Currency Game

[ inaudible ]
[ Mary Ann ]: Okay, good! Why would we design a game in the first place?
In a recent
book, Carl Kapp came up with a really nice chart that
illustrates types of knowledge and appropriate instructional
strategies along with some corresponding game elements.
Now this book came out since we designed and developed our game, but it
nicely illustrates why a game is really, kind of, a good fit in this particular case.
The content
that we were working with involved rules-based knowledge
as well as problem solving. And students had to understand
relationships between concepts and
respond within a set of parameters or rules.
So there was problem solving involved in applying these concepts.
And you’ll see, if you’re able to see the chart here, the
instructional strategies recommended for rules-based
and problem solving knowledge include providing examples,
role playing, providing multiple scenarios, and
different examples of problems to solve. So a game
is really an excellent match for these instructional strategies.
And the elements of games that align with these types of
knowledge are experiencing consequences and multiple
scenarios for applying problem solving. So as we
share what we’ve done, you’ll see how these particular game elements
are incorporated into this game design.
Now, we did begin by thinking about our learning objectives.
And we thought about the elements
of the content around which we would want students to be
interacting in this game. And a decision that we made
early on was to present the content through two rounds of
game play. So in round one, or level one,
that level is somewhat instructional in nature
as students, to some degree, just
watched the events unfold. So this deals with some lower order
thinking skills. And you’ll see that some of the learning
objectives for round one are illustrated on this slide.
But in round two, there are more decisions required
And this involves the higher order thinking skills. So what we do
is first we introduced how these ideas interplay with
each other and what effect these situations
in currency exchange rate will have. And then we
engage students in deeper levels of interpretation and analysis
based upon what they’ve experienced during the first round.
[ Jim ]: The one thing, I think, that’s
essential right now is to put this particular course,
International Business 303, into perspective. What exactly is it?
IB 303 is all about operating a business on
global basis. We touch on cultural differences,
various legal, economic, political environments in the various parts of the world.
But, of course, one of the elements, and a major element in this,
is currency exchange rates. So international
business is certainly a cultural type of course. There’s a lot of social issues,
but a keyword in the title is business.
And a key element of business is exchange rates. We use
case studies in class to show that there are positive and negative
impacts of currency fluctuation. The focus of
our exercises in class is to show that when a
company, a US company imports goods for resale,
they buy those goods and have to pay for them on a
local currency basis. But then when they sell them in the US
they get paid in US dollars.
So the cost of the good that is sold is subject
to currency risk. All of those items, when you and I go shopping and we see made in
China, and made here, and made there,
when they’re purchased, the contract probably
says, you’ll have to pay for these in the local currency. So the purpose
of the game is to demonstrate that there are significant potential economic
impacts associated with currency risk. Now, I’m not
sure how clear this next Excel spreadsheet will be to you,
but let me just highlight the important factors.
On the Y axis, we have quarterly information.
It’s March, June, September, December of 1998.
I specifically picked 1998 and
1999 and the exchange rates for the Japanese
Yen to the US dollar. Because in my prior job I was in the Treasury
function. We looked at currencies all the time. This was probably one
of the most dramatic times to see a swing in
exchange rate, and the weakening of the US dollar relative to
the Japanese Yen. What is highlighted in gray,
we see that there’s a contract. Here’s the scenario
for this case study. Every quarter my company is going
to buy five hundred computers and we’re going to sell those computers
for nine hundred and seventy-five dollars a piece. So every quarter
my company will take in four hundred and eighty-seven thousand
five hundred dollars. I’ll have a total revenue of one million
nine hundred and fifty thousand dollars. That’s not gonna change. It’s locked
in by contract. Also, in the last column
that’s highlighted, we see the contract price is in Yen.
We entered into a contract. The scenario says that I am going to buy
these computers at one hundred and twenty thousand
Yen a piece. So the only thing that’s gonna happen,
is exchange rates will move. If you look at the
right most column, we see the quarterly profit.
Thirty-six thousand first quarter. Fifty-five thousand the next quarter.
Forty-seven thousand the next quarter. Wow, this is
really doing well. I’m actually exceeding my expected profit
in the first three quarters. Then all of a sudden, the
dollar starts to weaken in December of ’98 and all of a sudden I lose
forty thousand bucks. But here’s the good news, why should I be upset?
