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Simulation games promote development of most in-demand career skills

Researchers at the URV and UOC have evaluated the impact of simulation games on the learning processes of students enrolled on bachelor’s and master's degree programs, observing that, in addition to increasing student’s levels of motivation, these simulators also deliver improvements in terms of the learning process and skills acquired.

Over recent decades a new approach has been developed that casts students in a more active and prominent role concerning their learning experience. Several technologies have been created to support new tools for teaching and learning. The question that remains is: Are they competent enough to provide tangible benefits for learners? 

Researchers at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) and Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV) aimed to answer these questions with the use of the ‘serious games’ approach applied within the field of economics. Specifically, their focus has been to evaluate the impact of business simulation games on the learning processes of students enrolled on bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, observing that, in addition to increasing student’s levels of motivation, these simulators also deliver improvements in terms of the learning process and skills acquired.

The study involved the participation of 115 students (62.61% male and 37.39% female), with an average age of 36, who played simulation games as part of their bachelor’s or master’s degree management course curriculum. They were divided into teams of four or five and competed against other teams to simulate a real company scenario. The teams completed a total of eight rounds with each round representing an economic period. At the end of the process, the researchers asked participants to complete a questionnaire to evaluate their learning process and the skills acquired.

The researchers analyzed several skills during the usage of simulators. The indicated skills included both generic and cross-disciplinary that can be applied to any education, such as decision-making, teamwork and communication, and study-specific such as in this case, the interpretation of financial reports.

The results of the study reveal that generic skills exert a positive influence on learning outcomes. The students were better equipped to process and analyses information and possessed improved skills concerning teamwork, innovation and creativity, as well as communication and technology use. These relate to specific cross-disciplinary skills that are highly valued by the labour market, serving to prepare individuals to adapt to any workplace successfully.

The researchers further concluded that these types of tools also help to overcome time and space constraints to learning. As Hernández pointed out, “they are more flexible and promote ubiquitous learning and the generation of learning communities”.

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