Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth – and we sure got punched hard this semester

My favorite quote that I tell my students every semester is from Mike Tyson – “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Usually it means that not everything goes to plan and it highlights the need for critical thinking and flexibility when that happens, and not that the world, and subsequently my pedagogical approach, has changed seemingly overnight. However, I’d have been a major hypocrite if I wasn’t able to put my own (mixed with Tyson’s) advice into practice and adapt to the pandemic, so that’s what we had to do this semester.
Although I had lofty plans of having MBA students create a Facebook Fan Page where they had to get a certain number of fans by the end of the semester and incorporating all sorts of cool metrics and analyses, that had to be put on hold due to the coronavirus. That doesn’t mean that I was unable to incorporate new digital pedagogical techniques into my class, and I was even able to obtain a bit of data from it!
My students (both undergrad and MBA) are required to complete a simulation where they create a brand new 3d printed carbon fiber bicycle and compete against each other to see who forms the best company (as evaluated in on 5 criteria). Due to a desire to be as adaptable and equitable as possible, I decided to switch it up where every student plays individually against the computers. Although this change exponentially increased my work (I went from 13 teams to 73!), I found an opportunity to collect data to determine factors that influence objective performance on the game as well as subjective perceptions of learning. The goal is to be able to use those data to improve how I guide students through the simulation. Also, more for fun than anything, I actually played the simulation (individually, against the computer like the students), which put me in a much better position to guide them throughout all the decisions they had to make.
I’ve only been able to briefly analyze the data, but the results are interesting so far! First, it seems that students find tremendous value in the simulation across the board. Interestingly, this doesn’t seem to be moderated by objective performance, so those who do better don’t necessarily like the simulation more. Second, it seems that the teams that spend the most time making the required decisions are the ones that end up performing the best. This will be particularly helpful, as it is further evidence that the decisions students make determine their objective performance. There are a few more analyzes I need to run (when I finally get some time), but I’m hopeful to get a lot more insights. I’ll update the blog as I analyze those data!
One of the most beneficial aspects of being familiar with innovative digital pedagogical techniques is that it gives you the necessary tools to be flexible and adapt to the situation after you get punched in the face. These tools allow us to pivot and move so we’ll be able to counterpunch the coronavirus (or whatever it is that punches us in the mouth!).

(3) Comments

  1. Reid

    Technological adaptability is a critical skill. You modeled that attribute in your course adjustments. The finding regarding the time investment is valuable. As you continue your analysis it would be interesting to know how the shift in the design of the simulation impacted the performance of your students.

    I am very interested in learning more about how the design of your simulation and the impact on student learning. In particular, what are the underlying design principles that could be generalized to other disciplines.

    1. Miles

      My plan is to continue to collect these data, since I do the simulation every semester with my intro students and my MBA students when I teach that class, so I’m really interested in seeing how the results will differ across semesters and situations. So far, it seems that students really love it, to the extent that there might be a ceiling effect with the subective perceptions of learning (i.e., they all thought they learned regardless of time spent, competition, objective performance, etc.), so I’m also interested to see what the additional analyses tell us about how to best implement these simulations moving forward.

  2. Thomas Bolin (Tom)

    This is an amazing assignment. I’ve been exploring virtual world creation in my courses on ancient Near Eastern religions (including the Bible) to allow my students to create their own pantheons and mythologies, but what you’re doing is so nuanced and sophisticated. I can only imagine how rewarding this was for your students.

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