Overcoming Barriers to the Adoption of Marketing Simulations in Higher Education

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


This research explores why marketing academics in UK universities choose to adopt, or not to adopt, marketing simulation games as learning, teaching, and assessment strategies.

It builds upon Lynn Vos and Ross Brennan’s previous research into student and staff perspectives of marketing simulation games, placing greater emphasis on the non-pedagogical factors influencing tutor choices – in particular, factors relating to institutional culture and management, and to the rapidly evolving landscape of UK Higher Education and its students in the ‘turbulent twenties’.

Qualitative data were gathered from 32 academics, administrators and senior managers at 22 UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) spread across Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, Northern England, the English Midlands, and the South and Southwest of England. The institutions were a broad mixture of post-1992, Russell Group, ‘red brick’ and ‘plate glass’ universities.

Data collection was via Zoom/Teams and – outside lockdown periods – through face-to-face semi-structured interviews and informal focus groups, and subjected to content analysis. The major themes (appertaining to phenomena which prevent or hinder simulation game adoption) which emerged in earlier interviews were explored in more depth in later ones. Each subsection of the Findings section relates to one of these themes.

The main emerging themes were as follows:

1. Module leader under confidence in themselves:
Many module leaders are underconfident in their own abilities to familiarise themselves properly with business simulation games and felt that adopting such a learning and teaching strategy might leave them ‘exposed’ to criticism, jeopardise their credibility, and risk attracting negative student feedback which could be perceived as ‘career-limiting’. This phenomenon was prevalent amongst older academics with few or no recent research publications.

2. Module leader under confidence in their colleagues:
Many module leaders expressed under confidence in module colleagues’ abilities to use simulations to a satisfactory standard for teaching and learning, and some feared that imposing such a strategy on an unenthusiastic teaching team might attract resentment and resistance.

3. Module leader under confidence in their students:
A significant minority of module leaders were underconfident in their students’ willingness and/or ability to embrace simulation games, primarily for the purposes of assessment, but also for learning and teaching. Some of these fears were specific to simulation game usage, whilst others appertained more broadly to the use of student teams.

4. Lack of time resources:
The pressure of competing needs, and the lack of additional workloaded time for the management of simulation games by module leaders.

5. Lack of financial resources or institutional support:
A number of participants across all job types, but particularly module leaders and programme leaders, felt unable to adopt simulation game software due to a lack of available budget or – more often – the administrative burden involved in requesting and securing internal funding for this purpose.

6. Lack of training resources:
Most participants expressed concern about the sufficiency of staff training in the use of simulation games, and the potentially negative outcomes which this might produce in learning outcomes, staff/course credibility, and student satisfaction. Whilst some experienced module leaders were comfortable leading staff training themselves (i.e. – for the continued use of software rather than its initial adoption), others needed the support of representatives from their software providers, which some found expensive, untimely, or unforthcoming.

7. Uncertainty over the pedagogical value of simulation games:
A significant number of staff at all levels questioned the pedagogical benefits of simulations, whilst acknowledging their broad popularity amongst students as a source of fun. This reflects comments made within some of the extent literature, which warns against uncritical appraisals of simulations by optimistic staff eager for pedagogical gains.

8. Competing pedagogical commitments:
A number of module and programme leaders described competing pedagogical commitments within courses, such as industrial placements and pro bono business clinics, which removed the requirement (or, indeed, the opportunity) to embed simulation games.

9. Lack of perceived career reward for teaching and pedagogy:
A small number of participants described a lack of perceived career rewards for teaching and pedagogy. Put simply, they felt that the UK Higher Education sector, by placing a disproportionate emphasis on research and enterprise outputs when assessing promotion applications, had positioned the adoption of complicated or time-consuming pedagogical initiatives by staff not simply as unrewarded ventures, but as efforts which would prevent staff from achieving other prestige indicators required for career maintenance or progression.

The report closes by analysing the potential consequences of these phenomena, and by providing recommendations for stakeholders who may wish to adopt and embed such pedagogical initiatives as marketing simulation games within their curricula for strategic learning, teaching, and assessment purposes.
Original languageEnglish
Commissioning bodyThe Marketing Trust
Number of pages86
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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