I’ve got a hundred thousand dollars, roughly, just for the being the middle man who entered
into a contract. Students though, when we do this scenario,
after the third quarter, we say, gee, would you want
to renew this contract? And they said oh, absolutely. Man, you’re making a lot of money.
And low and behold, when we now look at the next year,
also March, June, September, and December,
but now it’s 1999. Please note, that highlighted
nothing changes between 1998 and 1999
relative to my expected revenue. I’m gonna get a million nine fifty,
and the computers are gonna cost me a hundred twenty thousand Yen a piece,
but guess what, the dollar weakens.
And instead of making a hundred thousand in the first year,
I lose two hundred thousand in the second year.
And the one question, why? And there’s only one variable, and that’s
exchange rates. So the whole purpose of this exercise is to show students
that exchange rates really matter.
So Mary Ann and her team sat in and they took
a look at what I do and how I do this, and I was typically doing
with an Excel spreadsheet and I would black out each of the columns and work my way
through. And the whole idea then was, okay, we know what Jim’s doing
is there a way to translate this in-class activity
to an online game? Now, I’ll be the first to tell you,
I’m old enough to receive Social Security,
and I’m not a gamer. I have never…please don’t shoot me, I have never played
a video game in my life, but
while I was here at Berks, I’ve attended a lot of workshops. And
in those workshops they’re constantly stressing, different people learn
in different ways. And I am convinced that a lot
of my students, regardless of age, many of them will learn
through gaming. So I said, hey, yeah, I’m an old dog,
but maybe you can teach me a few new tricks. So Mary Ann and her
team came in. They watched what I did. They knew what the course was about.
We chatted for several sessions. And as they say,
the rest is history. The game develops.
So the next thing is, in my class,
I say to the students, hey, here’s a pretty simple question
I hope it’s intuitive, what will happen
if the selling price of…to the selling of a product
if a competitor enters the marketplace?
Will the price go up? Will it go down? Will it stay the same? Hopefully,
most people will jump on the answer and will say, gee, I think the selling
price will go down. Why? There’s more competition.
We get to the next question, which involves now,
a little bit of knowledge of international business.
What do you think would happen to the cost of a product if the government imposes a tariff?
Well, hopefully if the students were paying attention, they know what a tariff is.
In essence, a tariff is a tax. And it increases
the cost of the product. So therefore, if the
government imposes a tariff, the cost will
go up. So that becomes intuitive again,
or obvious if you took international business, or if you know what a tariff is.
But now let’s enter into the really complex world of
international business. What would happen to the profit of a company
if the US dollar strengthens, the demand for the product
goes down, and the tariff that is currently in place
is lifted? As you’re looking at this,
and enjoying your lunch and sipping on coffee and sodas and whatever,
I’ll give you the answer. The answer is, it depends. What a wonderful answer, right?
We always tell our students, well, it depends. But the reason that this depends
is there are so many moving parts, variables, that are
moving and we don’t know intuitively
the degree to which they’re moving. So there’s no simple answer.
So the next question then becomes, gee, Jim, if you tell
us that this is complex, is there a way to
illustrate to the student that it really is complex?
And that’s when Mary Ann and I started working together.
Really, we got into this. And we said, hey,
I, Jim, know a little bit about international business, and Mary Ann
certainly is creative and has the skill set to try to put these games together,
maybe we can design a game that
shows the student the complexity of all these moving parts.
[ Mary Ann ]: So when we started out on this
project, what we did first was we
reviewed an in-class activity that Jim used with
his students where he actually worked with those spreadsheets you saw. And that’s
what the design of the game was initially
based upon. So we wanted to make sure to incorporate any meaningful
elements of that in-class demonstration into the game.
And we clarified and defined what the learning objectives
would be that we were going to focus on for this game.
Make sure we do exactly what we were looking at.
And from there we created a storyboard.
Now as it became clear what we needed,
Jim began to collaborate with some of his colleagues in marketing
and economics for assistance in conceptualizing
the storyline scenarios that would become part of this game.
And based upon that information, together, we wrote the
stories that would be randomly incorporated into the game.
And there were a lot of mathematical computations behind the scene
as well. So Jim returned to his trusty Excel
spreadsheets and he actually had a series of spreadsheets
that he used while we were developing to kind of check as we got to
certain points to make sure that the calculations in the game were
coming up the same as they were in his spreadsheets.
