Foto by Flickr.com — Faisal Akram

Using simulations to give students practical experience in a classroom environment

by Nick Blake

I teach a number of Bachelor and Masters level courses at Business School Lausanne (BSL). I use online simulations in a number of my classes to help students gain practical experience of deploying skills they’ll require in a work situation, within the framework of the relevant marketing, management and strategy theories.

Earlier this year BSL’s MSc Global Marketing students had the opportunity to trial a new online simulation airinfinity.org that realistically simulates the strategies required to run a passenger airline in the current challenging economic and market conditions that the industry is experiencing.

Students in BSL’s MSc Global Marketing programme played the airinfinity simulation during their Marketing Strategy class with Bram Graveland, the founder of airinfinity assisting us as Guest Facilitator. The students divided themselves into teams, each one creating an airline and competing with one another and other competitors in the simulated airline market.

Each of BSL’s airline marketing strategy teams determined their own fleet composition, route network, schedule and service proposition taking account the various potential target market segments available within the origin/destination pairs they decided to serve.

Our student airline management teams experienced at first hand the challenges that all airlines face — the need to maintain high levels of service, be competitive and achieve acceptable levels of profitability in difficult market conditions.

We spent a full day running the airlines while referring back to the relevant course concepts where appropriate. On each succeeding market cycle our student airline marketing management teams achieved consistently improving results in all parts of their businesses, in some cases surpassing the performance of experienced airline management teams.

While simulations are not available for every business school course, they offer an excellent way to support the teaching of business, marketing and strategic concepts. In addition the best of the simulations on the market expose students to real business situations while they are still in the safe school environment.

My thanks goes to Bram Graveland for allowing BSL to use the airinfinity.org simulation in the Marketing Strategy course, and for assisting us in facilitating the simulation session.