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Business Simulations: Oakland Baseball Simworld Study Sports Business Simulations - by Dr. Joris Drayer

Click here to run the Oakland Baseball Simworld by SBS

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If you have any questions contact Zennie Abraham of SBS at info@sportsbusinesssims.com


            Finding innovative methods to teach material is critical to enhancing the learning environment.  This is particularly true in classes with a reputation for being quite complex.  In a graduate level Sport Administration Program, the Financial Management for Sport Organizations class is one that fits this description.  Subsequently, technology has been created to apply basic concepts related to finance to the complexity of a professional sports organization.  One such program is the Oakland A's Baseball Business Simulator.  In the fall of 2005, this program was introduced to the Financial Management class.  Through interviews and "emotional recall" (Ellis, 2004), this evaluative case study seeks to determine the effectiveness of this technology within this environment.


Key Words: Business simulation, sports business, sport finance, web-based simulations, business of baseball, case study.



            Finding innovative methods to teach material is critical to enhancing the learning environment.  This is particularly true in classes with a reputation for being quite complex.  In a graduate level Sport Administration Program, the Financial Management for Sport Organizations class is one that fits this description.  Subsequently, technology has been created to apply basic concepts related to finance to the complexity of a professional sports organization.  One such program is the Oakland A's Baseball Business Simulator. 

            In the fall of 2005, I assisted one of my professors in teaching the graduate level sport finance class here at the University.  My primary responsibility in helping her was to introduce and facilitate the Oakland A's Baseball Business Simulator.  This program is a basic web-based business simulation technology applied to a Major League Baseball franchise.  I had previous experience with the program and, as a result, my professor and I agreed that this would be a good opportunity for me to gain some graduate level teaching experience while helping her through this technology that she was unfamiliar with.

            The computer program essentially simulates 15 years of managing the finances of a Major League Baseball franchise.  Each "year," students make roughly 100 decisions related to the finances of the organization such as player salaries, ticket prices, television and advertising expenses and revenues, and so on.  Applying what is called "appropriate randomness," the program will provide results after each season's decisions are submitted.  Students are evaluated based on their ability to increase revenue and overall franchise value.  Additionally, a point system is implemented in the program to reflect the success or failure of each simulation "run".

            The simulation is used not only to provide an element of competition and engagement to the class but to add a level of understanding to the material that is presented in the text book or other readings.  For example, to illustrate the importance of financing methods for new facilities, we might have the students go through the simulation several times using different methods of acquiring funds for building a new stadium for the A's.  We would then discuss which methods were more successful and why.  By relating the material in the text and in lectures to a real-world example, the simulation aims to enhance student comprehension of key topics related to sport finance.

            The professor had taught the class before so once the use of the simulation in the class was finished, we talked about whether or not the simulation was an effective teaching method.  At the end of the semester, we asked the students to provide feedback on the program.  Further, the gentleman who created the program wanted feedback as well so that he could better utilize the program for learning.  We all wanted to know if the program engaged the students in the material that would otherwise be presented in the form of lectures and readings.  Further, we wanted to know if the program helps students understand the material in the class by presenting a real-world example and allowing them to apply the concepts.  It is based on these criteria that I will evaluate the effectiveness of this program.  This evaluative case study uses my own recollections of the class ("emotional recall") and several interviews to evaluate whether or not the simulation was indeed an effective teaching tool in this environment.

            This study asks: Is the Oakland A's Baseball Business Simulator an effective tool for increasing engagement with and understanding of key concepts related to sport finance at the graduate level?


Literature Review

Purpose of Simulation Technology in an Academic Setting

            Business simulations have become very popular teaching tools in universities and business schools across the country.  In fact, most top business schools now incorporate some sort of simulation in the curriculum (Young, 2005).  Simulations are "designed  to give students opportunities to begin practicing the higher-level thinking the profession demands, where the learner identifies problems, finds relevant information, acknowledges the influence of uncertainties on potential solutions, and then communicates findings to target audiences" (Springer & Borthick, 2004).  Simulations are indeed a useful tool in business classes which is why the Oakland A's Baseball Business Simulator was developed specifically for this context within sport finance.

