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November 2013
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VirBELA Launched with Global Business Simulation Competition

A team of four MBA students from the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad, INSEAD, Waseda University, and London Business School navigated cash flow issues, carbon emissions caps, and time zone and cross-cultural communication challenges to manage a mock car company in a virtual world to claim US$28,000 in real cash.

The competition was held in October to launch VirBELA, a 3D virtual world run by the University of California-San Diego Rady School of Management, with start-up funding from the GMAC Management Education for Tomorrow Fund (MET Fund).

VirBELA interactive image"VirBELA is about creating opportunities for MBA students to network with colleagues around the world and to practice working on remote multi-national teams," said Alex Howland, program director and founder of VirBELA. "The inaugural competition certainly showed potential of how VirBELA can build a global MBA community and help prepare tomorrow's global leaders."

The Business Simulation challenged the eight teams of three or four MBA students from top business schools around the world to build sales, improve profitability, and maximize shareholder value over 20 virtual quarters. Student teams worked together through avatars with text chat, voiceover IP, and 3D visuals of company assets.

"VirBELA offered the opportunity to view the interaction of the core competencies taught in business school in a global interactive business environment," said Brady Chung, an MBA student at the University of California San Diego Rady School of Management who was part of the second-place team. "This experience reinforced the importance of synergistic teamwork, especially and in light of having teammates spread across the world, in order to be successful in business."

VirBELA interactive podiumThe competition was the first event held in VirBELA, selected as one of the top 20 ideas in the world to improve management education in the MET Fund Ideas to Innovation Challenge, an international competition to spur management education innovation. Howland and co-founder Ronald Rembisz were the only double winners, both for the virtual world idea itself and for the project. After winning $20,000 for the idea, they partnered with the Rady School and Rembisz & Associates, a consulting firm, to win $1.7 million in start-up funding for Phase 2 of the challenge.

"VirBELA is ideal for providing a platform for experiential learning and collaboration around the world. It can bring together students and faculty from around the world for classes, virtual events, and groups. Business schools have embraced gamification as a way to give students experience making business decisions and living with the consequences in accelerated time frame in a no-risk environment," said Allen Brandt, GMAC MET Fund director. "Business is becoming more global, so management education has to become more global, and VirBELA will allow students and educators all over the world to collaborate and learn from each other."

VirBELA uses cutting-edge technology to create a place where people can interact in real time with others from all over the world. The virtual campus will allow for experiential learning simulations and team-taught classes across countries and continents, and group learning projects.

Results of the Global Business CompetitionVirBELA interactive group

  • First place: $7,000 for each team member: Team GO CAR: Ankita Solanki (Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad), Carine Toutet
    (INSEAD-Singapore), Laimonas Staskus (London Business School) and Wang Lu (Waseda University, Japan).

  • Second place: $3,000 for each team member: Team Everest, Brady Chung (UC San Diego Rady School of Management), Jaime Hung,
    (INSEAD-Singapore), Stephanie Voigt (London Business School), Suket Murarka, IIM-Ahmedabad.

  • Third place: $1,500 for each team member: Team Sawari, Kenji Watanabe (Waseda University); Arda Varilsuha (UCSD Rady), Jubin Goyal
    (IIM-Ranchi, India), Linda Lee (INSEAD-Singapore).

Read the Giving Back Blog about a winning student's perspective on the experience, The Anatomy of Luck by Carine Toutet.

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