- Peer Review: BricksOrClicks Channel Conflict Simulation
BricksOrClicks Channel Conflict Simulation
- Jan 31, 2002 by Business
- BricksorClicks.com is a simulation that puts the student in the role of CEO at a traditional toy manufacturer. The company, called ToyBlocks Inc., must confront the challenges of launching an online sales channel while managing and maintaining current traditional sales channels. The student can make decisions about whether to launch an online channel, how much of a fixed budget to allocate to each channel each period, and what proportion of each channel?s budget will be allocated to advertising, promotion, and/or merchandising.
The simulation offers two levels of play: novice and expert. Novice simply offers fewer decision alternatives to the player, limiting to decisions primarily to whether to open the online channel and what budgets each channel should have each month.
- Type of Material:
- The module is correctly categorized in MERLOT as a simulation
- Technical Requirements:
- Technical requirements were clearly specified by the simulation?s authors:
?BricksorClicks.com requires that your web browser supports Java JDK 1.1.5 and are running either Windows95, 98, NT, or 2000 (Applet might run on other systems, but they have not been tested). The following browsers support Java JDK 1.1 (clicking on these links will take you to each companies' site for downloading)
Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.01 or newer
Netscape Navigator 4.06 or newer, with the Java JDK 1.1 patch installed
Sun Hot Java 1.1 or newer Download?
However, in the troubleshooting section, the designers recommend Internet Explorer 5.0 or higher if the simulation does not function properly.
- Identify Major Learning Goals:
- Overall, the objective of the simulation appears to be to have students make decisions about channel strategy and learn about channel strategies by observing the effects of their decisions. Students make decisions that address the following questions pose
d in the introduction of the BricksorClicks.com simulation:
1. Should I take ToyBlocks online and reap some of the online benefits?
2. Is now the time to make such a significant change in reaching our end customers?
3. What sort of marketing budget will be necessary to make an online venture successful?
This simulation can be used as either an introduction to the concept of channel management or as a dynamic illustration of the concept.
- Target Student Population:
- Undergraduates, graduate students, and professionals. This site would be particularly relevant in marketing courses that address channel strategy and/or an e-commerce course.
- Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
- It would be helpful if students were familiar with the concept of a ?channel,? though it is likely that students could discover the meaning of the term through context clues within the simulation.
- The context for the simulation is very ?real world,? starting with a memo from the CEO and brief introductions of all the channel managers in the firm ? including their photographs.
The simulation enables a student to experience the trade-offs and effects of channel management decisions. Though the decisions and context appear relatively simple, the feedback provided to the student after each decision period raises several of the more complex and ?real world? effects that these decisions can have on the channels, their relative profitability, and their effects on the firm?s financial performance. and the fir Feedback includes e-mail-like summaries of results from the ?channel managers,? as well as historical performance using a variety of financial and other metrics courtesy of the firm?s ?CFO.? The results and feedback vary according to the decisions made, making the simulation engaging and challenging. The online ?ToyBlock.com? channel also tracks internet metrics which can aid decision making about budget allocation within this channel.
- One reviewer thought he/she was reviewing the module using a browser that met the technical specifications for the simulation (Netscape Communicator 4.73); however, he/she found that in ?expert? play, he/she was unable to ?unlock? the channel budgets he/she locked the previous period. This ?locking? was necessary for the user to be able to scroll and set budgets for all channels (?instructions? direct players to do this) during the first period of play. The rest of the simulation appeared to be working normally, however. In this situation, the user was not able to change the budgets for two of the channels throughout each subsequent period (the ?locking? function was locked),
thus limiting his/her ability to adjust his/her strategy (and hence performance) relative to these channels throughout the game. This issue is more than an ease-of-use concern because users like this who may not be able to interpret the simulation?s technical specifications may assume that this ?locking? limitation is intentional, and this could result in conclusions about channel management that were not intended by the authors.
Students do not have the option to drop channels. This is not a major concern, but adding this dimension could further increase the scope of the game?s challenge.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
- The module is designed as a simulation for business college students. Therefore, it provides a useful framework for experimenting with concepts and strategies discussed in marketing and e-commerce courses. The simulation is colorful and attractive. It could therefore spark interest in the subject matter by some individuals. Overall, this is an attractive, fun simulation that was enjoyable to play.
- There is the danger inherent to all simulations that a trial-and-error approach could lead to success without facilitating an understanding of why that success is achieved. One reviewer found that replaying a scenario resulting in very similar feedback from the areas each quarter, even with substantial modification to channel budget allocations. There is the risk that students may make decisions without ?processing? the feedback as an input to their next set of decisions. If increasing students? engagement is an issue (as it may be in some undergraduate circumstances), instructors may find asking students to record (or even report) their decisions, the rationale for their decision, and key metrics/effects for later discussion purposes and ?debriefing? of the simulation experience.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
- The instructions are easy to find and follow, and the simulation?s interface is intuitive. It was easy to play, with the exception of the ?locking? function in the channel budget decision area. There is a ?help? option to refer to in the event you forget instructions or need some terms defined. A few technical troubleshooting tips and an e-mail address for additional support are also provided. This module is exceptionally well designed, with a smart intuitive interface. The Web interface worked smoothly, if occasionally slowly when advancing from one ?quarter? to the next
- The instructions do not describe the difference in the ?novice? and ?expert? simulation. When students play as ?novices,? they may think that the simulation is not working properly (or they are doing something wrong) because they cannot change the ?advertising, promotion, etc.? budget allocation decisions by channel. It appears that these decisions are intentionally ?turned off? in the novice version of the game.
It would also be helpful to have the starting budget allocations recorded somewhere ? you lose record of each once you select to change it. Also, the values scroll very quickly; it may take a few tries to land a variable to the value you desire.
Please note concerns about technical requirement interpretation in the preceding Quality of Materials section of this review.