Will Simulation Software Facilitate Case Analysis?
Audrey Griffin Chowan University
Abstract Abstract: Being able to choose and apply the appropriate decision analysis tools for business problem solving is a skill that will serve students well both in upper level courses and in their future careers. This requires analytical skills plus an understanding of the spreadsheet tools available and how they are applied. When teaching these skills, it is important to use a scenario representative of the business world. In an advanced undergraduate course in analytical computing using spreadsheets and databases, semi-structured and unstructured case studies are used for students to gain this experience. To address high course drop rates, and the perception that students did not understand the advanced skills they were expected to apply in the cases, Microsoft Office simulation software was added to the course. The intent was to give students more intense practice with new techniques before applying them to cases. Analysis of student performance and course retention rates appears to indicate that the simulation software has not been effective.
Description: Most students today are exposed to the basics of Microsoft Office at the secondary school level. In many colleges, they are also required to take an introductory course that covers the basic Microsoft Office components (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint). As part of our Information Systems core, we offer an advanced course in analytical computing that introduces students to Microsoft Access, and expands on the Excel skills learned in an earlier course. This course is designed to use computer-based cases to extract the appropriate information from a given scenario and set up the worksheet or database. Students must understand techniques such as what-if-analysis, linear programming, PivotTables, financial tools and functions, and must be able to apply and interpret them. The course under study is perceived by students as being difficult. It was hoped that the addition of the simulation software would increase student confidence in solving the cases.
A short questionnaire is administered to students twice each semester: once at the completion of the module on Microsoft Access, and again at the completion of the module on Microsoft Excel. The purpose of the survey is to help the instructor assess the textbook(s) and teaching methodologies being used. Students view the simulation software favorably. They like being able to submit assignments more than once, and that assignments are immediately graded. For most students, the case studies are the least favorite part of the course. Many students struggled with the cases, even though they did well on the simulator. The strength of the simulator is the “what,” not the “why.” Doing well in a simulated environment does not necessarily mean one can transfer the skills to a new situation.
This research will analyze the effectiveness of using simulation software in a class that is intended to help students learn to think critically to effectively use spreadsheet or database software to solve problems. The survey will enable us to assess whether student perceptions correlate to their performance. This understanding will help us more effectively structure the class for enhanced student learning.
Recommended Citation: Griffin, A., (2015). Will Simulation Software Facilitate Case Analysis?. Proceedings of the EDSIG Conference, (2015) n.3610, Wilmington, NC