Gamification is a buzz word in education, meaning encouraging people to learn through ‘playing’. Recently, the Association of Project Management published this report about gamification and its ability to increase motivation and teamwork. For the past two years, we have used a business simulation called Enginuity as part of the coursework for our second year Project Management for Civil Engineers unit. In this simulation, the students take on the roles of the new management team for a simulated business in the construction industry. The teams make decisions relating to finance, overheads, marketing, bidding for new work and resource allocation on projects. Decisions are submitted weekly, each week representing a trading period for the simulated company. Each week they get a set of KPIs reflecting their company performance based on their decisions.
Since adopting the business simulation, I have seen a step change in the students motivation and engagement with the course. Previously, students kept their distance from staff and did not show much enthusiasm for the subject. A frequent question was ‘why do we have to study management?’ The belief behind the question was ‘management is not relevant for engineers’.
Making decisions in the business simulation, clearly shows the students how different areas of the business are related. Performance on projects drives the Key performance indicators of the company. These are published weekly in a league table of competing teams. Instead of trying to convince students of the relevance of financial concepts, I found the students coming to me to ask for explanations. Providing the information on demand led to a different and improved course dynamic. There is quite a steep learning curve associated with the simulation. once the students are ‘up and running’ they find it quite easy to use and have a sense of pride in their achievement. there is a friendly rivalry amongst the teams, aided by prizes for the team at the top of the league table in each trading period.
As a by product of the simulation, students learn more about communication and working in teams. As new social media tools emerge, students use them to support their working. Facebook groups remain a popular choice, in 2014 these have been supplemented by instant messaging groups. Simulations can be run with very large classes of students, in 2011 we ran a simulation with a year group of 320 students, the results are reported here.
I was pleased to read this blog post by one of the students on the Project Management course, Hamna Mohammed. In her post, Hamna refers to the simulation as ‘Awesome’ coursework. Students are working really hard, learning and hopefully having some fun. Some are choosing to carry on and form a team to compete against graduates from industry. Really inspiring commitment and determination. Awesome, definitely, Awesome.