Title

Teaching Business Modeling using Spreadsheets

Publication Type

Journal Article

Publication Date

2008

Abstract

Before spreadsheets, modeling of business concerns required some competency in mathematics (algebra, calculus, statistics, and probability) and in computer programming, skills that are rather intimidating for the average business executive and management school student. However, the spreadsheet and the personal computer revolution challenged that paradigm. With its simple intuitive interface, direct interactivity, and universal presence, the humble spreadsheet has made business modeling much easier and has been considered by many analysts as the tool of choice for exploring business opportunities. Many university professors have already adopted spreadsheets as their computing platform in support of teaching business mathematics, statistics, and management science courses. Though some business modeling skills can be learned when spreadsheets are used in the courses, they are often secondary to the task of delivering the main subject content. Working out business challenges in the real world, however, requires good spreadsheet modeling skills, in particular that of using the spreadsheet for rapid understanding of ill-defined and unstructured situations. It has been argued that basic modeling skills should be taught prior to management science methods. We agree and further assert here that modeling skills should be taught in a separate full course on "exploratory" modeling of general business challenges rather than "computational" modeling of standard problems relevant to the application of management science methods. We have designed and successfully delivered to thousands of undergraduates over the past four years a course in business modeling with spreadsheets. In this paper, we will discuss the novelty of our course content and approach and will elaborate on the key pedagogical challenges.

Keywords

spreadsheets, business problems, teaching, exploratory modeling

Discipline

Business | Computer Sciences | Operations Research, Systems Engineering and Industrial Engineering

Research Areas

Intelligent Systems and Decision Analytics

Publication

INFORMS Transactions on Education

Volume

9

Issue

1

First Page

20

Last Page

34

ISSN

1532-0545

Identifier

10.1287/ited.1080.0015

Publisher

INFORMS

Additional URL

http;//dx.doi.org/10.1287/ited.1080.0015