TSM & Booking.com: Learning by doing with nextOne

The search for online alternatives to (follow-up) training, and other types of education has gathered momentum in the last couple of years. Serious games lend themselves well to this purpose, since they are inherently digital. But how does a serious game actually work? We asked Jeroen Sempel, lecturer in Management Accounting and Financial Analysis at the University of Twente, who has applied the concept of serious gaming in his own education practice for over two decades and has used Simenco game nextOne in a number of business training programs.

Theory made Tangible
Twenty years ago, Sempel realized that genuine motivation to learn didn’t strike most of his students until they made a mistake and were challenged, or felt a little bit lost. To bring out their best, he decided to apply a teaching method which was very innovative back then: the business game.

“We ran a very expansive business game for the students of Industrial Engineering. This was before the internet. Teams of students made business decisions and handed them in on a floppy disk. We let the computer system run the data and it would present the figures for the next quarter. We handed those figures out to the teams and a new cycle of decision making would begin.”

Modern business games (or serious games) may not use floppy disks anymore, their foundation hasn’t changed. Participants are presented with a practical issue and experience the consequences of their decisions based on the issue. The theory that would be merely abstract in a traditional classroom is made tangible, boosting students’ motivation to learn.

Other powerful features of serious games, according to Sempel, are the short feedback loops and the element of competition.

Target Group
Besides lecturing at the University of Twente, Sempel provides custom programs to businesses, in which he gladly uses serious games. The choice for a particular serious game strongly depends on the target audience and the program’s objectives.

“If the target group consists of young potentials who often enjoy being challenged and who are playful, and if the objective is to develop integral (multidisciplinary) business knowledge, with a focus on how everything interrelates, then a business game is a very suitable learning method.

But if the target group are general directors, my preferred method wouldn’t be a business game.”

Sempel has used nextOne in a number of custom programs. This game is about smartphone organizations, a subject that every participant can relate to. One element that Sempel appreciates about the game in particular, is the fact that the teams start the game at a moment in time, in which their organization isn’t doing well. Another valuable asset he mentions, is the sharp alignment. When a team makes a good decision, they quickly move ahead of the other teams. A bad decision, on the other hand, quickly results in dropping figures.

Distance Learning
Location independent education is more important than ever. The threshold to doing things online has lowered. Creators of business games are presented with a far-reaching opportunity that could alter the landscape of education forever. Sempel already notices this in his own, now online classes. Students have a shorter attention span when they receive digital education, which means that the standards for vividness and interactivity of educational activities have risen.

“Teachers have to work especially hard to prepare a class. And a business game that is finished, is very appealing,” Sempel concludes.