            This program, like other web-based simulations, provides online support in the form of links to references, a message board, and other useful information (Lucas, 2001).  While the primary goal of simulations is to give students an opportunity to understand key concepts by giving them hands-on, real-world experience, other benefits include an enhanced ability to work through the decision-making process (Lucas, 2001).  The Oakland A's Simulator has over 100 decisions to be made each year.  Like other business simulations, balancing a budget and maximizing revenue require careful and strategic decision-making and attention to detail.  This is particularly relevant as most simulations will have profits and overall franchise value as its primary criteria for success (Hoaas, 2002).  The Oakland A's Simulation is no different although it does consider other factors such as winning percentage and championships won.

            Though most commonly used in business or finance related classes, simulations are also used in law classes.  Though similar to the practice of mock trials, these simulations have value because of the ability to manipulate facts that require critical thinking and illustrate different concepts.  For example, one law-based program simulates the Bosnian War Crimes Trial and is intended to illustrate the fact that international law is about law and politics simultaneously (Jefferson, 1999).  Business simulations are essentially no different as they may alter the state of the economy or demand for a product in order to change the appropriate business strategy.

Simulation Technology in an Industry Setting

            Previously considered only for academic uses, simulation technology is now being used in professional capacities as well.  Over 60% of US corporations have utilized some sort of simulation technology (Pile, 2004).  Executives consider simulations valuable by having employees "gain a better understanding of corporate goals and challenges and see where they fit into the big picture" (Solomon, 2002).  Further, "they can be especially helpful in getting employees to better align their work with business strategies, particularly if they're new strategies" (Solomon, 2002).  In the high-stakes world of business, trial and error is not an accepted practice.  Simulations allow people to learn from experience which is how most adults learn most effectively (Pile, 2004).  It is for this reason that simulations are now popular practice in the business world.

Comparison between Simulations for Industry and for Academia

            Although the programs are the same, there are obviously many differences between running a simulation for an academic audience and a professional audience.  First of all, the use of a simulator is referred to as "simulation training" in an industry setting and as "simulation education" in academia (Banks, 2000).  While this is a small difference, it does speak to the intent of the program.  Banks (2000) outlines several other categories in which simulations differ between industry and academia such as objective, diversity of audience, nature of the students, teaching method, pace, class size, evaluation, intensity, assignments, quality, and use of training.

            Of the aforementioned criteria, several are noteworthy.  First of all, the diversity of an academic classroom is likely to be more homogeneous due to the similarity of goals and interests (Banks, 2000).  This is particularly true at the graduate level where the goals and interests of the students tend to be more narrow and specific.  Similarly, the coursework also tends to get more narrow and specific.

            Secondly, the size of the class is also critically important.  Though not an issue in the classroom in this study, undergraduate class sizes can be rather large.  Teaching the simulation to large classes can be difficult (Banks, 2000) because teachers must teach both the critical concepts as well as the use of the technology itself which may be difficult.

            Of the criteria set forth by Banks (2000), the last noteworthy idea is that of evaluation.  In other words, how will the participants be evaluated upon completion of the simulation?  While professional participants are generally not graded for their performance, academic students will almost always be evaluated with a grade.  Banks (2000) points out that "grades are the carrot and can conflict with learning."  Indeed, if the focus is on getting a good grade rather than comprehending to concepts, the primary objective of the simulation is lost.  One of the benefits of this type of teaching tool is that it does allow for mistakes without consequences (besides negatively affecting a grade).  Solomon (2002), quoting the manager of application development in Ameren's IT department, states that "learning is made up of mistakes, and the simulation exercise allows you to make those mistakes in a controlled environment."



How to Best Utilize Simulation Technology

            It is ultimately the responsibility of the teacher/instructor/facilitator of a simulation to maximize the teaching benefit of that particular program.  "In the constructivist approach, the teacher's role is to pose problems in realistic, meaningful contexts, model behaviors that facilitate learning such as collaboration and reflection, and ensure that learners attend to inconsistencies and errors arising in their mental representations.  In essence, the teacher becomes a coach rather than a presenter of knowledge" (Springer & Borthick, 2004). 

            Making sure that the students master the material is obviously critical in making a simulator worthwhile.  Helping students realize that it is not a game that requires simple manipulation but rather a teaching tool with valuable lessons within it is an essential message to convey (Chiodo & Flaim, 1993).  Most classroom simulation runs will lead to a concluding discussion regarding the concepts, observations, challenges, and lessons.  Chiodo and Flaim (1993) suggest that until students have the opportunity to reflect upon the experience of running through the simulation, no real comprehension of the material will take place.

