Simulated business

Student team earns 'Top 6' finalist recognition in fall Capsim Challenge

By Anna Crabill

BGSU business students are showing they've got the right stuff when it comes to running a multi-million dollar company. A team made up of four accounting majors qualified as a "Top 6" finalist for the 2015 Fall Capsim Challenge, a biannual competition hosted in the fall and spring that allows teams to run a simulated company.

The Challenge is now in its 15th year and is continuing to grow in popularity. More than 2,000 students from over 30 countries participate. According to Capsim, BGSU is one of only three schools in the world and the only one in the United States that has generated three finalist entries over the past three years. 

BGSU's student team included Cassandra Davis, Wade Heffner, Reid Mankowski and Marissa Milligan, who are all members of Beta Alpha Psi, an honorary accounting student organization. The four participants completed their managerial accounting simulation courses with preparation from College of Business Administration faculty Brian Rohrs and James Zeigler.

“Doing the simulation with four of my best friends was awesome,” Mankowski said. “We were able to enjoy our last semester of college and have this experience together.”

Participating in the Challenge is not a requirement for graduation. Students who participate earn CBA Rewards Points, a point program in the College of Business that rewards engaged students with prizes. Additionally, students who compete have something extra to put on their resume. 

“This Challenge has really heightened my skills and made me more confident about the business world,” admitted Milligan. “I’m looking forward to talking about my experience with potential employers in the future.” 

“Students who participate in the Capsim Challenge each semester are taking that extra step to not only enhance their resume but to succeed in the business world,” said Rohrs. “Employers love meeting and talking with students involved in the Challenge.”

The Challenge replicates a real-life business scenario to better assess participants’ skills and abilities. It is also allows students to practice specific skills and build the business intelligence that is behind today’s successful companies.

“The Foundation Business Simulation really shows how each department within a business is connected,” said Davis. “I think it’s an incredible learning experience to see how the decisions in one department can affect another department.”

The Challenge is 100 percent online and students complete the tasks on their own over several weeks. They initially compete against computer teams in the preliminary rounds. If they beat the computer teams, they are then pitted head-to-head against real-life teams in the “Top 6” finalist round. The simulation itself uses cloud-based software that requires students to go through an eight-year business cycle using quantitative data to analyze and build their business.

BGSU accounting students have a built-in advantage. They use the same simulation program in their classes, which has been integrated with great success.

“Using the program in my accounting class is what really prepared me for the Challenge,” said Heffner. “The program makes class a much more engaging environment that has really helped me learn the entire business process.”

The program is an essential accreditation component of the College of Business and represents a significant part of the student learning assessment.

“It truly shows the integrated structure of business to the students,” Rohrs said. “I believe it’s an essential tool for students learning.”

The goal is to increase the level of student involvement with an integrated learning program instead of the traditional textbook style. Student success in accounting classes has increased since it was introduced into the course curriculum in 2009. 

Zeigler proposed adding this business simulation to the curriculum. Once the change was adopted, he wrote a research and evaluation manuscript titled, “Pedagogy Change in Undergraduate Managerial Accounting Principles Courses: A detailed review of simulation use to support business integration learning, student engagement, teamwork and assessment.” The manuscript was recently published in the academic journal Advances in Accounting Education.

“Our BGSU students have done a great job of analyzing the plethora of information required to execute their chosen business strategy,” said Zeigler. “Many have become quite enthralled in the process. We have not seen this level of interest and motivation in any prior textbook-related study.”

Zeigler and Rohrs plan to continue to grow and strengthen the program at BGSU by presenting their simulation findings at the American Accounting Association (AAA) conference in Cleveland in April.