Virtual Enterprise (VE) is active-learning pedagogy where groups of students assume the roles of members of an enterprise and operate that business in teams. The business processes employed in the classroom are real and the products and services are drawn from current industry direction. Yet, the business is indeed "virtual" with products only being sold through the simulated economy comprised of the international network of students and VE businesses. The backbone of this economy is our proprietary technology platform, the VE MarketMaker, with banking, credit, e-commerce, and stock functionality. Nearly all human activity has an economic context and it is this system that allows the student work done in the classroom to register. The global network also facilitates collaborative events for showcasing product development, applying for funding, and making sales. It puts acquired interdisciplinary knowledge and skills into practical use, building the mental connection between what they’ve learned and how the "real world" makes use of it. Students are obliged to actively participate in their own learning through projects, group work, and discussion.
VE can exist as a free-standing course or be embedded as a portion of a content course of any discipline - not only courses for business majors. It has been applied to graduate and undergraduate education in business as well as non-business disciplines.
What skills are taught?
VE has been shown valuable to the development of students in several ways:
How is it different from other simulations?
- Business and entrepreneurial skills: With the recession, much public focus and many government programs have centered on the belief that entrepreneurs can innovate America’s way back to prosperity. VE provides the "entrepreneur's internship" experience with exposure to business processes and skills, as related to the student's discipline. In the program, the student determines the value of both their commitment to their product/service concept and an objectified value of that concept as developed in the network. VE builds students' self-efficacy with respect to entrepreneurship being a legitimate career pathway, potentially fostering innovation in all academic disciplines. And, with many government-funded programs (such as SBIR and Small Business Loans), this pathway is indeed within many graduates' reach.
- Intrapreneurship: Even if graduates do not end up starting their own business, managing a new project or venture within an existing company requires many of the same entrepreneurial skills. Employers demand these skills, and in many fields such as Information Technology, entrepreneurial- and soft-skills are often what determine who gets hired.
- Soft-skills: These interpersonal skills (such as teamwork and effective communication with colleagues in different roles and positions), critical and analytic thinking skills, and problem solving skills were identified by the League for Innovation as crucial 21st Century Learning Outcomes. These skills are needed for students in every field and VE imparts these skills with a level of structured group work and student-to-student interaction not present in most simulations.
- Breadth of Perspective: As Doug Busch, a former executive at Intel, notes, colleges do an excellent job of providing a depth of technical literacy. But, often we fail to indicate where graduates fit in to the larger structure of an enterprise. Virtual Enterprise does this, and gives students a perspective on the types of jobs that exist in their discipline and the sorts of problems they will solve. Essentially, VE improves students' perception of the discipline in which it's ifused. This is important to student retention and pursuit of higher education.
Often the name "Virtual" Enterprise conjures up an incorrect image of this pedagogy. In fact it shares little with traditional educational "simulation" products. Many of those simulations are geared only toward business majors. Virtual Enterprise is customized towards specific disciplines, with deliverables that incorporate disciplinary skills, and business processes from industries that are in the discipline's niche (such as the software development life-cycle in IT businesses).
Unlike simulations geared to one discipline at a single level, the VE pedagogy has been customized to varying levels of education from high school through associate and baccalaureate level degree programs, and also the graduate level.
The elements of a Virtual Enterprise.
(FACE TO FACE)
|Business development activities that are custom-aligned with the content discipline, group work, collaborative document and report preparation, presentations.
|MarketMaker (ivefinancial.com) simulated economy with bank, credit card, e-commerce market, and stock market. Blogs and wikis for corporate management. Distance communication platform for making presentations to other Virtual Enterprise sites.
|Network and Events|
|4,000 student enterprises around the world. Coordinated distance and face-to-face sales conferences and tradeshows facilitate student presentation and intelligent defense of product design, use of professional skills, peer review and simulated sales.|