            To ensure that students and teachers take the time to truly understand the material, Chiodo and Flaim (1993) suggest a six-step debriefing model.  The first step, called "decompression," involves simply taking time to relax after running the simulation.  This is a key step as many simulations take hours to complete.  The second step, called "facts," is simply a review of the factual information.  That step is followed by "inferences," which includes focus questions and a look at causal relationships within the simulation.  In the next step, called "transfer," students are to take time to apply the lessons in the simulation to the real world so they have to apply the concepts learned in the simulation to a real world example.  Then, students are to try to make generalizations and rules from the simulations in a step called "generalizations."  Finally, students should apply these rules and generalizations to the real world in the step called "applications."  Chiodo and Flaim feel that applying these steps to a simulation debriefing will ensure that the program is effectively communicating key concepts.

Does Simulation Technology Work?

            Perceptions of the effectiveness of simulations vary.  A study completed of Wharton (one the nation's top business schools at the University of Pennsylvania) indicated that 87% of students found the simulation "enhanced" or "significantly enhanced" their level of engagement in the class (Young, 2005).  Clearly, if used in the proper setting and administered effectively by the instructor, simulation technology can be useful in terms of engaging students and subsequently increasing comprehension.

            Student interest will also have a major impact on the effectiveness of a simulation.  Springer and Borthick (2004) placed students in two categories.  The first category was highly excited and highly engaged in the simulation and the concepts.  They were also excited about having gained real world knowledge.  The second category of student did not want to engage themselves in a new type of assignment.  Springer and Borthick (2004) stated that these students "would rather avoid the ambiguity inherent in solving real business problems.  They would rather continue in the familiar mode – a good grade with minimal thought."  As with any classroom, there will always be a disparity in the overall interest level among the students.

From the industry perspective, not every evaluation of this technology is as positive as it was from Wharton.  Pile (2004) states that "many simulation efforts have failed to deliver genuine and lasting change for companies.  As a result, simulations are often dismissed as having more entertainment than educational value."  Companies obviously want to see a return on their investment in terms of increased productivity, efficiency, and/or revenue.


Personal Statement

                        As a doctoral student in Sport Administration, my focus is separated into two very distinct parts: research and teaching.  With the hope of one day becoming a professor at a university, it is important that I maintain a level of excellence in both.  Currently, I am attempting to gain as much experience in both as I possibly can.  The experience of assisting in the teaching of a graduate level sport finance class provided me with a tremendous opportunity to gain valuable teaching experience.

After being a student for twenty-one years, I have learned to appreciate the value of quality instruction.  Subsequently, I am passionate about becoming an influential teacher and I take advantage of every opportunity I get to teach anything that anyone will let me teach.  The Sport Finance class became a perfect situation for me as I had gained some prior experience with the simulation technology that was used in the class.  My professor thought it would be a great opportunity for me to (A.) help her to teach the class using the simulator and (B.) gain graduate level teaching experience.

At the same time, we were both wary of the use of expensive, new technology.  We wanted to make sure that this product was indeed doing what we wanted it to do, specifically enhancing student interest in sport finance and providing another avenue by which students can grasp some of the difficult concepts related to this topic area.  We agreed that once the semester was over, I would do a case study that examined whether or not the simulator achieved our goals.  The opportunity to teach had now expanded to an opportunity to do meaningful research.

My stance as a constructivist will weigh heavily in this research.  I feel that students learn best when they are interacting with the material and interpreting what they see, feel, and hear.  Springer and Borthick (2004) state that "learners construct their knowledge rather than just receive it, an approach to learning known as constructivism."  Further, I also feel that everyone has a story that contributes to their perspectives, attitudes, abilities, and perceptions.  As I go along in this study, I would like to make sure that I consider these individual differences.


            The class was called Financial Management of Sport Organizations.  It is a graduate level class designed for students with a focus in Sport Administration/Sport Management.  The class was made up of 12 students.  Eight of these students were doctoral students and the remaining four were master's students.  My role in the class was as a teaching assistant.  I was responsible for administering this technology in the class as the professor was previously unfamiliar with how it worked.  Finally, the professor was also present in the classroom.  She gave the majority of the lectures that were unrelated to the simulation and its related concepts and gave and graded all of the assignments.  The professor was also evaluating my effectiveness in administering this program as it was my first experience in front of a graduate level class.

