[Article by Nane Zietsman]
Dr Joubert Van Eeden, senior lecturer at the Department of Industrial Engineering, recently celebrated victory as a member of the winning team in the 2021 Global Educator Challenge. This challenge was open to certified teachers of The Fresh Connection from across the globe. Participants competed in teams of four and had to progress through three rounds of game-play over a six-week period.
The challenge took place on The Fresh Connection platform, a cross-functional business simulation game focused on Value Chain Management. Teams were required to manage a supply chain for a (virtual) manufacturer through different and unpredictable scenarios. This year’s theme focused on supply chain resilience.
Dr Van Eeden’s team brought together educators from Africa, Asia, Europe and South America, each with different backgrounds and experiences. The key challenges they had to overcome were time differences and remote coordination. “One of our members worked in Sydney, Australia, at the time. That is roughly a ten-hour time difference. Our meetings usually took place at a time where it was an early morning for some and a late afternoon for others,” Dr Van Eeden explains. The team used remote collaboration tools such as WhatsApp, Zoom, and emails to share information and discuss ideas.
To be successful as a team and work together to find the best possible strategy, Dr Van Eeden elaborates that it was necessary to define roles and set the rules of interaction. “In a challenge like this, it is important that every team member’s background and expertise are recognised and respected. From the very beginning, we made it a priority to share our past experiences. We spent time analysing the challenge on our own. Then, when we got together, we discussed all the strategies and explored alternatives.”
Having a multi-disciplinary group enabled the team with knowledge and a broad skill set. Since the challenge cantered on supply chain resilience, the team focused on a strategy that would enable them to adapt and change to the different business scenarios they faced, as Dr Van Eeden explains: “Since the game consisted of three rounds, we decided to use the first two rounds to experiment with our strategy and test its resilience. We had to be prepared to adjust to all kinds of scenarios that could potentially play out. These included setups like earthquakes, issues with bad quality materials, shipping delays and even pirates. “
Dr Van Eeden has been an avid user of The Fresh Connection platform since 2011 when he first entered the Global Educator Challenge and was placed second. As of 2015, he also implemented the platform as an educational resource for his third-year groups. “We have experienced with our third-year group that the ability to learn while you are doing the simulation is so much more because you are experiencing the outcomes in real time. It also allows for an inexpensive and safe way to make mistakes because they are not actually being made in the real business world.” Students are taught the required theory in class and then have to apply that information to the challenges they are presented with in the business game environment. This game takes place over six rounds. “It is wonderful to see how their understanding of the field evolves as they are practically exposed to it,” says Dr Van Eeden.
For Dr Van Eeden, the significance of the Global Educator Challenge lies far beyond the victory. He explains: “Meeting other educators and having the opportunity to see how they approach different themes and situations within the simulation environment were very insightful. I especially valued the peer discussion afterwards because it tested me to think deeper about some of my decisions. In that environment I am not convincing a student of my thoughts, I am actually convincing someone who also has great experience in the field. I had to rethink my way of explaining myself and I believe that I have grown in the process. There has definitely been a change in how I actually explain to my students why they should do certain things and make certain decisions within the simulation.”
The 2021 Global Educator Challenge Award Ceremony took place on Friday, 4th of June. Dr Van Eeden and his team will hold the winning title until the next challenge commence. The Faculty congratulates Dr Van Eeden on his victory and value his role as a noble ambassador of our institution.
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(left) Dr Joubert van Eeden
(right – supplied by Inchainge) The winners: From Peru, South Africa and Germany: Gustavo Escudero, Joubert van Eeden, Shrihari Gubbi, Soenke Kuehl and Marc Schmidt