Implementing Business Simulations 101: Mastery Learning

Customizable Simulation-based Learning
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One of the most important pedagogical elements of business simulations and simulation-based learning is the concept of Mastery Learning – but what exactly does that mean, and why is it an important consideration when implementing business simulations in your classroom?

Closely related to somewhat better-known concepts like “competency-based” and “outcome-based” learning – Mastery Learning is rooted in a philosophy that shifts focus from teaching input, such as the number of taught hours, to student output, or the ability to demonstrate capability in a specific area.

Paralleled by a shift in the teaching ideal from ‘Sage on the Stage’ to ‘Guide on the Side’, these approaches are popular because on the one hand, they have been proven to improve learner skill acquisition (something that both paying students and prospective employers demand) and on the other, advances in educational technology have made them easier to implement.

However, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to outcome-based methods. For high volume or more prosaic educational challenges, mastery learning might involve students working through online, multiple choice questions that act as ‘gates’ towards the next part of the syllabus, with the gates only opening when the student obtains a required threshold, thus demonstrating competence.

A more thorough (but more expensive to implement) form of competency-based learning is the ‘Learning By Doing’ approach. This approach is typically more suited to complex educational challenges, including student projects and the teaching of soft skills. It is more time intensive for educators, because it demands ‘hands-on’ as opposed to computer-driven assessment.

Business simulation games are the perfect embodiment of ‘learning by doing’ and competency-based learning, and are a powerful approach to management education.

Linear vs Dynamic Simulations

Simulations can be categorised into two types – linear and dynamic. The table below outlines some of the key differences between these two types of game.

Each type of simulation is best suited to different contexts.

As with the more prosaic forms of competency-based learning, linear business simulations are more suited to high volume training and skill assessment requirements, such as:

  • Graduate recruitment pre-selection
  • Certification renewal for low value / low risk skills
  • Competency based assessment for broad Professional or Academic business management curricula.

On the other hand, dynamic business simulations  are more suited to more intensive training and skill assessment requirements, such as those found on:

  • Undergraduate and Graduate Management program modules, such as:
    • Principles of management
    • Strategic management
    • Marketing management
    • Financial management
    • Operations management
    • Organizational Behavior
  • Corporate Management Training workshops
  • Mid and upper level management talent identification and assessment

The power of business simulation games as an outcome-based teaching tool can be enhanced by adding supplementary exercises and tests to drill and assess specific competencies. Particularly on academic programs, these exercises, tests and quizzes should relate to the course topic that the simulation is being used to teach, helping the students connect theory to practice and drive learning outcomes.

For example, a business simulation being used in the context of an operations management course could / should be supplemented with topic focused essays, learner directed reflective papers, peer reviews, team presentations as well as support material comprehension tests and quizzes.


Today, mastery learning methods are the gold standard approach to teaching, and in the field of management education, Business simulations are their perfect embodiment. A well planned and executed implementation of a business simulation game brings management theory to life, leaving both learners and teachers more engaged and satisfied with the educational process.

To learn more about how we can help with program and course level simulation integrations, please contact us