            I conducted "emotional recall" (Ellis, 2004) in order to express my opinions and feelings about how well the simulation worked in this class.  This process involves carefully reflecting on a previous experience.  This method of data collection was ideal for this study as it allowed me, the primary researcher and primary administrator of the simulation, an opportunity to input my experiences and observations into the data.  This process was performed prior to other methods of data collection in order to eliminate potential biases.

Semi-structured interviews were also included in this research.  Not every person in the class was interviewed.  An email was sent out to solicit interview participants and the first two doctoral students and one master's student were chosen to be interviewed in an effort to be consistent with the ratio of the class.  The student interviews were fairly short and straightforward and all lasted under an hour.

Critical to this research was the interview with the professor.  She had taught the class previously and could reflect on the differences in class performance and class engagement.  The interview with the professor was also highly successful.  That interview was much more detailed and lasted the entire ninety minutes.  All of the interviews were semi-structured based on the interview questions listed in the appendix.

            The "emotional recall" ended up being the most difficult part of the study.  Recalling specific details of the class to support global ideas about the effectiveness of the simulation was challenging.  I referred back to the syllabus and other course materials to refresh my memory about particular experiences within the sport finance class.




            While the term of the class in the fall of 2005 took place in the classroom, the interviews all took place in a quiet, office-like setting.  Additionally, when I conducted my "emotional recall," I was sequestered in my quiet office with ample opportunity to reflect upon the entirety of the experience so that I could reconstruct the classroom context. 


            For this study, I will be conducting an evaluative case study.  This is appropriate for this kind of evaluative research because although you could quantify student performance in a quantitative study with grades and other methods of evaluation, it is difficult to quantify students' level of engagement.  Further, quantitative research is also not appropriate for this study because there is no need to generalize the data.  The experience of this particular class is important; however, each classroom has its own unique setting with its own unique combination of personalities.  The purpose of this study is not to generalize.  Instead, the purpose is to shed a little light on the impact and effectiveness of simulation technology.  You, as the reader, can make your own evaluation as to whether or not you think the results are generalizable.  The purpose of this study is to use thick description and open-ended interview questions to make an evaluation as to whether or not this technology was effective in this particular setting.

            Besides describing and interpreting, this study also intends to be evaluative.  In other words, not only do I want to describe the nature of the class and interpret the actions of the people involved, I also want to make a final judgment as to the effectiveness of the simulation based on the criteria set forth in the research question, specifically, level of engagement and comprehension.  Guba and Lincoln (1981) wrote that case study was the best form of research when doing an evaluative study (Merriam, 1998).  They state that "evaluations of worth must be grounded in field studies of local contexts" (Guba and Lincoln, 1981, p. 44).  Further, citing Kenny and Grotelueschen, Merriam states that "case study is appropriate when the objective of an evaluation is 'to develop a better understanding of the dynamics of a program'" (Merriam, 1998, p. 39).  The primary objective of this research is to evaluate the effectiveness of this web-based program so case study appears to be the best form of research available.

Internal Validity

            There are several attempts to address the issue of validity in my study.  First of all, using "emotional recall" as the primary mode of data collection does threaten the validity of the study.  Although I feel as though I have no biases or preconceived notions regarding this study, there is always the threat of a bias.  Further, I have no motivations to report a positive evaluation of the simulation. 

However, to make sure that a possible bias does not threaten my study, I added the interview element of data collection.  Interviewing the professor, an interested observer, will certainly provide a strong and qualified opinion in this study.  The student interviews, while possibly not as valuable, will also add validity to my observations as well as the observations of the professor.  Further, we were all in the class for the entire semester (three hours per week for sixteen weeks) so we all have a wealth of experiences to draw from.  This adds value to the study as the aspects of the class that were noteworthy for the professor may be completely different than what I considered noteworthy which may also be different from what the students took from the experience.

External Validity

            External validity is a key issue for this study.  The setting in which the class took place is so unique that generalizing to any other type of environment is not reasonable.  I do think that this research has some value when applied specifically to graduate level sport finance classes considering the use of the Oakland A's Baseball Business Simulator.  However, that is not the ultimate goal of this particular study.

