If there’s one thing Lesly McBride has learned in her 26 years of teaching, it’s that as the week rolls on, her students invariably need a change of pace. "My kids can only take so much of sitting all day, do ing nothing but taking notes and doing book work. They need something that really grabs their attention." And for her, that something is Knowledge Matters web-based business simulations.
McBride teaches marketing, advanced marketing, fashion marketing, and advanced fashion marketing at Colonial Heights High School in Colonial Heights, VA. After spending the first 12 years of her career as an art teacher, she has now spent 14 years teaching marketing to 10th, 11th, and 12th graders. In an average year, she will help more than 120 students get a taste of life in the real world of business.
One of McBride’s most popular Knowledge Matters simulations (sims) is Virtual Business - Hotel. "The hospitality industry is huge right now," she says. "A lot of my students know they want to major in marketing. Now they’re starting to look at subtopics of marketing, whether it’s hospitality, finance, or management. The Hotel sim does a great job of strengthening their understanding of that particular industry. I can’t say enough about it."
Over the course of her career at Colonial Heights, McBride has used a number of Knowledge Matters simulations to reinforce what the textbook covers. But since her textbook doesn’t devote much space to the hotel industry, McBride relies solely on the sim to give her students a good grounding of the business of running a hotel.
What McBride likes about Virtual Business - Hotel is how granular and interactive it is. The sim covers the front desk, house-keeping, social media feedback, pricing and revenue management, events, restaurant and culinary, keeping an eye on the competition and - last but not least - how to become a Hotel Mogul. The Hotel sim presents students with all of these moving pieces that have to click together to make the hotel work.
Using the Hotel sim’s built-in "Action Menu," students can direct the simulation to implement various steps. You don’t have to stop the sim. Students will see right away whether taking an action makes their profits go up or down. You can’t get this kind of real-world education from a textbook."
Once the class has a good understanding of what the Hotel sim will cover, McBride sends the kids to their computer terminals to work their way independently through the sim. The next day, she brings everyone together again to answer questions and discuss their progress, then back they go to their screens.
When talking about the success of a teaching tool, there can be a tendency to talk about how it worked for the brightest kids in class. McBride says that Virtual Business - Hotel gives her leading students the freedom to go as far as they can with the simulations. But it also helps less-confident students succeed.
Students who are introverted and shy (who don’t normally volunteer for classroom discussions) have a hard time participating in class. But sit them down in front of a sim, she says, and you can watch them blossom.
Engaging Coursework: Knowledge Matters simulations return young students to their comfort zone - that of direct interaction and immediate feedback. At the same time, the carefully constructed sims give students a solid foundation in the real world of business. "It is more than a video game; it uses technology to show coursework through a different lens."
Mimics a Co-Op Experience: McBride has many students who participate in actual co-op programs, and finds that the simulations help them begin to think like a business owner or manager. For students unable to do a co-op program, the sims give them a glimpse of what it takes to actually run a business and juggle all of the many aspects of management. "The simulation gives students a chance to get their feet wet - to see if hotel management is something they may want to do."
Industry-Supported: McBride appreciates that the hotel industry is helping schools bring the simulations into the classroom. A grant from the J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation helped to underwrite the development of the simulation. Additionally, Marriott Corporation gave Knowledge Matters direct access to experts in all phases of hotel management. This connection assures that the simulation mirrors real world decisions and that the skills students are developing will be relevant them in the workplace.
Makes Grading Easier and Faster: The Knowledge Matters platform enables teachers to monitor student grades and progress. Students take all quizzes and sims online, and their scores are automatically entered into an online Learning Management System. For McBride, performance inside the sim makes up only a portion of her final grade. But having each student’s scores at her fingertips makes her job that much easier.