Student Performance and Perceptions in a Web-Based Competitive Computer Simulation

Article excerpt

Background

The University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) is a Historically Black University and member of the University System of Maryland, which primarily serves first generation, academically under-prepared, low income, and minority learners (Buzzetto-More & Ukoha, 2009). The student population is approximately 4200, reporting a student body that is approximately 78% African-American, 9.6% white, 1.4% Hispanic, and 11% international, primarily coming from the continent of Africa or from the Caribbean region.

The gender distribution of the University is 64% female and 36% male. The average SAT score of the 2007 freshmen class was 817, the current freshmen to sophomore retention rate is 64%, and the graduation rate is 41%. The average GPA of the fall 2007 freshmen class was a 2.75 and the acceptance rate for applying students is 79%.

As a result of the liberal acceptance policy of the institution, UMES attracts a high proportion of first generation and/or under-prepared students. The Department of Business Management and Accounting (DBMA) is one of the largest departments on campus. The Department has approximately 420 majors, offering programs that include Business Administration, Accounting, Business Education, Finance, and Marketing. The freshmen admission standards for students seeking to enter the Department are higher than those required by the larger university, with a requisite combined math and verbal SAT score of 850 and a GPA of 2.8. Students who are not admitted as freshmen are allowed to transfer into the Department following the completion of 30 academic credits and with a GPA of a 2.8 or better having earned no grades below a C.

Willie, Reddick, and Brown (2005) explained that throughout their history Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have focused on opening doors closed to students because of their scores on standardized tests by providing remedial, mentoring, and supportive services to students whose academic backgrounds reflect low achievement, and that, today, the mission of contemporary HBCUs remains the same. They explained that the goal of opening new opportunities while rectifying deficits of the past and preparing students for professional and academic success remains at the fore. Concurrent with the mission of HBCUs to open doors for students by creating opportunities for students to succeed is the implementation of student centered learning initiatives such as electronic portfolios and simulations (Buzzetto-More, 2008).

In order to help students gain a deeper understanding of key business concepts, encourage critical thinking and decision making, foster collaboration and critical discourse, and encourage the application of concepts into real world business practices, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore decided in 2004 to introduce a series of competitive web-based simulations at key junctures throughout the curriculum but focused primarily in the course Strategic Management. The simulation selected was the Capstone[R] Business Simulation. The Capstone[R] simulation covers such topics as Strategy & Tactics, Policy, Production, Accounting, Marketing, Finance, Quality control, Human resources, Leadership, and Teamwork. Students compete in teams against other teams and the system supports individual and group decision making, essay assignment responses, team and class bulletin board messages and email, solo rehearsal exercises, a peer evaluation system with results reporting across a range of behaviors and abilities, decision results, automated round analysis, student tracking, national and institutional group rankings, and quiz results. It also works in conjunction with a comprehensive web based examination that is aligned with simulation activities and that has been recognized by the American Association of Colleges and Schools of Business International. The program is hosted online by the Capsim Company and students pay for a user license. …