What you see in front of you is just
one of about a few hundred sheets, I think.
But what we’re trying to show on this, and I know that the numbers are pretty small,
but what we have are six products,
four currencies, eight quarters, and at least
a hundred scenarios. So as we get into it a little later,
you’ll see how the game works. But basically, you know, we decide that we’re going to buy
a bicycle. We chose a bicycle. And then we decide
what currency will we use? We have a choice of four.
But based on the product that we’re buying, the currency
and the fluctuation of the currency relative to the US dollar,
over eight quarters, we come up with many, many scenarios
in which…hello…and we come up
with many scenarios in which we have profit or loss.

Is there a question or should someone be [ inaudible ]
or perhaps hitting mute. I’m not sure if that’s an internal discussion.
But anyway, thank you. So we have all these different
spreadsheets that support every single calculation. Behind the scenes
the student don’t see this. They see it in my class, but now they
see it. So what you have in front of you now is the development of this storyboard.
And basically what happens is we want to provide the game player,
not only with various scenarios, but with realistic reasons
for any randomly generated scenario. So let me give
you an example of what these randomly generated scenarios might be.
Possible scenarios, a weakened exchange rate.
What does that mean? The US dollar loses value.
Besides the scenario, well, why could that happen? And we have multiple
reasons why it could happen. How’s this for a hypothetical,
the US has a climbing deficit.
So that’s, unfortunately, quite true. Another scenario deals
with the sales price. Well why…the prices could go up.
They can go down. One possibility of a price going down is there’s no competition.
Perfect example today would be looking at an iPhone
and Samsung coming out with a new product. Increased
competition. Perhaps a better product. All of a sudden you find that
your product has to have its price reduced, its selling price.
Recognize that every currency and exchange rate, each sales price
we had five specific reasons why it could increase,
why it could decrease. And each of those, there were also varying degrees.
Certain factors would cause the price, perhaps, to go up. The selling
price up two, three, four, five percent, up to fifteen.
Other scenarios, the price can go down. The selling price, five,
ten, fifteen percent. And again, as Mary Ann mentioned before,
all of these different scenarios that we wrote were
reviewed by our economics faculty and our marketing faculty
to see…did they really make sense?
[ Mary Ann ]: So through the storyboarding process, one of the things that we did
was we defined the path that the learner would take through the game.
So the way it works is there are a few
introductory screens which present the story, and they’re
always presented linearly. Always in the same order. And after
that, always, what we call the base case, is presented.
So the base case is a generic
scenario that’s always shown as the initial example. So in this case,
the base case relates to the first quarter of
a two-year business contract into which the learner will enter.
Now, after that first quarter of round one,
the next scenario that will happen is randomly selected. So the
order of the learners path is not always the same every time
that they play that game. So there
are seven more quarters in the contract for round one. And each one
corresponds with a random level
of different impacts occurring. So perhaps one
of these paths leads to a strengthened exchange rate, one to a
decreased exchange rate, or an increase or decrease in demand,
or a tariff. And so whichever one is going to occur next is
determined randomly, but each participant will visit
one of these types of
scenarios applied at some random level
as they…every time they play the game. And after they’ve
completed that two-year contract, then
they’ll be presented with a review of their business success, hopefully,
in round one, and then the option to go on to round two.
Now, round two, or level
two, follows a similar format in that there are eight
quarters and a mix of randomly applied scenarios are presented. However,
round two builds upon what was experienced in the first level.
And so the learner, now, begins to engage in
some of those higher order thinking skills to actually have to make some more
informed decisions. So in round one, their choices are
limited and they’re more closely directed, but in round
two they have options as far as how much product to invest in at
a particular time. And two, again,
ends with a screen which sums up their entire business
profits throughout their whole two-year contract, and the option to play again
if they so desire.
Now, this was the timeline for the project. So this
project developed from conception, through design and
development, spanned over two and a half years. But Jim and I both
had a lot of other things going on during that time. So it wasn’t the only thing
we were working on. The game was developed in Flash
and as some of you may know, there can be some accessibility
concerns with Flash. But as the timeline for this
played out, by the time that that NFB complaint was first brought
against Penn State, we were pretty far along in the
development of round one, in fact it was almost completed, and the
organized response that Penn State would take to that, had
not yet occurred. But hearing about
this issue and knowing that there were some potential accessibility
concerns with Flash, prior to moving on with
the development of round two, I elected to do some research
into how I could possibly make this Flash based game accessible.
