Designing a Course for Stimulating Entrepreneurship in Higher Education through Serious Games

Enhancing the offer for entrepreneurship education is an important challenge for the nowadays knowledge societies. The eSG Erasmus project is addressing this issue by analysing the added value that could be contributed by employing serious games as a tool for allowing students – in particular technology students – to become familiar, mainly complementing theory and practice, with basic concepts of entrepreneurship and company management.

In our study (which has been published in the proceedings of the GaLA conference, VS-Games 2012), the main requirements for the course and the SGs, that we obtained by surveying literature and the main actors (entrepreneurs, teachers and students), were represented in a table template keeping into account usability, pedagogy, the entrepreneurship skills expressed by state of the art models and three major axes for entrepreneurship education at universities. These table descriptors were then used to assess validity of SGs and choose an appropriate mix for the courses.

From our analysis we saw that while several SGs are available on the market that provide good company management simulation, there is a clear lack in dealing with product/service innovation and the motivational/vocational aspects. The simulation algorithms are opaque, thus the outcomes of the simulation are not easy to understand and interpret by the players. This is important, in a game, in order to avoid cheating and an “overfit” of the player strategy over the simulation algorithms. However, players have difficulty in learning from their own experience and also errors. There are a lot of data available for analysis of the company status, and better support should be provided to the players to interpret the data and results, especially with respect to his previous choices. Moreover, it is doubtful that the experience is completely realistic, thus that the simulation outcomes fully correspond to the validity of the players’ choices. The role of the teacher is important, in particular in iterations involving introductions, trials, verification and explanations.

We have also defined a set of metrics to evaluate the advancement of students during the courses that that are being performed in Genoa, Delft and Barcelona with the aim to evaluate the SG-based experimental teaching plan. Based on these tools and knowledge, in fact, the next steps of the project involves extensive user tests in the actual courses. In a longer term, eSG aims at providing a conceptual basis for extending entrepreneurship education also to lower school levels, allowing earlier actions for supporting the development of entrepreneurial mindset.

Stay tuned here and on eSG, for the imminent publication of the first year results!

F. Bellotti, R. Berta, A. De Gloria, E. Lavagnino, F. Dagnino, M. Ott, M. Romero, M. Usart, I. S. Mayer, “Designing a Course for Stimulating Entrepreneurship in Higher Education through Serious Games”, 4th Int.l Conference on Games and Virtual Worlds for Serious Applications, VS-Games 2012, Genova, October 2012.

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