Students are Learning

SimProject® is a project management learning simulation used by instructors, professors and trainers teaching project management around the world. The online SimProject product was released for use September 1, 2011. By the end of November, 2012, approximately 875 students had used SimProject to learn project management. Instructors determine how SimProject is used in each class and they also decide how many times they want the students to execute the simulation (up to three times maximum). The data below is based on the results from the 224 students who completed all three executions.

In SimProject, students read about the virtual company, virtual project and virtual people available to work on the project, and then, individually or collectively, play the role of the project manager. Acting as the project manager the student(s):

  • Plan the project (resources, budget, risk, stakeholders, training, recognition) and make typical project decisions each week (staff assignments, meetings, training, stakeholder interactions, recognition)
  • Run the project a week at a time, analyzing their results each week (cost, schedule, quality, EVMS) referring to their weekly reports, and making their decisions for the next week

As they run each week they are presented with communications from people within the company, team members, or other project stakeholders. They have a choice on how to respond to these communications and all their decisions impact how their project progresses in a non-prescriptive way.

How SimProject Positively Impacts Students and Their Learning
Learning was measured by the improvement in each student’s project execution beginning with their first execution as a baseline, and looking at how they improve in final measures of time (objective is 11 weeks), cost (objective is $50,000) and quality (objective is 12 defects or less) for their second and third executions. The charts below show a significant improvement in student project results (260%) from their first execution to their second execution, and then another improvement (70%) in their third execution. Obviously there are many factors that influence student results, not the least of which is the supporting instruction. Results will be influenced by how well instructors prepare the students for running the simulation in terms of instruction and practice with the fundamental project management tools and techniques, and with student orientation to how to plan and execute the simulation. Another big influence is whether or not the students are graded or not graded on their results.

First Execution Median Values: 13.9 weeks, $65,588.50 and 15.06 final defects

Second Execution Median Values: 12.6 weeks, $ 56,774.75 and 14.08 final defects

Third Execution Median Values: 11.6 weeks, $ 53,092.50 and 13.1 final defects

The data quantitatively shows students, as a group, are improving their project management skills with respect to planning and managing their project to schedule, cost and quality. Driving a good part of the improvement is an elimination of mistakes made in the previous executions, especially in managing resources and motivating team members.

Just in case the quantitative data isn’t enough evidence, here is some qualitative data from Professor Laurie Schatzberg of the University of New Mexico:

I used the online SimProject shortly after its release in September, 2011 in our MBA Project Management course. Repeatedly, students experience “aha!” moments when they experience the impacts of their decisions on the project’s time, cost and quality results. I cannot overstate the importance of this simulation in their learning. Prior to using the simulation, students’ contributions to class discussions are often generic and theoretical. Once they’ve delved into the simulation, they begin to speak as if they were a project manager and their discussions center on specific issues. For example, they understand the importance of stakeholder communication. However, when they overlook a communication opportunity and suffer the inevitable consequence, they really get it. I can see it in their eyes, hear it in their voices, and read it in their subsequent work. There are many such examples, where the simulation affords students an effective means to achieve a deeper level of learning.