Claireschooley_2By Claire Schooley

In the beginning of the year, Harvard Business Publishing launched a collection of online simulations as part of its curriculum that expose learners to real business situations and enforce essential corporate skills. Learning simulations are interactive models of real-life processes, events, or interactions that have distinctive learning outcomes. Users can manipulate variables that change the state of the model — they can make mistakes, learn from them, and try again — emulating a real "learning by doing" approach. With these online simulations, learners can engage in common business situations within realistic scenarios, and learn how to fine-tune their communication, analytical, and decision-making skills.

The first simulation, Universal Rental Car is a pricing simulation focused on teaching employees pricing skills in a managerial environment, as learners take on the role of regional marketing manager at a rental car agency, and are tasked with pricing rental cars in cities across Florida. Sample the Universal Rental Car simulation (login = user, password = user) for three rounds, and explore the Prepare, Analyze, and Decide tabs.

Another popular simulation, Everest, uses Mount Everest as a backdrop for teaching core leadership and team skills, as a group of five team members must work together to achieve their goal of reaching the summit. Harvard Business Publishing plans to add more simulations throughout this year, resulting in a strong group of online simulations. The upcoming summer releases include: Benihana (an operations management simulation focused on the service and operations of the Benihana restaurant chain), and Back Bay Battery (a strategic innovation simulation focused on the innovation and risk involved in product development).

Simulations are quickly becoming a valued learning approach. Look for more off-the-shelf vendors like Harvard Business Publishing that will present learning scenarios, especially in the area of management and leadership development through simulations.