And I found that it could be done,
although it’s very labor intensive, and there are a lot of issues that
come into play. I’d accomplished quite a bit to make
the game accessible, but honestly, I still have one or more
a couple little tweaks that I would like to still make before I can say that I’m
completely done. [ Jim ]: As we look at the timeline too, if you don’t mind,
we see Fall ’10 and Mary Ann had all of her fun times with the accessibility.
That was the time that I became a grandfather.
So my time was somewhat limited too. I just throw that personal
thing out there. [ Mary Ann ]: That did come into play. [Jim]: That did come into play, big time.
[ Mary Ann ]: Okay, as I was working on the
accessibility, and I just want to give you a little brief overview of what I learned as
far as Flash and accessibility. The problem with some Flash
content and accessibility is that it’s time based. So what is on
the screen changes so rapidly that it can not really be conveyed
with a screen reader. So that happens with a Flash animation
or a Flash video. But that’s not really how we were using Flash
in this particular sense. In this game
the user has to click to advance through each frame of the game.
So nothing changes or moves really too much until the learner is ready
to advance. So before moving on to development
of round two, I made enhancements to round one, which included, among
other things, adding a text equivalent for all of the
images or movie clips, as they’re known in Flash, on each one of the frames.
So this is very similar to the process of adding
alternative text for images if you’re familiar with addressing web accessibility.
And it ensures that a screen reader will read
a textual description of each visual that’s
on the screen. And the accessibility panel that you see on the left is
where that information is entered for each movie clip into Flash,
into the development program. Now, all of the
text used on the frames had to be known…what is known as
dynamic text as opposed to static text. And this allowed a screen
reader to read all of the text that appears on the screen even if that text
is dynamically generated or
occurs as a result of a users interaction. I had
to define the tab index order or reading order for each
item that appears on each frame. So this controls the
order in which a screen reader will read the text equivalent
for each item. And so we want to make sure that that is being presented
in an order that makes sense. So all of these settings
and several others were defined in the action script coding. And that’s
a small example of that, what you see in the lower right,
would be an example of the tab index order and setting that for each
element that was on the screen. So a screen
reader can read all of the elements of this game to a student, however, there
is a lot of information on these screens and I imagine that it could be
potentially difficult for someone to process everything that’s
happening without being able to visually compare the figures
on the screen, but, again, this is a complex topic.
And it does have a lot of moving parts. And it’s
the nature of this subject matter. So we did our best to
make the game accessible from a technical standpoint. If we were
going to design a game from the start that our
primary concern was to make it, you know, design it
with accessibility as part of our final outcome,
we might have approached it, or tried to approach it in a different way. But
as this played out, we did what we could to make it technically
We found that it could be done, but it’s certainly not an easy
process. [ Jim ]: This is Jim again. From my
perspective, the timing was perfect. Mary Ann had to keep doing all these things
and she was totally tied up and I said, okay, I’m playing grandpa
for a couple more weeks and it was wonderful. But anyway,
what you see in front of you are skills that employers look for.
In addition to my teaching, I’m also one of the academic advisers
and I could assure you that the various traits and skills
that are on this list are the types of things that
our employers are looking for. The list was
submitted and prepared by the summit on instructional games
in 2006 with the Federation of American Scientists.
So you see a whole bunch of skills. And there’s
a whole list. And then when we flip to the next slide,
what we see are highlighted those particular
skill sets that we
believe, truly believe, are what anyone can
gain whenever they do gaming. They play gaming and what do they have to do?
It’s rapidly changing. They learn on the fly.
Information is being acquired and so on. So if you now look at the highlighted
items, these are, supposedly, the specific
skill set that individuals would gain and experience
while playing the game, or any game for that matter.
[ Mary Ann ]: So, there’s something
that’s intrinsically motivating about playing a game
that makes people want to participate. So, of course,
we’re hoping that not only will gamers want to participate,
but that students will learn. So if we try
to pin down what motivates people to play a game and label
those items, we might come up with these six game
dimensions; fantasy, sensory stimuli,
mystery, challenge, rules/goals, and control.