As a constructivist, the goal of my research is not necessarily to create generalizations.  Instead, through thick description, I would like people to create their own theories for generalization about the effectiveness of this technology.  The depth of my "emotional recall" will do the most to address the external validity.  Further, I do believe that each classroom develops its own personality.  This makes creating generalizations about any classroom extremely difficult when doing a case study.


            The issue of reliability will be addressed through multiple sources of data collection methods as well as a detailed audit trail.  The references to the "emotional recall" along with the transcripts from the open-ended interview questions should address any concerns about the reliability of this study.  Of course, using "emotional recall" will call into question my level of reliability.  However, I do feel that by using other methods of data collection, the data should be dependable and consistent.


            A content analysis was performed.  This analysis was used to examine the stories and opinions expressed in the interviews and the "emotional recall".  The purpose of this analysis was to evaluate the effectiveness of the simulation based on two criteria: engagement and comprehension. 

Assuring Quality Research

            Lincoln and Guba (1990) listed four criteria by which qualitative research should be evaluated: resonance, rhetoric, empowerment, and applicability.  In an effort to enhance the quality of this research, I have applied these criteria to this study.  First, in discussing resonance criteria, Lincoln and Guba claim that the researcher "has an obligation to be self-examining, self-questioning, self-challenging, self-critical, and self-correcting" (1990, p. 207).  Using the "emotional recall" method allowed me to be very critical of my data.  Reading and re-reading the transcripts for this as well as the interviews ensures that I am self-critical of the data.

            By rhetorical criteria, the authors are referring to the overall organization and style of the writing.  This paper uses simplistic writing along with the logical organization that is associated with most research papers to ensure the readability of the paper.

            Although this paper applies to a very select audience (likely only professors of sport finance), it is effective in raising the consciousness of these readers.  Lincoln & Guba state that "empowerment implies consciousness-raising" (1990, p. 211).  This study should enable professors to effectively implement a simulation program in a similar context.

            The final criteria, applicability, is described as "the extent to which the case study facilitates the drawing of inferences by the reader that may have applicability in his or her own context or situation" (Lincoln & Guba, 1990, p. 211).   Again, although the audience for this study is likely quite small, the applicability aspect of this study is quite apparent.  Giving instructors both an evaluation of the effectiveness of the simulation along with recommendations for how best to implement the simulation into a sport finance class is where the value of this study lies.           


            For the purpose of this section, I will break the research question into two parts.  First, I will discuss my findings about how the simulation affected student engagement in the class and second, I will address how the simulation affected student understanding of the material in the class.

Student Engagement

            As this generation of MTV watchers and Nintendo game players enters into academe, the need for new forms of interactive pedagogy is increased.  The professor of the sport finance class noted that although professors do not have an obligation to "entertain," they do need to provide some sort of interaction and help to apply concepts and theory to the real world.  This simulation is designed with this in mind.  Students initially became very interested in the class and the prospect of using a simulation to apply key concepts in the class.  One doctoral student, Jerry, even referred to the simulation as "a game."  Indeed, it was the competitive aspect of the simulation that worked to engage the class the most.  Tim, a first semester master's student, said that he "paid more attention during class because he wanted to do well in the simulation."  In addition to providing such outputs as revenue, attendance, winning percentage, and overall franchise value, the simulation also incorporates a point system based on these outputs.  Each "season" that the students run through, they are given a certain number of points and the simulation program provides a "high score list" for the class.  Tim became obsessed with having the high score for the class.  He ran through the simulation several times in an effort to have his name and score at the top of the list.  The desire for "bragging rights" quickly became the focus of this fairly cohesive and tightly knit class.  According to Jerry, this "interaction made it feel more engaging."

            However, as the course of the semester continued, the initial excitement of this new technology waned and students began to lose interest.  There began to be some separation between the material that was covered in the class and the concepts that were utilized in the simulation.  Further, eight of the twelve students were very excited in the first few weeks and ran through the entire course of the simulation several times (it takes one to two hours to run through all fifteen seasons in each simulation run).  These students seemed to feel as though they had done all they could do with the program.  Jerry was one of the students who initially ran through the simulation at least five times.  In his interview, he stated that he learned how to "manipulate" the program to give him the outputs and score that he wanted.  As a result, the data indicate that this program is best used for a shorter period of the class, probably about six weeks.  Further, particular attention must be paid to how the instructors tie material in the class to the simulation.  Students became disinterested when they did not see a purpose or application of the simulation to the material in the class.

