How to setup an international course in times of remote learning?

HAN and SAMK take online education to the next level!

A showcase of best practices for exciting online education

In the current times where education is being revolutionized and taken online, those who had been constantly innovating before COVID-19 have a great advantage. In this blog you will read how HAN and SAMK took online education to the next level!

EFLE, HAN, and SAMK – who are they?

The European Forum of Logistics Education (EFLE) is one of those examples. This crystallizes when looking at a showcase by two of their member universities, Hogeschool van Arnhem en Nijmegen (HAN University of Applied Sciences) in The Netherlands and Satakunta University of Applied Sciences (SAMK) in Finland.

HAN and SAMK organized a virtual competition around Supply Chain Finance, with students from their logistics engineering and logistics management programs. A great way to keep students in an international context, engaged, and learning… online!

Before we dive into the details of how they setup such a remote learning experience, let’s dive into a bit of history to get to the roots of the project.

Some background to the story

SAMK University of Applied Sciences (Rauma – Finland) is one of the oldest partners of EFLE and has thus played a big role in shaping the community. EFLE has an annual meeting, in order to regularly discuss ideas, collaborate on education, as well as  to develop new education and teaching methods together. During their annual meeting in Copenhagen in 2019, Professor Daniela Tanhua (SAMK) and Professor Jan Jansen (HAN) brainstormed about a new initiative. They eventually decided to host an international session with the Supply Chain Finance game, The Cool Connection, for their students (Learn more about the Logistics management program at HAN)

The idea to organize such an event was to create a concept of “Internationalization @ Home”. Interestingly enough, it has its origins before COVID-19. When the idea materialized, the innovative nature of the program quickly paid-off. It provided an international, engaging and perfectly working program in times where many other programs were struggling, cancelled or inefficient, due to the pandemic.

The Cool Connection in a nutshell

To fully grasp the following showcase, we need to briefly elaborate on its foundation: the business game The Cool Connection.

The Cool Connection is a highly advanced business simulation used by leading companies all around the world, to train employees in the finest details of Supply Chain Management and Supply Chain Finance.

This relatively new way of learning comes as close to reality as it can get. Providing insights into the complexities and interdependencies of Supply Chains in uncertain and rapidly changing market conditions. This business simulation game is used by students and educators globally to experience a  life-like way of learning. It provides realistic insights into what companies that face these challenges are dealing with on a daily basis.

More information can be found on The Cool Connection website

The showcase: a 6-week International Supply Chain Finance Competition

In Spring 2020, 100 students (80 from SAMK and 20 from HAN) started the 6-week program. The foundation was playing a weekly round of The Cool Connection, the business game that bridges physical and financial supply chains. The students from The Netherlands and Finland were split in teams of four and were competing against each other. Their teams were ranked based on their performance in the simulation game.

This element of competition led to an amusing, but insightful anecdote. Quoting Jan Jansen, the coordinator of the course at HAN:

“During the execution stage (week 3 or 4) I was quite busy with distance learning and teaching and I forgot to check the results as a game manager.

Within two hours I received quite a few (from each team one) e-mails checking how I was doing and reminding me in a very polite way that the results of the current round haven’t been published in time. They were of course waiting for them and asked if I could be so kind to announce the results.

It is great to experience this way of pure involvement of the students from Finland and The Netherlands, during difficult times due to Corona.”

Gamification works

Jansen’s anecdote shows that gamification is a key tool to create a course where students are as motivated (or even more motivated!) than the educators! In the words of Ed Weenk, a professor who has written several blog posts about this topic and who uses “experiential learning” in many of his courses: “If you want engagement, use a game. People will learn almost without noticing. Gamification works!” (taken from the BIACARA Supply Chain podcast by Nurhadi where Ed Weenk was featuring)

Who was the winner?

So, how did the results turn out in the end? HAN takes the (virtual) cup to The Netherlands!

With a Return on Investment (ROI) of 20% after the final round, a team from HAN University secured the first place! However, SAMK can show off great results as well, with their best student teams being not only runner up, but also securing positions 3 and 4 on the podium! Their 3 best team’s ROIs ranged between 9.9% and 13.4%, excellent results!

The business game was, however, not the only element of the course, but the program was complemented by an introductory and keynote lecture.

Building a complete program: A “Theory – Game – Expert Insights – Collaboration” Combination

  1. Theory
    The 6 rounds were kicked off by a lecture done by Jan Jansen himself (see also, introducing students to some theory and the game.
  2. Gameplay
    6 weeks of The Cool Connection gameplay – Experiencing the financial management of a company first-hand
  3. Expert insights
    After six weeks of gameplay, the program was complemented with a keynote lecture by the head of the Supply Chain Finance Community and Mr. Supply Chain Finance himself: Professor Dr. Michiel Steeman (Windesheim University of Applied Sciences, Zwolle – The Netherlands). Via WebEx, he gave exclusive insights into the technique of Supply Chain Finance and the future of this relatively new, extremely relevant, and quickly evolving field.
  4. Collaboration
    During the last meeting, Professor Daniela Tanhua from SAMK organised a cross-cultural experience session via WebEx. She created new teams with a mixture of Dutch & Finnish students, to reflect and discuss matters like international collaboration with the use of the business game. Feedback has been great, and the coordinators could proudly consider the program as a well-received success.

Lessons learned

Reflecting upon this joint initiative, professors Jansen and Tanhua noted some key learning points:

  • The instructors should know each other very well to ensure smooth cooperation.
  • A clear structure for students is key (KIS-principle: Keep It Simple!).
  • A comprehensive explanation of why this benefits the students should be offered:
    • A serious game like TCC creates engagement and teamwork through competition.
    • Collaboration between students from different universities fosters an international community.
    • This is “Internationalisation @ home” – new and innovative approach to remote learning!
  • A final evaluation of the learning outcomes per student needs to be created for the summative assessment.
  • Last but not least: Enjoy new ways of teaching with a serious outcome (credits)!

Get inspired!

Hopefully, this showcase can work as a source of inspiration for many educators and universities. The current times are coined by uncertainty, the need for innovative and unconventional ideas, and the need for excellent online resources that allow quality education to continue.

If you would like to discuss this pilot project with the organizers, feel free to contact Jan Jansen directly:

If you would like to learn more about The Cool Connection and consider setting up a similar project at your own university or together with your university community, please do not hesitate to reach out to us! We are always happy to discuss your ideas and answer your questions.

The new release of The Cool Connection is out

An important note on the side: In September 2020 we launched the much awaited new release of The Cool Connection. The new release includes a completely new design, improved gameplay and new features!

The new version focuses on Working Capital Management and it comes with an Integrated Business Planning (IBP) variant. Get your free trial to get a quick impression!

Now also available our new Harvard style teaching case, Cash is King: Working Capital Management in Times of Crisis with free viewer access to The Cool Connection for both educator and students. Get your personal code and start any time at your own convenience.