Purpose of the case study
Using sp4ce.eu portal, a challenge was published for the development of business plans. Both sides – the consulting company and the companies who wish to develop their business plan– agreed on this co-work and its details. During discussions about the cooperation details, they discovered that some of the important materials cannot be published public, but they need some space just for registered users, where materials could be available in restricted way based on user role in the system.
Implementation of SP4CE Learning Rooms
Platform SP4CE and its Learning Rooms (available at http://sp4ce.moodle.pl/) allows user registration and role assignment for LRs (Fig. 2). For using this space, every user has to register into the system. The available range of features and tools depends on the role of the user within the particular LR. Possible roles are manager, course designer, teacher, student, guest and registered user. Based on his/her role, the user has available different group of sources, tools.
Fig. 2 Welcome screen of SP4CE Learning Rooms
The SP4CE LR includes publishable information about all companies to help students understand the general context of each company. The consultant provides more detailed (confidential) information and materials that are useful for students to prepare the business plans.
Who are the users?
- Coach – owner and/or manager of companies, who provides information, opens topics for discussion, evaluate the business plan.
- Mentor – consultant, gives all necessary information for the task, identifies the objectives needed to be achieved, help students to establish successful cooperation with coaches from companies, and develops structure of the learning room using different available features.
- Students – in connection to mentor try to find out solution to provided problem, work out assessments, and prepare business plans.
How they can use LRs?
- Mentor (consultant) in cooperation with coach prepares LR structure. Within this phase they discuss LS the available and useable features of LR, the kinds of activities needed to be done by students (Assignments, Feedback, Chat, Forum, Workshop), the resources (Book, File, Folder, Label, Page, URL), which will be used in LR. They agree on evaluation methods of final results, manner of its publishing and level of access.
- Mentor addresses students, via e-mail or other way to register to the system and prepared LR.
- Students can study provided materials and other resources, communicate with mentor or coach, work on business plans, search or ask for additional information.
- Using this collaborative environment takes students out of their usual studying and gives them the opportunity to collaborate with other persons, with different ideas and knowledge, and people from real companies. Everybody can use their own competencies and skills to reach the best result.
- Coaches and mentors evaluate and mark the students’ activity.
To access the LR, the registration to LRs system and an access key are needed. Key is provided by face-to-face communication or via e-mail by the mentor. For entrance to LR itself, no special software is needed, just a web-browser (i.e. Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, IE a pod.). Maybe the solution of particular problems and tasks requires some specific software, but users have to be informed about it within LR. To prepare project proposal students need to use ordinary MS Office applications – MS Word, MS Excel, MS PowerPoint.
IDEC is a consulting company with customers who want to develop their own business plans, in order to apply for investment funding. IDEC decided to involve students of Business Administration and guide them to prepare the business plans for some of its clients. This is a good opportunity for both the students to test themselves in real work tasks and for the companies to get in contact with young future employees and find potential candidates for work.
After agreement between the consulting company and the owners/managers of companies, IDEC’s consultant asked SP4CE platform administrator to create a LR named “Επιχειρηματικά σχέδια για χρηματοδότηση επιχειρήσεων” (Business plans for investment funding). Finally, LR was used by 15 coaches from 15 companies, 1 mentor from IDEC and 15 students.
The main objective of LR use was to raise the interest of students in their subject of study and at the same time to approach problem solving of real work in a creative way and to develop contact with real company. The LR contained all information needed to know during the successful business plan preparation.
How it was realized?
- Coach and mentor prepares the structure of LR.
- Based on provided resources students start to work out their business plans – they define the first draft of business plan (app. 20-24 h.).
- Next step, students have to further develop the business plan containing more detailed information (app. 20-24 h. – depends on the complexity of the business).
- During the whole business plan development process, she/he should discuss his/her progress and ideas with the mentor, the coach and other colleagues in the class. They could use on-line chat, discussion forums or instant messaging feature.
- Students present the results and other students could add comments and evaluate the work of others. These reactions are part of the final evaluation of the students’ plan by the coach and the mentor.
Findings, recommendations and variations
Using SP4CE LRs environment, consultant plays the role of a mediator helping the company’s representative (coaches) to define the information needed on his behalf to give a broader image of its company and its potentials. On the other hand, the consultant helps students, via employing personalized learning approaches, collaborative learning and critical thinking methods, in developing solutions and communications with company representatives. Main positive aspect is that students use an environment that is familiar to them.
How it develops partnership cooperation
The students develop their ideas and apply their creativity to offer solutions. They learn methods and tools that they can apply in their daily life.
Development of business plans take a longer time than expected, because of the more complex objective of the task. Most of the work is done during homework; it should take app. 50 hours. There is the possibility of studying these materials from home and have on-line/off-line support from the mentor via LR.
What not to do / be aware of the following
Do not take a too complex challenge to which the students have no relation. The lack of ideas can then lead to frustration and de-motivation. Sometimes it is difficult for the students to start, their minds are blocked in finding the proposition of some solutions, in such cases it often helps to give examples of how to proceed.
It is necessary to describe all the phases and expectations of the expected outcome very precisely, to provide examples and give active feedback to the students.