The four-person MBA teams will compete for $50,000 in prize money in a 3-D virtual world in running a global automobile manufacturing company with the goal to boost sales, improve profitability and maximize shareholder value by making quarterly inputs over 16-20 virtual quarters. Members of each of the eight teams will be globally distributed and all from different schools.
The Rady School of Management at UC San Diego, in collaboration with Rembisz & Associates, will run the competition on the new learning platform dubbed VirBELA. Students will rely on the technology to collaborate and compete, which includes avatars, a VoIP system, a text chat system, and 3D visuals of company assets. For example, teams will be able to see their inventory for each of their product lines.
VirBELA won start-up funding from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) in an international competition to spur management education innovation.
“We are excited for the VirBELA launch and hope to be able to offer opportunities for many more students from various locations and universities to connect via VirBELA in the months following the inaugural competition,” said Alex Howland, co-founder and program manager of VirBELA, in a statement.
“Students will be able to interact within an amazing virtual environment, which provides all kinds of new ways to break down cultural barriers, re-imagine collaboration, and provide faculty ways to deliver coursework and grade results,” said Allen Brandt, director of GMAC’s Management Education for Tomorrow (MET) Fund. ”VirBELA is precisely the sort of innovation that GMAC and the MET Fund seek to support in our effort to move management education forward by giving back.”
While the competition will challenge students’ business knowledge, instruction will focus more on team processes rather than “hard skills,” according to the organizers of the virtual contest. It will be expected that participants enter the competition with knowledge regarding strategy, reading a balance sheet, the basics of supply chain management, etc., but not all competitors will have had prior experience working on a global team. Each team will be provided with a professional facilitator who will observe team behavior in real time and lead various debrief sessions throughout the competition. The facilitator will work with teams around decision making processes, conflict management, and to identify some of the benefits and challenges of working on a virtual multi-cultural team.
“VirBELA provides an opportunity for students to learn about the benefits and challenges of leading distributed multinational teams in a low risk, fun atmosphere. By participating, students will be provided with just-in-time learning, have their performance observed and gain valuable insights with personal coaching,” said Robert Sullivan, dean of the Rady School of Management at UC San Diego.
Already, the competition has attracted applicants from some of the world’s top business schools, including the London Business School, the Guanghua School of Management at Peking University, INSEAD, the Indian Institute of Management at Ahmedabad, Nanyang Business School in Singapore, the Wharton School of Management and IPADE, as well as the Rady School of Management.