Masters students tested with "journey of self-discovery"

28 July 2020

  • Students rave about online Business in Practice assessment
  • Move to online involved more than 60 staff re-designing the module
  • Two-week live online business simulation captured students' imagination
  • Actors were used to move beyond traditional online teaching

“Intensive yet rewarding” was how Masters student Mahimaa Baindur described Warwick Business School’s unique end-of-year final double-weighted module Business in Practice.

Instead of the traditional 6,000-word academic dissertation, WBS gives Masters students on some of its programmes the option of taking Business in Practice (BiP) – a two-week business simulation where teams compete against each other as the executive board of a company before producing two individual essays on the experience.

This year because of the global pandemic, BiP and the simulation was all online, which involved a team of more than 60 staff re-designing and delivering BiP as a seamless experience for 540 students split into 56 teams.

“When I learned BiP was moving online, I was upset about not having the overall ‘in-person’ and ‘non-pandemic’ experience,” said Mahimaa, who studied MSc Business with Marketing. “But the two weeks online made me realise the opposite. It taught me the importance of creating long-term strategies, time management, problem-solving and taking collective decisions. Plus, most importantly, taking a few decisions based on instinct and intuition was one of my biggest takeaways.”

At the core of BiP was a business simulation designed in partnership with specialists IndustryMasters, where students were tasked with managing a global car manufacturer. Six years of market competition is packed into two weeks, with teams logging in each day from 10am to 2pm, including weekends, to devise a strategy and then react to events, sales, incidents and competitors’ moves on a day-to-day basis.

The winning team was decided on financial performance with a group of eight students from China coming out on top: Henan Li, 23, Jiaqi He, 23, Joyce Wang, 28, Shiyun Liu, 23, Shuhan Dong, 23, Shuyan Yang, 23, Wenjia Xu, 24, and Ziyan Zhu, 24.

“It was intense, challenging and fun, just like riding a rollercoaster,” said Joyce (pictured), who was the team’s marketing director. “It was like a journey of self-discovery as it tested different kinds of abilities from you and your team.

“Doing BiP requires high quality group discussion with limited time and it was not easy to conduct all the tasks online as we faced the difficulty of time differences and bad internet connection from time-to-time. However, as we tried to solve all these problems, we developed better time management and the ability to multi-task, as well as appropriate division of work to make the team more flexible and function well under pressure.

“We had valuable input and support from the organisers along the way to help us. BiP was an unforgettable and rewarding experience."

Actors were used for two online role-play meetings with workshops on ‘How to deliver an effective sales pitch online’ and ‘Using feedback for client retention’ helping students to prepare.

The students also had sessions on ‘Executive Decision Making’ and ‘Distributed Leadership’, and were drip-fed material during the four weeks leading up to the live simulation.

It meant a huge amount of organisation with the school’s CareersPlus team playing a leading role alongside module leader John Baptista, Associate Professor of Information Systems.

Logging in: The business simulation online

“A key challenge was to integrate and provide seamless access to all the elements to all the students in different time zones, while also giving them a platform to support co-ordination, collaboration and communication within the teams,” said Dr Baptista.

“This was possible through our advanced WBS learning platform, my.wbs, and our superb Teaching and Learning team configuring student's calendars day-by-day with the correct links for each session. To make all this work with so many students without a single glitch is actually nothing short of magic.

“We moved away from traditional lecture formats and beyond online learning models. Instead, we created daily live sessions co-hosted with Paul Levy, a professional theatre producer, to bind content with the simulation within an overall pre-planned narrative.

“To open each day we broadcast ‘Today in BiP’ to set the tone and at the end of the day we hosted ‘BiP Insights’ to go through that day’s key learnings. Plus, we held ‘BiP Reflections’ midway during the two weeks to capture the students’ feedback.

“Running parallel with these broadcasts was the daily ‘BiP Lounge’ which was a casual drop-in service that replicated the relaxing atmosphere of the campus cafe.

“These live sessions provided the glue to all the other learning elements, and for this we had to think outside the box and bring in Paul's experience as a theatre producer to create dynamics beyond academic content.” 

  

On the last day a virtual awards ceremony was held online for the 12 category winners, which included a DJ set plus a highlights reel of the teams’ efforts over the two weeks.

Joyce added: “It was a great experience. We worked closely as a team, every member was encouraged to bring their own information and ideas. For every big decision we made sure that all members understood why we were doing it before moving on to the next decision.

“We focused on our strategy without trying to be everywhere for the short-term benefit – as they say ‘strategy is about choosing what not to do’.

“And because we had a clear strategy it was easier to organise our team’s wisdom and strength towards one direction to make a bigger difference. We loved doing BiP and to win is the icing on the cake.”

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