immersive education of ‘Learning by Doing’ is the way forward to engage students of the Facebook Age. A report from Computers & Education Journal says that students can learn as much from simulations as they can from direct observations.
MIT’s online learning platform with self-paced learning and wiki-based online learning, using online discussion groups and online laboratories is already a game changer. After introducing MITx at the start of 2012, MIT partnered with Harvard for edX, a $60 million in online education which will permit students to canvas through study material at their own pace.
Expert Tom O’Haver of Maryland University has found that simulations used in the classroom are more effective in teaching reasoning than those completed in a computer lab. Using resources like Concept to Classroom’s ‘Course Menu’, even cash-strapped classroom today are using simulations to bring real world experiences that cause the students to wonder ‘what if?’ Simulations can help teachers lead students to answers they may not gain in another way.
Whether you are a Facebook fan or a professional networker on LinkedIn, you know that online social communities are essential to build momentum around a topic. Every LMS (learning management system) comes with plenty of tools to manage these online interactions. The mere presence of these tools is not enough, so how do you build a thriving community?
It is difficult to distinguish between networks and communities. They are definitely not the same and understanding the difference is important if you are trying to build a community.
Networks enable communities. You are already part of a network at work (hierarchical) or in a sports team (flat). Other networks are the one associated to the webinar you are attending or even the one in your classroom. All of us are linked in a web of networks because of a common purpose or objective and there are boundaries within each network.
Communities are different because of the human element. Within communities there is caring, concern and a desire for mutual support. Think about the neighborhood community that you belong to right now. I have lived in big cities all my life and belonged to several communities. Now I live in a small city in California and the community here is very different. There is a school right across from our house and the kids hang out playing basketball on the street. Then there are the power walkers, the dog walkers, the yard sale guys with lots of stuff, the guys with the amazing Halloween display, etc.
The enduring characteristic that binds each community is the human emotion. Members in a community usually express their emotions in their communication unlike within a network where the objective may be to seek an answer to a problem. A member of a community understands that to receive you also need to give. Members look out for each other and this support is a the key element even in successful online communities. Take a look at the online community for the free operating system – Ubuntu.
Here people are encouraged to use free software, improve it, and pass it on and Moodle has a community of over one million registered users who interact to share ideas, code, information and free support.
As a lecturer, the best thing you can do for yourself and your students is build a community around your class. Just consider the advantages
- They help each other
- Your workload gets reduced
- Your students love you
But seriously, building a community is a legacy for your students as well. One of the best ways to develop your student community is to take advantage of the free professional network – LinkedIn. Go here to set up your LinkedIn Group. Although most of your students are on Facebook, getting them to participate with that profile is not the most professional approach in starting a community. Also most students would not be comfortable sharing their Facebook profile with a lecturer. If your students are not on LinkedIn then by getting them on there you are doing them a professional favor that they will thank you for years to come.
Talking with entrepreneurship educators at the various conferences all over the USA has helped us identify some of their concerns.
Some educators felt that simulations are just games and not authentic enough. This is a valid point and by definition simulations need to duplicate a real world situation. If your simulation does not feel real, avoid it for sure. The best way to evaluate this is to test drive your simulation.
The second concern was that students tend to ‘game’ simulation. They find ways to cheat and so it does not test them thoroughly enough. This is a valid observation and the only way this can be avoided is if your simulation has a dynamic logic engine or is algorithmic. This gives each new student a slightly different experience and they cannot follow cheat sheet or copy from each other.
The third concern was that the lecturer did not have enough time to learn new software. Well, there is no real way to get around that. When ever you want to try something new, a learning curve is involved. I know that most simulations are now quite easy to use and just like us, training and orientation packs are offered to help you get started.
The last concern is about money in the academic budget. As a vendor this is a difficult one to tackle. However simulations are now falling in price and are less than the cost of a textbook.
Please take some time to answer our poll on LinkedIn:
- They are not authentic enough
- Students learn to ‘game’ them
- Do not have time to learn new software
- Don’t have budget to buy new resources