So these were identified by Garris and what
I’ve done is I’ve taken Garris’ six game dimensions
and elaborated upon some of the strategies
that we’ve incorporated into the dimensions of this game.
So, over the next number of screens, or frames,
I’m going to be showing you some screenshots from our game
and at the same time, I’ll be relating
each step in the game to one of these dimensions
of a game. So I’ll be giving you a sense of how the game works
as well as aligning that with some of these
dimensions of games. So the first one
is self-representation. So as the game develops
or begins, you’re led through a series of steps to build a
character to represent yourself in a business story.
You have choices of skin color, hairstyle, and business
attire, and you name your character. So as you
make these selections, a visual representation of your character is
built on the screen. And by giving you choices about how you want to
be represented in the game, right off the bat we’re engaging
the learner in the story and immersing them in the learning experience.
[ Jim ]: Again this Jim, again, I’m not a gamer, but I
will tell you that I was, to be honest with you, somewhat shocked.
The students really liked the idea that they
can dress themselves the way they want to be dressed. They can give themselves long hair,
short hair, mustache, eye glasses, whatever. They have some choices.
And they said, that got them excited. Now, again, I’m an old man
that I don’t understand that, but they said, they got excited.
And if that works them, then it works for me.
[ Mary Ann ]: Okay, so there’s
storytelling involved. The setting for this game is
revealed through a story. So we’re wrapping the instructional content
inside of a story. And so again, we’re trying to draw the learner
into this experience. And we attempt to
present these business scenarios in a more authentic context
as part of this story. And we’re hoping and expecting that there
would greater motivation, involvement, and learning as a result.
There are choices that you need to make as you go through the game.
First of all, which product would you like to invest in. So in level one
of the game, there are six choices of product. And then, again, in level
two there are six new choices. So allowing the learner
to make decisions increases motivation and engagement
and gets them involved in the story and the content.
So, again, there are more choices. In which
country would you like to purchase your inventory? So there are four
choices of country and depending upon which country you select,
your storyline then is built around that corresponding currency.
[ Jim ]: And I’ll…this is Jim again, if you notice, you may not be able
to see it on your screen, but we have the exchange rates that existed
at a certain time. The way this game is built,
we certainly can go in and change the exchange rates
rather easily if there are rapid changes in
those exchange rates.
[ Mary Ann ]: There are rules and procedures in a game. So in this particular game,
a two-year contract is required to purchase the goods that you need
to decide to go into this contract. And for round one
or level one, you’re required to purchase one hundred units each quarter.
So that’s going to result in a total of
eight hundred units over the course of two years.
What we did was by keeping that quantity of product that you
purchased each quarter consistent for round one, we’re
isolating the exchange rate as the cause of profit or loss.
As Jim showed you in that first illustration with the spreadsheets where
the only thing changing was the exchange rate. So we want to
kind of illustrate that to students and make it as clear as possible
that what caused the profit or loss that they’re going to
experience each quarter was the exchange rate. Because again,
there are a lot of moving parts as we move on in this and we want
them to understand that. So at a basic level, part of what makes
something a game is that there are rules and procedures and
we know that we need to operate within the constraints of
those rules to achieve our goal. And that’s what introduces that
challenge and makes us kind of want to compete and what to participate.
And in a game, just as in real
life, what makes it exciting is that there’s some level of risk involved.
Something left up to chance. Something that you can not control.
So as I mentioned earlier, there’s some randomness built into
this game. And things that you can’t quite control.
So as the exchange rate
fluctuates randomly, the demand for the product fluctuates,
and other factors come into play.
The challenge is set up. So the learner is presented
with the potential profit they could earn based upon the
product they selected, and the country selected, based upon whatever
the exchange rate was at the time they entered the contract.
So this sets up sort of a sense of competition to try and either meet
or exceed that goal.
As in the world of international business with a game, there is
uncertain outcome. Each quarter the learner sees
an update on where they are in their contract, the current economic
out look, and the current exchange rate.
There are many moving parts in a game, just as
in international business. So there’s a lot to observe going on
in this game, but at the end of each quarter there is a quarterly
sales report that lets them know how they did that quarter.
that’s a common game element.
