Design and development of a flexible business simulation game
Availability of managers competent in managing organisations operating in a competitive and global market is among the key factors affecting the likelihood of the success of the transition economies. This in turn will depend on the ability of the higher education institutions to align their curriculum with the needs of industry and commerce. Changes in the curriculum need to be underpinned with the appropriate learning material. This research project, in a small way, fulfils this important need. The primary aim of the work presented in this dissertation is to develop an interactive learning tool that enables the management student to acquire relevant managerial competencies, and knowledge regarding functions and processes of a firm operating in a competitive economy. Development of a business game demands a framework that specifies its requirements. This framework was established by examining the relevant literature, existing business games, and the specific needs of the transition economies. These requirements were used to identify the detailed objectives of the research. The research methodology consisted of: (a) analysis of relevant published papers and existing business games; (b) modelling of business processes; (c) testing the internal validity of the business game using multivariate statistical tools; and (d) testing the external validity of the business game using structured observations, report feedback, and survey of participants. In line with the objectives of this research, a multifunctional Business Simulation Game (BSG) was developed. The game enables the student to acquire skills and knowledge of functional areas, as well as, to develop an understanding of the relationship of those functional areas in the organisation. The resultant BSG has a number of unique features. First, it can operate in two languages, English and Hungarian. Moreover, the program can be easily modified to accommodate other languages. This is important because a majority of students in transition countries can not speak English. Second, based 'on the "white box theory", the students have access to detailed analysis of each functional area. Third, BSG allows the students to choose between practice (playing against the computer) and competitive (playing against other students) mode. Fourth, the development of the functional areas used in the BSG contains new concepts and methods. A new dynamic aggregate market model was developed and validated by using real life data. A new approach for modelling short run production and cost function allows for a deeper understanding of economic theory. The accounting function of BSG includes a completely new methodology for the harmonisation of different accounting systems, and a new approach to computerised accounting. BSG was validated internally and externally. The internal validation included face validation; sensitivity tests; consideration of the existence of dominant factors; and examination of the stability of decision variable – performance criterion relationships. These were accomplished using the response surface methodology and multivariate regression analysis. The external validation was concerned with the effectiveness of BSG as a learning tool. The data was collected by structured observation, report feedback, and survey data from three different cohorts of graduate and postgraduate students. This data was analysed using factor analysis; discriminant analysis; cross tabulation; and independent sample t-test. The analysis of the qualitative and quantitative data suggests that students found BSG to be an effective learning tool. The conduct of this study has found room for further research and improvement to BSG. These include methodological design; content; and the platform of the program. Methodologically, incorporating a linear programming method can improve the final evaluation of the market influential factors of companies, and help to optimise the product distribution. A comprehensive model with short-run revenue and profit functions allows for building up a more comprehensive model. Sustainable development will be included in the future that will be developed on Windows platform. The output of this research project is an interactive learning vehicle that can help the Hungarian business students at all levels to acquire the managerial competencies required to manage in a competitive economy. BSG can also be used by students in other transition economies, as well as students in first and third world countries.