In the undergraduate course Principles of Marketing, students enter a virtual world using use the Practice Marketing software. It simulates the backpack industry, where you design a product and test your marketing skills in a fun and competitive, real-world environment.

It’s all based on the "4 Ps" of marketing: product, price, placement, and promotion. Using strategies from the classroom, your goal is to bring a new backpack to market and manage your business over time to be profitable and successful against competitors.

“It’s a chance to ‘flip the classroom,’ so I’m not just lecturing to a passive audience of students. They’re actively learning and experiencing marketing,” said Professor Elizabeth Wilson, who’s been using the software for the last three years.

The simulation counts toward the project grade, which also includes a presentation and written reports. For the first week, students compete against the computer. Then they’re split into small teams, where they’ll test new strategies against classmates.

“Students are making decisions as product managers and actually seeing the results. This allows them to learn from their mistakes. If they don’t like the results, they can change their strategy” said Wilson.

“In the fall 2013 semester, the teams worked through 13 turns, with each turn being equivalent to a financial quarter. During that time, students experience valuable lessons,” she said. Students can see, for example, the cumulative effects of promotion and how external market events affect their business. They must wrestle with the tradeoffs of meeting consumer needs while keeping costs low enough to allow an acceptable profit.

The students are enjoying the hands-on approach to learning.

“I definitely think that simulations are good to get a real world feel of what it is like to market. And it’s a great way to keep students interested in the subject matter,” said Ryan Sedlacek, a junior management major.

“It feels really realistic since we’re applying our knowledge and testing it. It’s a great way to practice your skills, and showcase your knowledge,” said Eneda Golemi, a sophomore finance/accounting double major.

“The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to consider every part of the game, since even a small decision may have a big impact on your overall results,” Golemi added.

Sedlacek agreed. “You must pay attention to every small statistic and number because each one means something. No matter how small a trend looks, it still is a trend and needs to be taken into account,” he said.

Principles of Marketing is a requirement for all BSBA students. Learn more about the undergraduate curriculum.