And there are sort of some fun extraneous rewards
built into this game. And each quarter some sort of
reward is available depending upon your success. And you have
a choice of several rewards. And really, this is not
an instructional thing. It’s kind of just for fun. It doesn’t really have
instructional value. But it was derived from Jim’s original in-class
activity that he did with his students when he presented his
spreadsheets to try and explain. [ Jim ]: I would joke with the class
about my wife and I, Mary, and well, how did we do
the first quarter? Oh, wow, we’re up twenty thousand dollars. Oh, let’s go out
for a nice dinner. And then, oh, we’re up fifty thousand dollars. Oh, let’s go to
Philadelphia for a night on the town and a show. Oh, how did we do?
Oh, we lost ten thousand. Okay, honey, light up the grill, we’re having hot dogs tonight.
You know, it was to show that there is a real reward
and risk associated with these things. And you do
feel good when you make money. You can do extra things when you make money. And you kind of feel
bad when you lose money. So Mary Ann interjected in the game,
when you play it you’ll see it, balloons go off during the good times and you have these
various choices that, you know, how are we gonna celebrate?
So there are two levels to this game.
So there’s an increasing difficulty. And that’s common in games
as well. So both levels follow a
sequence, which is a task, risk, and a reward. And that’s
common in games. So in round two, you learn
that a venture capitalist is interested in investing some
money into your business. And you’ve been awarded some
flexibility in your contract. So now, rather
than having to buy a pre-determined amount of product each quarter
depending upon the current market conditions, you can choose the quantity
of product that you want to buy in a particular quarter. But
there’s still some rules and parameters under which you must operate.
So you’re required to purchase in lots of fifty. And
you can purchase no more than two hundred fifty units during any one quarter.
And you must purchase a total of eight hundred units over
your two-year contract.
Time sensitivity, that’s something
common in games. In this game it plays out in that there’s a sense
of passing time. So each quarter you need to make a purchasing decision.
You select a quantity of units
to purchase based upon the market conditions and the current exchange rate.
So in
round two, as in round one, you can continually monitor your
progress on a chart. And there’s a continual, visual representation
of your experience displaying your character, the
product you chose to invest in, the currency which you selected,
and each quarters results are added to the chart
as you work through your current contract.
So when you’ve completed all eight quarters,
you’ll be able to compare your profits over the term of the contract.
[ Jim ]: What happened is when we had the first round of the game,
I had asked my students to play it.
Would you play the game? And what you have are some of the comments from those students.
“I found it to be educational and informative. It gave me a better
understanding of the daily monetary finance transactions.”
“The game was informing. Really shows whatever.” “I know more about
tariffs and dollars than I did before.” So the first round
of the game was preliminarily tested in the Spring of 2012
We gathered some informal comments from the students. These comments
are represented and you see them on the screen. Generally, the students
said they enjoyed the game. They found it helped their understanding of the comments.
What was really pleasing to me was, again,
remember they’re looking at round one. And concurrent with them,
playing round one of the game, Mary Ann and I were trying to
develop round two. Well, what did the students tell us
after playing round one? They wanted to be able to decide when and
how much they could purchase each quarter. So we said, wow, perfect, that’s
exactly what we’re working on. So those were their comments.
[ Mary Ann ]: So the complete game, including the second round, was then at
first available in Fall 2012. And Jim was
eager to show it to his students to get feedback. So at the very beginning
of the semester, he asked his students to play the game. Prior to
having covered any of the related content in the course.
And in general students told us that they liked the game
and when asked if they like the concepts of learning through games like this, they said that
they did. But we also saw some comments similar to
this one where the student said, you know, I didn’t know
about exchange rate so I attempted to guess.
And I don’t know what I need to do to achieve a higher score. And I was a little
confused on what the impact of the country selected had to do with the final result.
So when the game was conceived and designed,
it was expected that it would be utilized as a supplementary, outside
of class, practice and learning experience which would be used
in tandem with the presentation of the course content in a hybrid course.
So the design of the game did assume some level
of pre-existing knowledge and intends for learners to have to make
connections on their own between their actions and the outcomes.
But if it was used prior to covering the concepts in class,
the game certainly could perhaps prepare the way for
students to be exposed to those concepts when they
got to class so that they might come with questions like; I look confused
on what that country selected had to do with the final result. And so they
could then come to class have Jim explain
how these things work. And then go back and play the game again and hopefully
come away with even a greater understanding of how this all fits together.