Student Comprehension

            Just like the data for the "student engagement" section, the data for this section was quite consistent across all the interviews as well as the "emotional recall".  The overall feedback on the simulation was quite positive.  Adjectives like "fun," "interesting," and "interactive" were used repeatedly.  However, as it relates to student comprehension, there was some room for improvement.  The primary observation was the apparent disconnect between the material that was covered in the class lecture and reading assignments and the concepts that were presented in the simulation.  This responsibility lies squarely on the shoulders of the instructors who were responsible for creating the class outline for the semester.  Both instructors agreed that more careful planning was needed to make sure that the concepts presented in class were then immediately applied in the simulation.  For example, one of the major strengths of the simulation is showing how professional sports stadiums are funded.  The various sources of public funding were outlined in the text book and the lecture.  Additionally, the links on the simulation page contained additional information about the topic.  With all of this information, students can easily apply what they have learned on the topic in a subsequent simulation run.  This is the best was to administer the program for each individual topic, such as public funding for a new stadium, marketing expenses, payroll, ticket pricing, and various sources of internal and external revenue.

            The competitive aspect of the program was tremendous for student engagement; however, sometimes it conflicted with the second objective of increasing student comprehension.  As mentioned earlier, some of the students became so familiar with the program that they were able to manipulate the program in order to yield the best results.  Tim indicated that his process does not always involve doing what is "ethical, practical, or realistic."  The professor of the class supported that opinion by saying that students "didn't do what was rational" and "focused on what would get them the highest score."  One of the purposes of the simulation is to apply the knowledge gathered from the literature on sport finance to a real world situation.  However, the one major flaw of the program is that it implies a virtually unlimited amount of money to gain access to.  Students are able to spend freely on players, marketing, scouting and player development, and front-office staff to see an immediate spike in revenue.  However, this scenario does not reflect the current financial situation of the Oakland A's.  Jerry suggested that this would be a great simulation if it were "the New York Yankees Baseball Business Simulator" as a result of the positive outcomes from these extravagant spending decisions.  This is the primary way that students felt they were "manipulating" the program and why they felt as though it was not always truly reflective of the Oakland A's franchise.  The actual Oakland A's employ a different model of success which involves more frugal spending habits and a very limited budget.  The professor effectively summarized this point by stating that "the sim held the students accountable for the concepts because they had to base decisions on existing data.  However, what the literature says is most appropriate/effective didn't always result in the highest score."

            There were several key positive aspects of the simulation related to student comprehension.  Some of these were planned and some were merely a byproduct of the program.  First and foremost, students really enjoyed learning about how teams finance new stadiums.  Even Jerry, a doctoral student with significant experience with sport finance and the business of baseball, admitted that he knew little about how a stadium gets funded and that the simulation was able to teach him many of those concepts.

            Second, students were able to grasp the vast array of decisions that are required to successfully run a professional baseball franchise.  With over one hundred decisions to make each simulated year, students were "forced to look at more financial indicators with the simulation" according to the professor.  The simulation also employs a concept called "appropriate randomness" whereby an element of uncertainty is factored into the outputs.  In other words, the same decisions may produce entirely different results in different simulation runs.  The professor considered this uncertainty to be a major benefit of the simulation citing that students need to understand that there are certain things that are beyond their control such as a rise in oil prices, a terrorist attack, or a natural disaster.  Although these phenomena are not incorporated into the simulation, the program is effective in showing students that they cannot control everything.  As was expected, students strongly disliked this concept of uncertainty or randomness.  Greg, another first semester doctoral student, expressed his frustration with these "behind the scenes factors," saying that "students want to feel as though they have more control over the final result instead of other issues that don't appear to be present."

