Assessing the use of Technology Enhanced Learning in Higher Education: the case of trading simulation software at the ICMA Centre

Dr Ioannis Oikonomou, ICMA Centre
i.oikonomou@icmacentre.ac.uk
Year(s) of activity: 2013-14

Overview

8948This project reviewed the effectiveness of the ICMA Centre’s use of trading simulation software, a unique combination of problem-based learning and role-playing which uses modern technology.  While it was found that students enjoyed having access to trading simulation software for their learning, a number of areas in which improvements could be made were identified, and recommendations were made to effect these.

Objectives

  • To assess the effectiveness of the ICMA Centre’s use of trading simulations software.
  • Highlight areas for improvement and make suggestions about the possible restructuring of the content of the offered trading simulation modules and ways of further enhancing their academic and practical usefulness for students.

Context

The ICMA Centre has three dealing rooms, which are used for conducting small group seminars, workshops and trading simulation sessions for modules at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, as well as being a valuable tool for outreach purposes.

Although the ICMA Centre has been subject to periodic and contextual review, there has been no formal investigation that specifically targets the teaching and learning issues and transferable skills of the trading simulation software.

Implementation

To assess the effectiveness of the use of these facilities, historic feedback was analysed. The ICMA Centre had regularly undergone periodic and contextual reviews as according to University of Reading policy, with these reviews evaluating all aspects of the ICMA Centre’s programmes. This was therefore a valuable resource for understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the use of trading simulation software for teaching and learning within the wider context of the ICMA Centre’s delivery of programmes.

Also analysed were evaluation forms connected to trading sessions at both the undergraduate and postgraduate level for three academic years. The great benefit of these data were that it allowed quantitative analysis of trading simulation software, as students gave numerical scores to indicate their satisfaction. Qualitative data were also available, with students providing free text comments, which give specific details about what had worked well and what might need improving.

Interviews were conducted with module convenors and teaching assistants. This allowed greater detailed information to be generated on the strengths and weaknesses of trading simulation sessions, and offered the chance to discuss module convenors’ and teaching assistants’ perspective on trading simulation sessions. Additionally, interviews with staff were valuable for capturing some of the informal opinions and attitudes of students, which may not have expressed in formal evaluations.

The guidance offered by these analyses was used to formulate an online questionnaire in order to generate quantifiable data.  Finally, two student focus groups, one of undergraduate students and one of postgraduate students, were interviewed in order to expand upon the findings of the questionnaire. Effort was made to accurately represent the diversity of student backgrounds on ICMA programmes in the focus groups.

Reflections

Historic evaluation forms, interviews with module convenors and teaching assistants, the online questionnaire, and the focus groups had comparable findings.  Overall, students very much enjoyed the use of trading simulation software, and generally found it to be user-friendly, reasonable and realistic.  The realism and ‘hands-on’ nature of the platform are particularly beneficial characteristics, as adult learners tend to focus on tasks, especially when they believe they may encounter these in their lives.  The trading simulations were highlighted as being effective tools for the development of employable skills, and helped students to internalise complex financial concepts.

The principal negative aspects of users experiences of trading simulation software that were raised at multiple points during the study, were that students wanted more time using the trading simulation software, and better connection between lectures and use of the trading simulation software.  This was most keenly felt by undergraduate students, who receive significantly fewer trading hours than postgraduates, and who felt that the sessions could be better embedded into their teaching and learning portfolios. As a result of these findings, a number of recommendations were made for improving the delivery of teaching and learning with the use of trading simulation sessions.

Follow up

Progress has been made on fulfilling the recommendations of the report: Trading Simulation II has been moved from the Financial Modelling module to the more suitable Debt Markets and Instruments; module convenors have instructions to be mindful of the link between their lectures and trading simulation sessions, and for how performance in trading simulations sessions is to be benchmarked; alterations and additions have been made to the simulation software’s scenarios so that it can be utilised for different learning outcomes; availability of trading simulation sessions has been increased, and trading hours for students have been increased; students are given firm guidance and information on the interpretation of and access to their feedback; and an experienced trader has been employed as a sessional lecturer for the undergraduate training sessions.

With these alterations having been made, feedback on trading simulation sessions has improved, and students demonstrate deep and broad levels of learning on concepts they are able to explore through the use of trading simulation sessions.

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