[ Jim ]: Well, this current semester,
Spring of 2013, what did I do differently?
In mid December I mailed
the syllabus to my IB 303 students who were going to take the course
in the spring. And I also gave them the link to the game and
I asked them to play it. I explained
then that during the course we would actually cover the math behind the calculations,
but would you please play the game? I’m interested in your comments.
In general, I think it’s safe to say that those students who played
the game before I taught the session on exchange rates,
had a better grasp of the subject.
At least, they seem to have more interest in the subject.
And I suspect that’s because after playing the game, they could see wow,
one quarter I make money, another quarter I lose money. I get there
really is an impact on exchange rate. It wasn’t just
theoretical. It was real. They had experienced it in playing
the game. And I think they had a much better appreciation of
the fact that there is a real difference between profit
and going out of business. And in international business
clearly one of the drivers of whether or not you’re profitable
or not can in fact be exchange rates.
[ Mary Ann ]: Okay, well,
the link that you see there, the url, is where
you can visit the game on your own. It’s
always available. And if you do go check it out,
and have any comments, you can email us. I’m sure we’d love to hear what
you think or any suggestions. Does anybody have any questions
for us? [ Jim ]: Is everyone still awake?
[ Mary Ann ]: We can’t really see who’s there and who’s not.
[ Chris ]: Hi, guys! This is Chris Stubbs at University Park.
So, thank you for the presentation. I guess this is a question for Jim.
I’m wondering, you know, this game was designed to help students understand
exchange rates on an international level. You mentioned
the idea of profit becoming something that they reflected. Were there other sort of incidental
impacts that you hadn’t expected that led to good discussion in class or
other learning opportunities? [ Jim ]: Sure, sure,
and you know, we’re limited on time so we didn’t cover everything.
One of the real drivers was when we looked at the impact of
the exchange rates, I then asked the question, and it led to
the next week’s actual form of class, how do you mitigate these risks?
Are there things that you can do? So then we talked about options.
One being that you do a currency hedge.
So I, in essence, told them that’s, in essence, an insurance policy against this
kind of risk. I also tied it into one of the courses we teach
here, negotiations. And it would have been so much
easier for this company, any company, if we could have passed
on the risk to the supplier. In other words, hey,
we’ll buy the product, but we’re going to pay you in US dollars. So that became
a whole discussion then of how international banking, global exchanges,
and so on come into play. And it just…it was interesting.
Another…a very interesting part then that came up was I had two students
who do work for a company here in our area and one just got placed
into a purchasing position. And we talked about the
fact that you may get a message from your boss that says, hey,
I need ten thousand of these. Get them for me at the lowest possible price.
I don’t care where you get them, just get ten thousand. We need them next month.
And then we got into the discussion of okay, is it
the lowest price today in US dollars because of the
exchange rate? Could that absolutely go against you six or seven
months from now? So to answer your question, it brought out
a lot of different discussions. I don’t know if that addressed your question, but
you know, that’s off the top of my head. [ Chris ]: It did. Thank you Jim.
[ Elizabeth ]: I have a question from the chat room.
And this is from Lisa Lenze.
She asked, how much did you get out of
the game? That is does it introduce students to concepts that
you’re teaching over a week or two weeks over the entire semester?
Being curious about the reach of the game.
[ Jim ]: Well, I think
if they play the game, a lot of different things come into play.
Besides the exchange rate, we also talk about supply and demand.
We talk about how consumer preferences change.
So it’s
really hard to say. I hate to answer it that way,
but it does create a better awareness
of the student who is somewhat
perhaps, totally unaware of how the international business world
operates. At different times throughout the
semester we’ll be talking about a lot of things and I’ll just interject
oh, yeah, remember in the game when we talked about consumer demand changing?
This might be an idea. What’s happening now
in the US? Are we trying to buy more…buy American?
That regardless of price, increases demand or
decrease the demand for a foreign product.
I don’t know if I can specifically answer that question.
It’s very broad in general.
[ Elizabeth ]: Lisa says, thanks.
I had a question. In terms of
building the game, if someone else wanted
to this similar type of game for related business concepts
how long do you think
it would take to develop, or could you develop it using
strategies you learned in this game? [ Mary Ann ]: Well, when
we started this game, a lot of
the things that are designed or built into
it are variables in the code.