            The simulation is essentially a database filled with cause and effect relationships.  For example, lower ticket prices and increased marketing expenditures will generally lead to higher attendance.  One of the great aspects of this program is that it is outcome-based.  In other words, students get to see what the effects of their decisions are.  The professor stated that "it makes them think" and "make decisions based on data."  Further, she indicated that there are certain concepts, such as the various methods for financing a stadium, which are best taught using outcome-based learning.  Another benefit was that in order to get the data to make better decisions, students were forced to do extra reading.  In the rapidly changing field of sport finance, reading the current literature on the subject is essential to understanding it.



Implications for Sport Management

The evaluation in this study indicates that, if applied correctly, the Oakland A's Baseball Business Simulator can be a very effective tool for increasing student engagement and understanding.  With an increase of sport administration/sport management programs throughout the United States, new pedagogy is always critical for capturing the interests of students who are becoming more technologically savvy and desire more interactive teaching methods.  This is particularly true for the area of sport finance.  There is a dearth of text books available on the subject and also a shortage of experts.  This tool will help professors who are not savvy in every area of sport finance to convey certain concepts more effectively.  This research indicates that professors can confidently apply the simulation to a sport finance class and much of the learning will occur just by the students running through the simulation and reading the information that accompanies it.

Future research should continue to monitor the effectiveness of the simulation.  The technology within the program will continue to improve as the creator continues to enhance it.  Also, the familiarity of the instructors with the program and how to incorporate it into the course materials will also become enhanced over time.  I would have liked to conduct this study over time.  I would have been able to answer many questions that are currently left unanswered such as:

1)                    Does more effective incorporation of the simulation into the course material will result in increased student comprehension?

2)                    Does increased instructor familiarity with the simulation lead to higher student comprehension?

3)                    To what extent does this technology enhance student engagement and learning?

4)                    How can instructors maximize the positive effects of this program?

5)                    What is the optimal period of time to administer the simulation?

All of these questions could have been addressed if this study had occurred over a period of several classes.  Perhaps conducting a comparison of classes that used the program and did not use the program would have been a more effective way to assess the simulation's effectiveness.  Although I did ask the professor how this class appeared to be different from previous classes, the quality of her response is not comparable to the richness of the data that comes from conducting a case study and observing over the course of an entire semester.

Implications for Qualitative Research

            There has been qualitative research that has been conducted on classrooms and the effectiveness of certain types of pedagogy.  The biggest contribution of this study is the utility of the "emotional recall".  Having instructors critically evaluate how they taught the class and the effectiveness of their methods is a powerful tool.  Based on my "emotional recall", I learned a tremendous amount about how to effectively teach and engage a class.  Further, the instructor is in the unique position of observing a class during the entire semester.  Experienced instructors will be able to assess each class based on their previous experiences.  Inevitably, some classes become more engaged or comprehend the material better than others.  "emotional recall" allows instructors to reflect and determine what the cause of those differences is.

Implications for Myself

            As mentioned earlier, this research taught me a lot about how I want to teach as a future professor.  Implementing interactive teaching methods such as this simulation can be quite useful in enhancing student interest in a topic area.  Hearing students talk about how much fun they are having in a class is certainly rewarding and will likely enhance student learning (although examining the relationship between fun and learning is another study altogether).  Hearing about students doing extra reading because they want to do well in a "game" and without asking them is certainly unusual.  However, this can all be done by implementing something like this program.

            The second major lesson that this research has taught me is the level of detail necessary to teach effectively.  Preparing an effective lecture is only half the battle.  Creating a logical lesson plan that transitions effectively over the course of a semester is also critical.  The gap that existed between the materials covered in the class and the application to the simulation is the fault of the instructors alone.  More careful planning and implementation was required to make this experience more useful.

            However, the experience only enhanced my desire to teach and impact the lives' of young people.  It is so rewarding to see students so excited about a subject area that they never thought they would be.  Genuine excitement and interest is easy to see and I saw it throughout the course of the semester.

Reference List

Banks, J. (2000, November).  Training: Industry vs. academia.  IIE Solutions, 32(11), 23. Retrieved February 10, 2006 from Academic Search Premier database.

Chiodo, J. J. & Flaim M. L. (1993, May/June).  The link between computer simulations and social studies learning: Debriefing.  Social Studies, 84(3), 119. Retrieved February 10, 2006 from Academic Search Premier database.

Creswell, J. W. (1998).  Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing Among Five Traditions.  Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Crotty, M. (1998).  The Foundations of Social Research.  London: Sage.

