How to make online teaching easy!

Educators share their experiences of teaching The Fresh Connection online for the first time.

Nowadays, online education seems inevitable. Educators around the world were forced to switch to online teaching when the pandemic hit. Most not having any knowledge or experience on how to approach this. Keeping students engaged under normal circumstances is already a challenge. Now that the pandemic forced the switch to a digital classroom the task seems even more daunting.

Professors Patrick Willems (University of applied sciences UC Leuven-Limburg) and Mag. Biljana Roljic (University of Vienna) share their experiences in delivering a course online with business simulation game: ‘The Fresh Connection’.

We briefly touch on ‘The Fresh Connection’ and elaborate on several key success factors including some practical tips & tricks. We will finish with a big thank you to all educators and some key takeaways. Now read all about how to make teaching online easy!

About The Fresh Connection

The Fresh Connection (TFC) is a state-of-the-art online business simulation game. It is also the name of a fictional fruit juice producer that is in dire need of a turn around.

Participants in the business game join in teams to save TFC from the abyss. Their biggest challenge is collaborating to make the best strategic and tactical decisions for its Supply Chain. In teams of four, students take on the roles of sales, purchasing, supply chain, and operations. Team members will learn that alignment is key, whilst at the same time improving their end-to-end value chain understanding.

Educators from leading universities around the world are using The Fresh Connection to fully immerse students in the complexities and interdependencies of Value Chain Management.

Decide on a teaching format: synchronous vs asynchronous learning

The transition from in-person to online classes can be challenging at first. Online teaching requires clear communication with students and well-structured lessons. It is important to decide on the type of learning model that will work best for your course. Synchronous learning allows for instant feedback and greater engagement between students and educators. However, asynchronous learning gives students the ability to schedule and learn at their own pace. Alternatively, it’s very possible that a combination of both types of learning is the best option. With ‘The Fresh Connection’ all options are possible and it’s quick and easy to switch at any time.

In starting their online experience Patrick Willems and Biljana Roljic each took a different approach. Patrick, chose Zoom to play the business game online in-class. He explains that Zoom in particular is a great tool as it allows for teams to use break-out rooms. Occasionally, he joins his students in their break-out rooms to check on progress and answer questions. Biljana chose a different approach and spent time designing elaborate slides with a voice-over. These slides explain relevant content for each round, the significance of in-game reports, and insights on calculated decisions. In doing so she provides students with flexibility in digesting this important information.

Setting Clear Expectations

Regardless of how The Fresh Connection is used – live or with pre-recorded materials – setting clear expectations from the start is essential. This ensures that students understand the requirements and the structure of the course. “Start the course with setting expectations for an interactive course where group exchange is needed”, Biljana explains. “Spend more time in the beginning to explain how to navigate through the simulation and how to make decisions”. Patrick completely agrees with this statement. Based on his own experience, breaking the information into smaller pieces helps students better understand the content.

Here is a tip to boost student engagement! Start your first lesson with an interactive introduction of The Fresh Connection like a ‘Voting Session’. During a Voting Session you ask the audience to vote (majority wins) on decisions that will later be calculated in the simulation. It is highly engaging and a great tool to kick off a course.

Establish methods of communication

Online education requires clear instructions and prompt feedback. Having scheduled sessions where each team and/or individual can ask questions and communicate with the educator is an important factor for a successful course. Organizing and clarifying what means of communication are used is thus crucial. Communication can happen through email, the business game itself, or even during ‘virtual coffee hours’, where students can ‘drop by’ and ask questions. According to Biljana it’s important for students to have a timeframe for asking questions but also getting answers. They have to be assured that their questions will be answered within a reasonable time. This allows you to keep the pace of your course, but also to assist students who need additional help.

Encourage student interaction

Facilitating an environment that fosters informal learning has real added value. Biljana enabled a forum where students with the same role in TFC interact and ask questions. “Define unity within the course and encourage information exchange between teams”. Biljana explains that this reduces the occurrence of repeat questions. Also, students help each other navigate the simulation and explain to each other how to interpret and execute decisions.

The Fresh Connection facilitates an environment where students can interact and learn from their own decisions and from their peers. Educators get an incredible experiential learning tool that fosters interaction and boosts student engagement.

Thank you! We’re all in this together

We want to recognize all of the time and effort educators are devoting to adapting to these new times. Educators are doing a lot of the heavy lifting in safeguarding the quality of education for their students. We commend you for your hard work and dedication!

A special thank you to Patrick Willems and Biljana Roljic for sharing their experiences. We are confident that you will inspire your peers with your insights and ingenuity.

What are the key takeaways?

We can all agree that engaging students online is very different from teaching in the classroom. By using cloud-based ways of teaching, such as The Fresh Connection, some of that weight can be taken off your shoulders.

Teaching online becomes easy if you use the insights our professors shared with you. These key success factors will shape your online experience. Decide on a teaching format that you feel comfortable with. Set clear expectations of what students can expect from your online course. Facilitate open and clear communication with a pre-determined timeframe. Encourage students to interact and support each other by exchanging information. With these practical tips you can take away the stress of the unknown and make teaching online a great experience for yourself and your students.

Would you like to learn more about switching to online or blended learning? Integrating ‘The Fresh Connection’ into your curriculum is quick and easy. We have a global network that can support you with the design and implementation. Already familiar with The Fresh Connection? Reach out so we can talk about what’s new!