So I could go in and change the storyline
pretty easily. You know, I could make it different stories and
different exchange rates and different prices. I could
very easily change that and it was designed so that we could
do so. Now, that’s not something that…someone who didn’t
understand the actual coding could do, but
our thought initially was that we could perhaps
modify this so that some of our other, like global
studies or economics, some of our other faculty might
use an adapted version of this game
for their course. We haven’t yet really progressed to that level, but
that was our initial thought when we started doing this. Now, if someone wanted to
create something like this totally from scratch that
wasn’t going to kind of build upon
or use some of that framework that developed, that would depend on
a lot of things, their skill level and how much time
they would be able to devote to it and things like that.
Does that help? [ Elizabeth ]: Yeah, thanks. [Jim]: My initial reaction
too is let’s just say someone is teaching economics or marketing
where we talk about supply and demand. If we ignore
currency exchange rate fluctuation,
the emphasis can be totally on those factors that change supply
and demand. And those factors that change the cost of raw materials
just within the United States. So the model is,
as Mary Ann said, it’s a whole bunch of variables and stories that can be changed.
The one thing that I will caution, and my background is public
accounting and auditing as well, every one of
these calculations was tested.
You better be able to find a comfortable chair and an Excel spreadsheet
and a couple of pots of coffee, or whatever your drink of choice is,
to test all of those. Because the last thing you want to do is have
the model and then somebody comes up and says, hey, I tried it Jim and I got a different number.
So there is a lot of due diligence
behind the numbers. [ Mary Ann ]: And that was for that initial framework. So if we were
to go in tomorrow and say, oh, let’s change this…
the cost of product, the calculations work now so that
would not be necessary.
Any other questions?
[ Jim ]: But we certainly encourage you…you’ve heard it and perhaps
it was thoroughly exciting, thoroughly boring, something in between,
I think the real thing now to do is now that you know the
story behind it, is we strongly encourage you to go out to the link and play the game.
[ Elizabeth ]: Did you put the link in the chat room?
[ Jim ]: Hello!
[ Elizabeth ]: I think people are leaving.
[ Mary Ann ]: Okay! [Elizabeth]: I was wondering if you could put the link in the chat room?
Because I’m not sure we know where it is. [ Mary Ann ]: Oh, don’t you see the slide?
[ Elizabeth ]: Oh, okay. [Mary Ann]: I’m typing it anyway.
And you can copy and paste. [ Elizabeth ]: Yeah!

Yeah, this was a great session.
I really learned a lot. Good food for thought.
[ Jim ]: It was really, I’ll be honest, it was a lot of fun. I mean, Mary Ann and I
working together. The good news is, we didn’t
have a specific deadline that said this must be done
by the start of a semester. We worked at
our, I don’t want say leisure, that makes it sound too easy, but
it was like, hey, when it’s ready, it’s ready. You know, and that was very helpful.
Because both of us got hit with various external
things within the campus and at home that just, you know, consumed
some time, but it was a lot of fun.
[ Mary Ann ]: Yeah, it was a very fun project. [Jim]: And it clearly,
my technical skills are very, very limited, and Mary Ann
clearly, hers are superior.
[ Mary Ann ]: We made a good team. [Jim]: She’s smiling when I said that, by the way, folks.
But anyways, after you play it and you want to give
us a call, please do. You have on the last slide, you
have our email addresses. Mine is a fun email
address, if you remember that my name is Jim.
If you look at a telephone, J K L is number five on a phone.
That’s pretty easy to…and I’m at psu.
[ Mary Ann ]: Well, thank you everyone for your attention.
And we were glad to address
the group. [ Elizabeth ]: And I’ll be ending
the recording. And that may end the session. [ Chris ]: Thank you guys very much.
[ Jim ]: Well, I’m off to my advising meeting. I don’t know if you have the same
day up there. Today is general advising day. So I will go
be talking to my internal business students. Thank you very much.
Thanks for the help up at that end. I appreciate it.
[ Mary Ann ]: Thank you! [Elizabeth]: I’ll probably see some of you in April for Cathy
Jackson, no not Cathy Jackson.
[ Jim ]: Okay, we’re signing off at Berks. Have a great day. [Elizabeth]: You too. [Chris]: You too, thanks Jim!
Thanks, Mary Ann!

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