A New Virtual Simulation Experience for Business Education

By David Craven and Shane Weir


PierSim: A Snapshot

With the introduction of the new Business Management Senior QSA Syllabus in 2014 and the introduction of the Years 5-10 Australian Curriculum: Economics and Business from February 2014, it is perhaps time to rethink how we approach teaching Junior and Senior Business Education to our students.

PierSim is challenging the way in which Business Education is delivered in the classroom. In a world-first approach, this virtual business education simulation enables students to establish and operate their businesses in an 'in-world' and 'out-world' environment. From designing their products to seeing how the share price of their business is trading on the virtual stock exchange, students adopt the role of an avatar and must trade within ‘PierSim’, in order to stay alive (and thus continue to stimulate the economy). While this approach has already proven to be successful at a tertiary education level, a case study is being conducted at St John Fisher College and St Joseph's Nudgee College, in order to determine how this will enhance the learning outcomes for today’s adolescents.


The Case Study: PierSim

Why PierSim? What’s Its Link To Business Education?

Within the school system, Peter Strong, the Executive Director of the Council of Small Business in Australia, has identified that there is a need to develop business entrepreneurship in our students in order to generate future economic growth for Australia. In a study of entrepreneurship education in secondary schools by Hatak and Reiner (2012), the need to embed entrepreneurship within the curriculum was considered to be essential. Traditional textbook methods rarely give students sufficient understanding of even the basic ideas in business.

Now a new business education simulation developed here in Brisbane, PierSim provides teachers and students with the opportunity to address the perceived deficiencies in traditional ways of teaching business.


What is PierSim?

PierSim is a 3D business simulation operating on an Open Sim platform. The simulation allows teams of learners to compete against each other within an economy and implement the business and management principles that they have learned in the classroom. The variables within the environment can be manipulated to create a range of scenarios that challenge the learner. The simulation uses the principles of gamification to create an enhanced learning experience. There are seven institutions using PierSim from high school business classes to a university foundation year business course that is compulsory for some international students to attend before enrolling in an undergraduate degree.

Learners can operate individually or in teams depending on the particular classroom context. Each selects one of fifty available businesses ranging from pizza businesses, supermarkets and coffee shops through to hotels, banks and wholesalers, and seek to operate them profitably. They must do so in a context where exchange rates, interest rates, sustainability issues, epidemics, supply-demand issues and environmental issues are volatile. The businesses include banks, transport companies, fast food, supermarkets, electronic goods, fashion stores, accountants, lawyers, advertising, media, training organisations, advertising agencies, sports goods and wholesalers. These businesses are located in a shopping mall and on seven business sectors.

Learners are faced with the challenge of having to maintain the health, satisfaction and relationship of their avatars (staff) in order to produce quality products. The learner must manage the profitability of their company, the pricing strategy, the purchasing and inventory strategy, the sales and marketing strategy, change management, customer relationships and the risk management strategy. The learner must evaluate the moves of their competition and the changes in the environment. The learner must develop and implement their competitive responses. This is often performed in the context of a team.

The learning platform has been used by over 5,000 students and has demonstrated the effectiveness of the use of gamification principles to engage and motivate the learner. PierSim has been used effectively to teach economics, business management, accounting, teams and leadership, business ethics, HR management and awareness of global issues. It is currently being used at St John Fisher College, St. Columban’s College, Nudgee, Ormiston College and Brisbane Boys College.


Results and Where to From Here

Evaluations have been conducted on every class that PierSim has been used. Of those students intending to pursue business subjects at university, close to 100% felt that the increased understanding of business would better prepare them for their studies. In addition, 65% confirmed that the experience was fun and interesting and that this had assisted their learning. Class attendance during the PierSim sessions, compared to other sessions, was up by some 30%. During the delivery of the program, in those classes that crossed a lunch break, learners usually refused to take a break preferring instead to continue with the simulation.


If you would like more information, please contact us:


email: support@pieronline.org

Telephone: 07 38327699