DiGiovanni, M. (2005, July-August).  Business simulation puts high-potential talent at the helm.  Manufacturing Today, 5(4), 10.  Retrieved February 10, 2006 from InfoTrac OneFile database.

Ellis, C. (2004).  The Ethnographic I: A Methodological Novel about Autoethnography.  Maryland:AltaMira Press.

Guba, E. G. & Lincoln, Y. S. (1981). Effective Evaluation.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Hoaas, D. J. (2002, June).  A computer simulation for teaching the theory of nonprofit firms.  Atlantic Economic Journal, 30(2), 218.  Retrieved February 10, 2006 from InfoTrac OneFile database.

Jefferson, K. W. (1999, September).  The Bosnian war crimes trial simulation: Teaching students about the fuzziness of world politics and international law.  PS: Political Science & Politics, 32(3), 589.  Retrieved February 10, 2006 from InfoTrac OneFile database.

Lincoln, Y. S. & Guba, E. G. (1990).  Judging the quality of case study reports.  Qualitative Studies in Education, 3(1), 53-59.

Lucas, C. A. (2001, September 17).  Program gives kids taste of business world.  Crain's Cleveland Business, 22(38), 27.  Retrieved February 10, 2006 from InfoTrac OneFile database.

Merriam, S. B. (1998).  Qualitative Research and Case Study Applications in Education.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Pile, J.  (2004, July 30).  Business simulation. Learn to play to learn.  Asia Africa Intelligence Wire, p.NA.  Retrieved February 10, 2006 from InfoTrac OneFile database.

Solomon, M. (2002, July 29).  Fun & games—and business insight.  Computerworld, 36(31), 36.  Retrieved February 10, 2006 from Academic Search Premier database.

Springer, C. W. & Borthick, A. F. (2004, August).  Business simulation to stage critical thinking in introductory accounting: Rationale, design, and implementation.  Issues in Accounting Education, 19(3), 277.    Retrieved February 10, 2006 from InfoTrac OneFile database.

Stake, R. E. (1995).  The Art of Case Study Research.  Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Young, J. R. (2005, June 24).  Stage simulations: Business students play roles to learn the art of negotiation.  Chronicle of Higher Education, 51(42), B8-B10.  Retrieved February 10, 2006 from Academic Search Premier database.

Appendix A

Interview Questions

Interview for the professor of the class:

  1. How long have you been teaching at the graduate level?
  2. What are the greatest benefits of teaching?
  3. What are the greatest challenges of teaching?
  4. How long have you been teaching sport finance?
  5. What has been your experience teaching the class before the fall of 2005?
  6. What have been the positive aspects of the class?
  7. What have been the greatest challenges in teaching the class?
  8. How did you become aware of the Oakland A's Baseball Business Simulator?
    1. Why did you want to introduce it to the graduate level sport finance class?
  9. What do you think the simulator is designed to accomplish?
    1. Did you feel like it achieved those goals? 
  10. How do you feel like the simulator affected student engagement in the class?
  11. How was the level of student engagement different from previous sport finance classes?
  12. How do you feel that the simulator affected student understanding of the material?
  13. How did this classes understanding of key concepts compare to previous classes?
  14. What was the student feedback on the simulation like?
  15. What is your overall evaluation of the effectiveness of simulator?
  16. Will you use this program again?  Why or why not?
  17. What are some things that you might do differently in an attempt to make the simulation more effective in increasing student engagement and comprehension of the material?
  18. Any final comments?


Interview for students:

  1. What was your academic level during the fall of 2005 when you were enrolled in the sport finance class?
  2. What other coursework had you taken any coursework related to sport finance prior to the fall of 2005?
  3. Please describe your overall experience in the sport finance class?
  4. Had you ever used the Oakland A's Baseball Business Simulator before this class?
  5. Please describe the positive aspects of the program?
  6. Please describe the negative aspects of the program?
  7. How do you feel the program affected your engagement in the class and the material?
  8. How do you feel the program affected the class's overall engagement in the class and the material?
  9. How do you feel that the program affected your level of understanding of the material?
  10. How do you feel that the program affected the class's overall understanding of the material?
  11. How could the use of the program in the class been altered so that it was more effective?
  12. If you were teaching a sport finance class, would you use this program?  Why or why not?
  13. Any final comments?


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